Fish skin leather is the by-product of the Nile Perch, a lake fish caught by the vulnerable communities in Lake Turkana, Kenya’s northernmost region. Because these fish are filleted for consumption their skins are largely unused. Due to this, companies such as Victoria Foods in Kitale have been producing fish skin leather.
The Nile perch is a large lake dweller and can grow four to six feet in length which gives designers a generous area to work with. The production of useable fish leather goes through the same process as any other skin which involves a tannery to convert it into a workable material. After this, the pelts are died and finished.
Because of the criss-crossed grain structure of the leather, it is the second strongest of its kind, clothing and accessories are unique and extremely desirable. They are much lighter than cow leather which can have its advantages.
When combined together in contrasting strips of colour designers are able to enhance the wearer’s appearance in a unique way.
This is sustainable fashion and more importantly, bucks a trend where the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry. These alternative fabrics with an emphasis on quality and originality, are a welcome addition to this market sector. Fish leather production adds value to the fishermen’s earnings and provides opportunities for local employment. Victorian Foods say that their target is to provide 60% of those working on fish leather production to local women and youth.
Most of the interest in these leather fashion items is generated by the younger community sector. This is because they seem to be more aware of sustainable fashion and future environmental issues. There is a general belief that there will be a growing demand for this because fish leather is considered an exotic leather product, unlike reptile leathers which are endangered like crocodile or snake leather. So, fish leather could be the perfect alternative because you don’t require CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) which is a legal permit to export leather. See the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o1XiMfoDjY