Palomino, Elisa. Karadottir, Katrin. 2021. Fish skin, a historical material assimilated as a sustainable material for fashion. In Fashion: Culture, Commerce, Craft, and Identity. Brill Eds. ISBN: 978-90-04-44658-8.       

The use of fish skin to create articles of clothing is an ancient tradition in Arctic societies located along rivers and coasts, and there is evidence of fish skin leather production in Scandinavia, Alaska, Hokkaido, Japan, Northeast China, and Siberia. This chapter is a study of northern indigenous fish skin heritage and builds connections among anthropology, ethnography, and material culture to address current global issues of fashion sustainability. It critically examines the historical application of the fish-skin craft and investigates the relationship of Arctic indigenous people with fish and the environment, fish skin fashion in the Arctic, the importance of women in fish skin art, the disappearance of the craft. Another topic is how the use of fish skin by aboriginal Arctic people has recently been assimilated as an innovative sustainable material for fashion because of its low environmental impact. Fish skins are sourced from the food industry, using waste, applying the principle of circular economy. The case study of the fashion designer John Galliano’s use of fish leather for garments in his Autumn/Winter 2002 collection is presented, situating the use of fish leather within the context of the luxury industry. The skins were sourced at Atlantic Leather, the world’s biggest fish skin tannery, based in Iceland, and the authors describe the contemporary use of fish skin in the fashion industry. The research proposes the sustainable development of fish skin as an innovative raw material for the fashion industry in order to encourage more sustainable fashion practices. A qualitative methodology has been employed for its relevance in studying evolving processes. An arts-based inquiry was chosen to create new knowledge conceived by those who actively participate in its making. Methodologically, the approach was practice-led. Emphasis was placed on ‘hands on interaction’ with the fish skin and processes.