As a Fulbright Scholar, I will build networks and collaborate with US educational academics and practitioners such Parsons New School of Design to better understand how arctic fish skin craftsmanship can be developed in higher education.

The use of fish skin for the construction of garments and accessories is an ancient tradition in Arctic coastal societies and there is evidence of fish leather production in Scandinavia, Alaska, Japan, northeast China and Siberia.

The research that Elisa Palomino is doing through her PhD studies at London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion is an interdisciplinary study of indigenous Arctic fish skin heritage, building connections between anthropology, ethnography and environmental protection to address global issues of fashion sustainability and the impact that our human activities are having on the planet.

The use of fish skin by Arctic people has recently been assimilated as an innovative sustainable material for fashion due to their low environmental impact. Fish skins are sourced from the food industry, using waste, applying the principle of circular economy. This research is a material-based exploration linked to socially responsive design innovation and knowledge transfer based on Education for Sustainable Development.

The research investigates the sustainable use of local resources from raw materials to craftsmanship and local knowledge through participatory design practices between fish skin artisans and Fashion HE students. The workshops created by the researcher are case studies where traditional fish skin tanning methods and material samples have been developed. Experienced artisans have passed down the fish skin craft to the next generation of students from universities where traditionally fish skin was developed (Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Japan, China and Alaska). The methods of sustainable material engagement and the teaching-in-the field approach are recommended as transferable skills for alternative fashion educational models. The workshops demonstrate how the indigenous fish skin knowledge -in partnership with sustainable design strategies- can connect people to their culture, communities and the environment.