MADE IN NEW YORK 46th Annual meeting and symposium hosted by the Costume Society of America

Athabascan Fish Skin workshop at Parsons, New York: Material Innovation and its application to Fashion Higher Education.

Alaskan Athabascan indigenous people have a history of using fish skin for the construction of garments and accessories. They have maintained a strong relationship with the environment, developing a subsistence lifestyle depending on marine’s animal resources for food and clothing. The fish skin handcraft is in danger of extinction. The skills needed to create these items have diminished and the change of the local natural resources and environment also threatens the craft.

This presentation sets out the reflections drawn from the Athabascan fish skin workshop conducted at Parsons School of Design last June. The aim of this workshop was to identify ways to pass on Arctic fish skin knowledge skills and culture through participatory practices and how this material and these practices can contribute to sustainability education in fashion courses in HE Institutions.

The role of Parsons on global sustainable fashion education contributes on making New York

a preeminent sustainable fashion centre. The workshop used concepts of sustainable fashion in a process of learning to better produce your own sustainable materials. The workshop engaged Parsons’ fashion students, fashion teaching staff from London’s Central Saint Martins and Alaskan native fish skin artist Joel Isaak from the Kenaitze tribe of the Dena’ina Athabascan.

The key findings verified that students  expressed their will to develop much more sustainable materials in the future. Some recurring themes identified include taking pleasure in using their hands, raw materials origin opportunity to witness and engage with remote communities, learn new handcraft techniques to incorporate them into their own practice.