This conference paper explores the material design innovation process during a cross-disciplinary project working with fish leather. The EU funded EU Horizon 2020-MSCA-RISE-2018. RISE project FishSkin: Developing Fish Skin as a Sustainable Raw Material for the Fashion Industry, aims to generate a deeper understanding of fish leather as an alternative to conventional leather to encourage more sustainable fashion practices. The objective is to create aesthetically relevant, technical and crafted fish leather products that illuminate sustainability thinking as a driver for innovation. The project looks at the strategies implemented by practice in the field of material design innovation fed by new technologies, addressing changes in interactions between humans and with our environments.

The research draws on findings gathered through a partnership between the researchers, the Icelandic tannery Nordic Fish Leather, the Italian analytical laboratory Ars Tinctoria and the software producer DevStudio connecting fashion designers, scientists and leather technicians from the UK, Italy, and Iceland to advance material innovation by using new technology (water-based ink digital printing methods) on fish leather. This led to the development of a collection of digitally printed fish leather samples and bags. The skins were sourced at Nordic Fish Leather, the researchers developed the prints and followed the technical process while the digital printing was produced at DevStudio and tested at Ars Tinctoria.

This paper presents the journey of the mapping process, illustrating the key stages of the research, which led to the discovery of new material properties and finishes applying digital printing processes to a food industry by-product material such fish leather. The methods and practices of the project included dynamic interaction between the researchers facilitated through the cooperative framework of the project. The findings identify those new materials, processes, and techniques are often the result of the successful union of fashion and technology to help drive the industry towards a more sustainable future.