University of Arts London - Elisa Palomino, Edwin Phiri

Iceland University of the Arts - Katrín María Káradóttir

‘Indigenous Fish Skin Craft Revived Through Contemporary Fashion’ 

Our paper received the IFFTI Senior Researcher Award.

The use of fish skin for the construction of garments and accessories is an ancient tradition shared by Arctic societies in coastal areas. They have maintained a strong relationship with the environment, developing a subsistence lifestyle depending on the marine environment’s animal resources for food and clothing. Arctic fish skin art has become a way to communicate ecological change and traditional knowledge - effectively enhancing cultural resilience for the Arctic people. During the broad transformation occurring over the last century, they have demonstrated resilience to systematic colonization and repression of their language, culture and native fishing rights as well as dramatic ecological changes in seafood security. This paper looks at the role of fish skin in the Arctic as a way to bridge knowledge and social justice between generations and cultures and to nurture resilience during times of change and transformation.

Meanwhile, the use of fish skin by Arctic Indigenous people has recently been assimilated as a fashion sustainable alternative material to exotic leather due to its lower environmental impact. The Atlantic Leather tannery, located on the north coast of Iceland, has been one of the main agents in the renaissance of the fish skin craft. Processing fish leather since 1994, based on the ancient Icelandic tradition of making shoes from the skins of wolfish reviving ancestral tanning techniques. The tannery has brought this historic eco-luxury material back into fashion providing Blue jobs for coastal dwellers in remote rural areas, maintaining the viability of the fisheries sector and attracting young people to work in them. This paper looks at Atlantic Leather’s role to preserve the rich cultural traditions that have been developed within the Icelandic fishing industry while processing fish leather promoting social justice through inclusive jobs.

Conference Proceeding from IFFTI annual conference 2020 at Kent State University. Our paper received the Senior Researcher Award.