Leather From….Fish? Sustainable Business Feature on Atlantic Leather
Hello all 🙂
I have an interesting post for you today and I hope you enjoy reading about this as much as I have enjoyed learning about it!
Located in the beautiful town of Saudárkrókur, Iceland, Atlantic Leather seems to be a bit of a hidden gem.
When I discovered that Atlantic Leather was making leather from fish skins, for a consumer market, it got my attention. To be quite honest, I was not expecting this to be on the scale that it actually is. I was incorrect. There are some amazing things happening in Iceland.
Making leather from fish skins. It’s one of those things that makes you pause, for just a moment, when one first hears of it. And then comes the Eureka moment. When you realize how very logical it is, but somehow amazing that it’s happening – at the same time. At least, that was my reaction.
Atlantic Leather uses four types of fish skins for their leather production: Salmon, Cod, Wolf fish and Perch. I was quite curious as to why these types of fish skins were selected. Was it their larger size? Were the skins thick enough to maintain their durability throughout the tanning process? Was there a magical equation? No. I was informed that it was availability of raw materials. Atlantic Leather only uses the fish skins as a by-product of the food industry. Basically, they are making beautiful leathers by using our food rubbish. I have never actually considered how much waste of items like fish skin, or vegetable cuttings are left
behind by the food that we purchase. Think of how much disposal space is being saved by utilizing these skins and transforming them into items of beauty!
The entire tanning process takes a total of 3-4 weeks time.
I was fortunate to be able to communicate with a friendly representative from Atlantic Leather to gain more information about this new leather, as well as a brief Q & A session.
Q – What made Atlantic leather want to try making fish skins into craftable leather?
A – In the beginning we only tanned sheepskin, but when the market took a huge dive we explored other options.
Q – How does fish leather compare with more traditional leathers, such as cow or sheep leather?
A – Fish leather is so much more stronger then lamb and cow and that is mostly because of fibers in the fish leather.
Q – Atlantic Leather has succeeded in setting itself apart from the competition by not only being the only tannery in the world to make wolffish leather, but also as the only producer of washable salmon leather. A feat, to be sure! Can you tell us, are there any new innovations in the pipeline?
A – We are always working on something new and always trying to find ways to be even more sustainable, also we are working on a project in the horizon 2020 EU with other country’s and that will be very exiting.
Q – How does washable salmon leather happen? How is it washed/cared for?
A – There is a special tanning method which we came up with, it can be washed in a machine to 30 C.
Q – Why would you recommend people to use fish leather?
A – Mostly because its a byproduct and a sustainable solution and off course the quality
Q – What is the most popular type / colour used?
A – Black salmon is always the top seller.
Q – I love that Atlantic leather only uses fish skins as a by product of the food industry and that no animals are slaughtered strictly for their skins. I wish that more leather companies would do this. How would you encourage this action to take place more often in your industry?
A – Social responsibility !
Q – Your website also states that the ‘production process makes use of renewable hydro and geothermal energy’. Is there a simple way to explain this statement? It sounds very cool!
A – Here in Iceland we have plenty of hot and cold water so the heating of the tannery and the house are all in the hands of mother nature. These are renewable resources and also our electricity comes from this hot water.
Q – If someone wished to purchase these fish leathers from you, how does the international purchasing process work? Or is Atlantic Leather a strictly B2B company?
A – It is no problem to buy, we sell to everybody, but there is an order minimum for the production, we do though have a small visitor center where we offer single skins for sale and guided tours through the factory.
Q – I have heard that some high-end designers are beginning to use fish leather in their products. Can you drop any names?
A – The high fashion industry is one of our biggest market, and there is a wakening in the fashion world for more sustainable solutions but we don’t kiss and tell 😉
I can tell from the ones that have used it, Nike – Jimmy Choo – Fendi – Ecco – Kenzo – Prada….
*Wow! Those are reputable designers known for using amazing materials! I really want to see the items that this fish leather is making. Atlantic Leather was friendly enough to include a statement of their sustainable business practices. I am including here, below. Please read through it. I have learned much that I did not know about tanning processes and how they work within sustainability goals at Atlantic Leather.
Atlantic leathers sustainability statement:
‘We are really fortune living in Iceland since we have plenty of hot water in our ground from geothermal sources-renewable resource, also our electricity all comes from a hydroelectric power station. So you can see that our production really relies on our nature, that is also why we have waste water treatment that takes away the chemicals that we don‘t want to have in the nature, and then it is disposed in a correct way.
Atlantic Leather has the goal to keep the natural characteristic of the skins in first place as well making all the skins in environmental friendly way chrome free tanning and using the natural sources of hot spring water and hydroelectric power for our production. The tannery is very close to the source of the raw material so transport will be as light as possible to limit the carbon footprint of the production and distribution to minimal.
‘We have from the beginning had the goal to use not hazardous chemicals in the production and all development have been worked from that point.
We use soap, the soap has similar ingredients as dish washing liquid, we use lime to remove the scales with crucial help of enzymes, and tanning is play of PH and to control that we use baking soda and formic acid in the tanning. In the process we have to remove all natural fat from the skin, but to have soft leather we need fat. So the natural one is replaced with special fat created from vegetables oil and fish oil. For the tanning (conservation for the collagen) we use chrome as basic supported by aluminium and synthetic tanning agents. Chrome is available in several forms (chrome 6 is the poison one with bad reputation) we use chrome 3 that is not dangerous in that form, in the tanning it’s possible that the chrome changes into other forms of chrome. Tests have shown that it doesn’t happen in our process. We also offers other tanning methods where we use tree bark to make the tanning, we use Mimosa tree bark (other type can be used). When it comes to dyeing the skins, we always use AZO free dyes. For the finishing we use water-based acrylic and urethane-based compounds (similar to the paint we use in our homes).
All tests have shown that we are well under the chemical regulation of European Union as well we treat our waste water before it goes out to from the factory with very simple technique that calls for very small investment to install.
We have lot of projects going on in development, one is chrome free tanning (due to the bad reputation of chrome the market is calling for it) and many other projects that is asked for or will be called for in the future.´
*I am excited to watch this company and will like to see their good projects make positive change in the industry.
It has been a pleasure writing this post and I would like to thank Atlantic Leather for all of their cooperation in writing this. I thank everyone for reading and I hope that you have enjoyed learning about this innovation in leather tanning as much as I have! If you are interested in viewing more photos of their creations, please visit their website, instagram or Facebook pages!
It’s so interesting!