Material Matter: Atlantic Leather, A By-Product of the Food Industry

By Brittany DiBenedetto | Special Series
Posted Oct 18, 2016

  The following article is courtesy of The Sustainable Angle, a not for profit organisation initiating and supporting projects that contribute to minimizing environmental degradation, while helping businesses and individuals make informed decisions when it comes to sustainability. Their Future Fabrics Expo focuses on introducing the fashion industry to innovative materials with a lower environmental impact.

Atlantic Leather is an Icelandic tannery leading in manufacturing exotic leather from fish-skin which are waste products from the food industry. No fish used are endangered species. The fish-leather is produced from four different species of fish; Salmon, perch, wolffish and cod – each with its own unique characteristics –  in a diverse range of colours, textures and finishes, all have been tested by the European Chemical Agency. Atlantic Leather is stationed in Sauðárkrókur, a small but vibrant community of roughly 4000 inhabitants, located in the heart of Skagafjörður, Iceland. The development of the fish leather has been processed since 1994, but the idea itself is rooted in tradition.

We have been lucky enough to interview Atlantic leather’s Manager Sigurlaug Vordís Eysteinsdóttir, to find out more about Atlantic Leather, and how fashion businesses and consumers cannot only use this material but visit where it is made.

TSA: Firstly, can you tell us what sustainability means to Atlantic Leather?

Atlantic Leather: Sustainability means the power of nature to us at Atlantic Leather. Respect nature and it’s power.

TSA: Can you provide a brief outline about the products Atlantic Leather creates, and what makes them more sustainable than other leathers?

Atlantic Leather: We produce Salmon, Perch, Cod and Wolffish leather from the by-product from the food industry. We also produce washable Salmon and Salmon tanned from the bark of the Mimosa tree. We turn waste products from the food industry into exotic luxury leather by using the power of nature. In Iceland we are fortunate to have plenty of hot water from geothermal sources, and our electricity comes from a hydroelectric power station. So we rely on the power of nature; exotic and eco-friendly.

TSA: What was the inspiration behind using fish skins to create leather for the fashion industry?

Atlantic Leather: Icelanders are known for reusing everything that others think is trash and we still have our ancestor’s spirit of finding the useful in everything. Iceland is a big fishing industry nation, our ancestors used the fish skins for their shoes, so the inspiration was, find a use for 100% of each fish Icelanders catch and Icelanders are on our way to completing that task, Atlantic Leather is a big part of that project.

TSA: Can you tell us about any positive environmental / social impacts you have seen or expect to see as a result of Atlantic Leather?

Atlantic Leather: Firstly, we don’t have any leather from endangered species, many designers have gone from snake skin to our Salmon skin for example. Atlantic Leather is the only tannery in Iceland and is based in the north of Iceland in a society with a population of 4000. Atlantic Leather was voted the best Tannery of the year in the European section that is a big recognition in our small country. Our leather is inspiring for people, we have so many colours and varieties of finish.

Continue reading the interview here.

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