Fish leather is now a thing, but what exactly is it?

Fish leather is now a thing, but what exactly is it?

The next wave of sustainable fashion is here. Move over the cowhides and make way for the exotic and elegant fish leather made from the deeply dangerous lionfish.

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Lionfish are an aggressive species that have invaded natural ecosystems in the southeastern United States and coastal waters of the Caribbean. They harm existing ecosystems as they compete for food and space with native fish like snapper and grouper. Scientists fear that the lionfish will also kill the algae-eating parrotfish, which will in turn lead to algae blooms.

The story of how the lionfish entered American waterways remains a mystery. Some suggest they were released into waterways from an aquarium in the 1980s, but this is unconfirmed. Since then, millions of people have lived around the Atlantic Ocean, from Boston to Brazil to Barcelona, ​​thanks to the rapidity with which the lionfish reproduces, with a female lionfish believed to lay 50,000 eggs every three days. for the rest of his life. They have overtaken the Mediterranean, with similar devastating effects on marine life as they destroy coral reefs and entire ocean food chains in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic.

Passionate about scuba diving, Aarav Chavada, founder of INVERSA, observed during his dives in the Caribbean that the coral reefs were slowly withering away. Seeing something he loved degrade so much sent him down the path of learning where he met dive activist groups and non-profits concerned about the health of coral reefs. That’s how he learned about the damage caused by the invasive lionfish.

Five years later, he and his co-founder, Roland Salatino, created INVERSA to address the exponential lionfish supply by using it in more than one way. They set to work with a mission to create a whole range of invasive leathers – genuine exotic leathers that are good for the planet.


The duo researched ways to turn the parasite into a promising product by experimenting with fish skin. The Florida-based start-up handles the entire manufacturing process in America, where it treats Lionfish skins by tanning them with chromium salts, dyeing them and then selling them to fashion companies to transform the products into. leather into everyday usable products such as wallets, belts, cardholders and handbags. Next year, INVERSA will turn to environmentally friendly tanning solutions, zeolite, made from environmentally friendly minerals containing aluminum and silicon compounds.

Currently, INVERSA partners with high fashion brands to supply fish leather for use in their products. One such brand is P448, an Italian shoe brand that has incorporated fish leather into the design and manufacturing process of its sneakers. INVERSA also points out that it is “turning the script on current sustainability standards” by going even further to become regenerative.

This means that the production of fish leather brings more benefits to the marine ecosystem than it would have had before it existed. In the case of producing these sneakers, using fish leather saves up to 70,000 native reef fish, uses all parts of the lionfish, uses less than 400ml of water to produce and lastly, protects 79% of native baby reef fish.

INVERSA intends to expand its activities with a focus on regeneration. The company is created to pave the way for a steady demand for invasive species of lionfish, which otherwise remain uncaught by anglers, who see little value in this fish. This sets up a cycle of paid opportunities for those affected by this invasion to help bring it to an end. They also source lionfish from several Gulf countries, where lionfish are invasive (more often than not these are areas where anglers have an unstable regular income).

This cohesive supply chain allows the invasive lionfish to be captured more frequently and thus enables reef ecosystems to rehabilitate. As mentioned above, each invasive lionfish can eat up to 70,000 native reef fish in its lifetime. Thus, each fish removed from this ecosystem can protect up to 70,000 native reef fish, which, in turn, facilitates the rebuilding of reefs from the destruction caused.

However, anthropological research shows that creating fish leather is not an entirely new concept. In many indigenous communities who lived in coastal or riverine regions, fish leather was used for its remarkably strong properties formed from its interwoven fibers. Around the world, from the Ainu tribe in Hokkaido, northern Japan, to the Inuit of Alaska, the Hezhen of northeastern China, the Sami of Sweden and the Nanai of Siberia, fish skin is a base of traditional craftsmanship in indigenous communities around the world. .

The process is tedious, where fish skin must be scraped, softened and treated with tanning agents to turn them into durable leather. The fish used in these cases were fish that would otherwise have been eaten, such as salmon, and not necessarily invasive fish to the community.

On the other hand, INVERSA is studying a new line of fish leather, Dragonfin, made from the relative kind of carp which will be launched next year. Fish leather seems to be the way forward to combat the effects of traditional leather on the environment and the production process. There’s nothing fishy about it.

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Any representations, views or opinions in this article are those of The Latch and do not reflect those of Suncorp Bank and are not endorsed by it.

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