Are You Game for Fish Skin Shoes?
The future of fashion may exist in ‘leather’ from the deep.
Rarely do people like fish skin, and countless tonnes are thrown out every year because of a worry that some bit of that despised fishiness might still remain in those scales. Also, the scales are bit tough. Yet, a French shoe manufacturer seems to find value in this toughness. Jean-Jacques Houyou from the company Don Quichosse believes in tanning the skins into material fit for making espadrille shoes, and he’s sourced out salmon trout from the cold mountain streams of the renowned Banca valley in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the French Basque country – whose skins he claims are particularly beautiful. These come from the Goicoechea family’s fish farm, whose trout are prized by gourmets.
There is a history behind wearing the smelly leather though. Fish skin boots have been worn for thousands of years by Inuit peoples, and fish skin shoes and handbags were common in Germany during World War II when cow leather ran out. Yes, it took a world war to get people to accept fish skin leather. Even so, several luxury shoe brands have also bought into the idea, with Manolo Blahnik once creating 800-euros-a-pair sandals in an “eco shoes” range. The Brazilian label Osklen has also had great success with it salmon skin Arpoador sneakers, which sell for $580.
One of the possible reasons for this practice may be because of ‘exclusivity’ and uniqueness. Houyou noted to AFP that making the espadrilles was an “extremely exacting process, the most difficult thing is to find two skins with the same marks which makes each pair so original”. His own shoes go for around 120 euros ($135) a pair, in seven colors. He has 10 shoemakers work in their homes turning out 20,000 pairs of espadrilles a year, which traditionally have soles made of jute, but sometimes they also have soles of cork.
There’s an environmentalist plus to Houyou’s products. The espadrilles are much more eco-friendly than mass market footwear, which is difficult, and sometimes almost impossible to recycle. Perhaps a greater awareness of the possibilities of fish-skin can cut down on some of the furious waste that goes on when they’re discarded rather than used. All this makes for an interesting and possibly tasteful option for fashion designers in the future.
This story was written in-house, with an AFP story as the source as well as an image from the AFP.