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Designer transforms salmon skin into high quality leather


Waste is a source of wealth. It can even be transformed into a luxury product. You just have to change the way you look at the things we throw away to be convinced. And that is exactly what designer Stiven Kerestegian did. His work was featured last June in a French TV program, FutureMag, on the French TV channel Arte.

Patagonia is dotted with lakes and fjords, making Chile the world’s second biggest salmon-producing country (500,000 tons per year). The fish are processed, filleted and then exported. Meanwhile, the skin, which is seen as waste, is piled into tanks where it decomposes into oily matter. Until the day that Stiven Kerestegian realized the value it could represent if transformed into quality leather.

How does this resources guru re-use it? The skins are selected, one by one, and tanned in a similar way to cattle hide and sheepskin. The skin residues are removed. The skins are mixed with mineral substances and then soaked in a cold solution for four days to soften the leather and cure it to prevent putrefaction. The recovered leather is then dyed and dried.

Salmon skin, intended to enable the fish to swim up-river against the tide, is extremely resistant. It can be transformed into very supple leather of excellent quality that can be shaped into different forms as required, from shoe soles to mobile phone covers, for example. The potential for waste from aquaculture is immense given that fish-farming production (66 million tons) now exceeds beef production (63 million tons).

Innovations in re-using the resource rely on everyone’s ingenuity. Stiven Kerestegian’s initiative echoes the principles of frugal innovation proclaimed by Navi Radjou, an approach that places particular emphasis on the concept of “doing more with less” and embraces the practice of re-use. This is an attitude that is prevalent in emerging countries which are often the most constrained. Navi Radjou will be developing his approach to innovation at the Resource Revolution Tour on March 12 in Paris. Follow it live on the website.