De Morgen Magazine – Salmon is the new cow

Saskia Aelen designs handbags and accessories from recycled salmon leather and has these produced in India by a Fair Trade company.
“I felt like, as a consumer, you had to choose between either ethics or aesthetics. That’s why I went looking for a material that was both ecological, durable and good-looking. Salmon skins are normally discarded as waste. We collect the skins from European fisheries and have them tanned into luxurious leather. Salmon leather is as strong as cow leather but doesn’t require the same aggressive chemical treatment to remove hair. Also for dyeing, it needs far less water and dye. And no, it doesn’t smell like fish!”

“The sustainable market is growing. Handbags are also products of which the consumer is already used that they last longer than one season. My biggest stumbling block is availability. People see something and want it now, immediately. As a starter with a limited collection, it’s hard to meet those demands. But if a customer doesn’t get what she’s looking for, she’ll find it somewhere else. So it’s a matter of finding the balance between your vision and the demands of the market.”

“My company is founded in Belgium. The designs and prototypes are made here but the production is done by fair trade certified workshops in India. I don’t believe in charity. But what we can do, is pay people a fair wage.”