Ictyos: France’s first tannery in over 40 years turns fish skin waste into leather for use in luxury goods

Discarded fish skins are being turned into leather for use in watch straps and wallets by ecological tannery company Ictyos.

The French company, based near Lyon, collects fish skins, mainly salmon and sturgeon, from agri-food businesses that would otherwise end up in restaurant trash cans, turning them into leather for use in watch straps and wallets, and pitching them at the high-end luxury market.

The first tannery to be created in more than 40 years in France, Ictyos deploys environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, which uses natural and renewable resources, to construct the leathers from high quality metal-free vegetable tanning,

Around 50,000 tonnes of fish waste is produced each year in France. The main generators are the catering and food industry. A large part is thrown directly into the garbage, while only a small part is recycled.  

Ictyos is the brainchild of three friends who met when studying chemical engineering near Paris. Turning fish skin into leather is an age-old craft, and the trio taught themselves the environmentally friendly tanning process from scratch.

Benjamin Malatrait, one of the co-founders of Ictyos, said: “Salmon skin has a suppleness, and a finesse, it’s less than half a millimetre thick, but with a resistance which is nearly equivalent to cow leather. It has a grain which is more marked, with the scales that are a bit reminiscent of lizard. Visually its quite exotic.”

Ictyos is currently working with 250 clients – a mix of big brands and artisan producers — who are testing the products for use in watch straps, bags, and clothes.

The tannery company has been given a six-month stint inside a startup incubator run by Paris-based global fashion giant LVMH, owner of brands such as Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. The idea is that the incubator’s graduates land deals with LVMH fashion houses.

Cuir Marin de France is convinced of the potential of these resources and is committed to enhancing these leather skins in an eco-circularity approach. 

Ictyos

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. 

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