Fish leather from Iceland

Rothöll works with Icelandic fish leather that we purchase directly from a leather maker in the northern part of the country. The material has an unmistakably lively structure, thanks to the scale pockets that remain on the hand-tanned leather. Its velvety feel is reminiscent of silk or handmade paper, but with high elasticity on account of the net-like fibres that are arranged in layers on top of one another. In spite of its delicate appearance, our lightweight fish leather is extremely durable compared to other types of leather. In contrast to animal leathers of the same thickness, fish leather does not tear, even after years of everyday use.

Fish leather from Ireland

We now have a new addition to our range. It is a salmon leather that also comes from an island: from Ireland. Certified organic salmon farms on the west coast supply the raw material. In Weida, Thuringia, the fish skins are processed into leather without the use of chrome. The Irish salmon skins can be very large and firm, because the animals not only enjoy plenty of living space in very clean water, but also thrive on healthy organic food. Our tannery leaves the original pigmentation in the fish skin. That is why the gradient from the dark back to the light belly is clearly visible. This, and the silvery shimmer of the smooth surface, gives each salmon leather a unique texture.

Proven for thousands of years

Today, fish strikes us as an odd source of material for leather making. However, thousands of years ago native peoples of Alaska and Siberia developed techniques for processing fish skins into water resistant, highly durable material that they used to make clothes, tents and boats.
Today’s methods are based on this tradition. The skins are carefully cleaned. First the scales are dissolved using enzymes so that they can be easily pulled out of their pockets. Then the fish oil is removed from the pores and the skins are placed in a tanning solution. After soaking, the skins are cleaned with water and stretched to dry. Tanning makes the skins durable but flexible, and also opens the pores, which allows the applied color to penetrate deeply into the skin. Finally, a staking machine is used to soften the skins.
The details of this process remain a secret that only few specialised tanneries know. The finished leather does not smell of fish at all, much as pig- or cowhide leather does not smell of pigs or cows.

Responsible sourcing and production

Our tanneries only process skins of fish caught for eating; these skins would otherwise have been thrown out as a waste product of the fishing industry.
By using the fish skin, we contribute to the sustainability of the industry. No part of the animal goes to waste since the fish skin is already available and does not have to be produced separately.
In order to make animal skins durable and flexible, they must be subjected to a tanning process. Different tanning agents are used, such as synthetic tannins, tannic plant substances and mineral salts.
Although the latter tanning technique, which uses chromium (III) salts, can lead to environmental problems, the Icelandic tannery does everything it can to protect the local environment. It filters the waste water, removing and disposing of the residues of the heavy metal according to best principles, and recycles the water into the tanning process. Chromium (III) salts are considered harmless to health and most people tolerate the leather well.
Our Irish salmon leather is tanned 100% chrome-free in Thuringia using a combination of vegetable and synthetic tanning agents.
Traditional processes of fish leather production are being developed in a more conscious manner and both the environment and our range benefit.

Full details of our source materials and the processes we use accompanies every item, so you can make up your own mind.

Proper care for your fine leather

Fish leather is durable and easy to care for. A natural patina that protects the surface is created through progressive use so that application of additional creams or polish is not necessary. Even with intensive use, the texture of the scale pockets remains. Long-lasting and intensive exposure to sunlight can cause some fading of some of the dyes. As with all other leathers, any items that may have got wet or damp should be laid out to dry at room temperature.