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Norskin produces sustainable leather from the sea

Published 21 Feb 2023 (updated 21 June 2024) · 3 min read
Two people holding salmon skin in their hands

Quick information

At a glance

  • Untreated and treated salmon skin leather
  • Sustainable alternative to traditional leather
  • Reduces carbon emissions and marine waste

Norskin is a sustainable leather made from salmon skin that dramatically reduces carbon emissions and marine waste. “We believe the future of leather lies in the ocean,” says Michal Meyer Nilssen, founder and CEO of Norskin Materials Salten.


Is salmon the new cow? If so, then Mother Earth will be much healthier.

Traditional cow’s leather has a huge environmental footprint. Cattle rearing is responsible for 65 per cent of the livestock sector’s emissions, not to mention soil degradation and deforestation. The fashion industry, which relies on leather, contributes 8 to 10 per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions.

“We need leather. It’s both useful and beautiful. By using alternative sources, we can improve on its positive qualities while decreasing its negative impacts,” says Meyer Nilssen.


Durable, eco-friendly leather alternative

Norskin is a sustainable alternative to traditional leather made by procuring, sorting and pre-treating salmon skin from Northern Norway. “We collect the fish skin from local fillet and breeding farms. Our main aim is to utilise every part of the fish harvested from the sea,” says Meyer Nilssen.

The company delivers both untreated “pickle” leather and treated “crust”. It also provides finished leather according to the customer’s specifications.

Norskin leather is exceptionally strong, up to nine times stronger than traditional leather of the same thickness. This is due to the interlocking structure of salmon skin, which differs from the smooth surface of traditional leather. Norskin is therefore more durable for use in products such as belts, handbags and shoes.

Moreover, the company offers its product in different sizes, depending on the type of salmon used. The largest comes from broodstock salmon, which is closer to the scale of traditional leather. Norskin is the only company to offer this.


Norskin tops environmental standards

By nature, Norskin is a more sustainable source of leather than other animals. In fact, salmon farming is seven times more efficient than beef production, and CO2 emissions from salmon are one-sixth that of cattle.

Norskin reduces tonnes of salmon industry waste as well. “We want to extend the life cycle of salmon. After a fish is processed, you can either throw the skin in the garbage or make a handbag that will last 10 to 20 years.”

Moreover, Norskin works with certified farmers in Northern Norway, ensuring that the product is 100 per cent traceable throughout its lifecycle. Animal welfare standards are some of the world’s highest, with Norskin receiving top marks from Seafood Watch.


Fashion industry shows interest in salmon

In 2023, one of the top 10 leather fashion trends is sustainable fish skin leather, which Norskin is benefiting from.

Recently Norskin teamed up with the niche online clothing shop FOGG Gildeskål, Danish shoe brand Kastel, and award-winning shoe designer Ingrid Brandth to create shoes out of fish leather. In another project, the fish skins are used to produce chairs out of materials from the sea.

The company is also collaborating with online grocer Oda and Huseby Gård vegetable growers to develop packaging material from gelatine extracted from fish scales. The research institute Nofima is involved on the scientific side.

“The ocean has always been a part of our history and future. Learning from the past, we know that utilising every part of what we harvest is the way forward,” concludes Meyer Nilssen.

Catrine Kildemo

Head of Marketing

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