Fish leather is similar to the usual leather material that is found in many areas but offers a vastly diverse pattern due to the number of different fish species and the number of available finishes. The texture of fish leather depends on the size and shape of the scale pockets. Eel is a smoother design with pin-stripe markings that give it a sophisticated appearance. The most commonly used fish skins are carp, salmon, Nile perch, eel, and tilapia. These skins are by-products of the consumable Textiles fish industry and are a good alternative to the exotic crocodile or snake leathers.
Fish leather production is only done by a few manufacturers. The process is complicated and time-consuming, taking up to 45 days through several specific steps. As with animal hides the steps required for fish skin processing are churning, soaking in chemical solutions that remove scales and natural oils, and then tanning before being completely dried. Each type of fish requires slightly different solutions based on the level of oil and whether it comes from freshwater or saltwater. It is a unique skill to remove the fish skins carefully enough to have an unspoiled skin, not to mention the smaller size of fish over larger animals, which also creates a limited supply of available fish leather. This process has taken years of experimentation and improvements. The resulting material is resilient and strong with a comparable smell of the more common cow leather.
With its unique look and significant strength, fish leather is suitable for a wide variety of applications for professionals as well as home projects. An interesting fact is that shark leather is five times stronger than that of a cow. This can be a significant issue for certain industries. Luggage makers and furniture upholstery are only a few that come to mind. Carp and sea bass hides are thicker and rigid which can be good for leather duffel bags, belts, or wallets. While salmon and tilapia are thinner and more flexible allowing them to stretch a bit more, this is great for jewelry or decoration. A distinct advantage that fish leather has over traditional fabrics is that it does not unravel, which means that after being cut, they do not require stitching. But if stitching is preferred, a leather needle or strong sewing machine would be necessary.
Since fish leather is distinctive, hardy, and strong it will make a great choice over traditional exotics and guaranteed to get you noticed.