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Design Gets Fishy

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You've probably heard of cowhide, horse leather, pigskin and even goat and python skin.  But have you ever heard of fish leather?  The people of Iceland have – and their little secret is now the latest craze in the design world.   Style was hardly the island nation's primary concern when they first developed the product over 50 years ago.  During the resource-strapped days after World War II, when Iceland was cut off from Europe's incredibly scarce supply of raw materials, Icelanders learned to tan fish skins and use them in place of hard-to-find leather.  But when prosperity returned to Europe, the idea was quickly forgotten. 

Then a few years ago, a saddle maker named Arndís Jóhannsdóttir uncovered some old fish leather that had been stored, and realized she had discovered something incredible.  The strong, pliable material turned out to be ideal for a variety of design purposes – it's incredibly thin, yet very strong, and comes in beautiful colors and patterns that range from spotted to scaly to iridescent.  Today, Jóhannsdóttir uses the local leather for everything from shoes and purses to wall coverings, and is now developing a line of catfish bathroom tiles.   The trend is clearly catching on – Iceland recently re-opened its first fish leather plant in over 50 years.

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