Femer, where fish skin becomes leather!

On the harbour at La Teste-de-Buch in Arcachon, a close-knit mother and daughter team has launched an eco-friendly tannery that turns fish skins into leather for shoes, leather goods, interiors and fashion.

Marielle is a dynamic 30-something businesswoman in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. After a brilliant academic career rewarded with two Master’s degrees - one in environmental law and the other in sea and coastal management, she struggled to find a sufficiently rewarding job.

It was then that her mother Monique told her about a fashion show she’d seen in Lapland, in which the models wore clothes created from fish skins. As close to each other as they are to the sea, mother and daughter were fascinated by the idea, did their research, and trained themselves in the process of tanning fish skins. Femer was finally launched in 2013.

It all begins with collecting the fish skins that are effectively the by-product of filleting. Instead of them being consigned to the waste bin, Marielle gives them a ‘second life’. All fresh water and salt water fish can be used, with the exception of hake, whose skin is too thin. Naturally, every skin is different with its own distinctive grain, and therefore demands its own specific treatment. Marielle prefers the skins of locally caught fish, such as sea bass, sturgeon and sole.

All the work involved is done manually, and no chemicals are used in the process. The mother/daughter partnership has developed a vegetable tanning process based on the bark of the mimosas that grow on the nearby Dune du Pilat, and colour the skins using only natural pigments produced in France. Altogether, it takes a month to tan, dry, soften and colour a skin and add the final touches, such as the gold sequins applied to some skins.

At the end of this process, the skin is odourless, waterproof and non-allergenic. Marielle sells finished skins online, but doesn’t stop there. She has formed partnerships with companies that use her skins to create leather goods, shoes and other fine products.

As you already know, I’m a big fan of ‘Made in NA’. So you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I love the baby pylataise sandals made by PasKap at Labrit in the Landes; a wonderful birth gift. For myself, I just love the carbon/silver pylataise in salmon leather and sheepskin: it’s much more chic and original than a tropézienne sandal :-)

But regardless of preferences, congratulations to this incredibly resourceful mother/daughter team, and we can’t wait to see supermodels in Femer fish skins during Fashion Week!

Information: www.femer.fr (External link)