The paper "A Virtual Ainu fish skin workshop during Covid-19 times" was presented in October 2021 at the Global Fashion Conference 2021 in Warsaw by our researchers Orit Freilich (Shenkar) and Elisa Palomino (UAL) together with Isaac Reine (UAL).
From April to June 2020, during the Covid-19 isolation, Ran Graber, a third-year student of Shenkar University, Tel Aviv, elected to study and remake a 19th century fish skin attush (Ainu robe), under the guidance of Elisa Palomino, Orit Freilich, Ran Kassas and Debbie Elhayeni, as part of the F4*3D course. This small project of individuals – one student, one course, one study, one sample – nevertheless brought together workwear and artwear, utilitarianism and spirituality, ancient tradition/history, contemporary society, and future thinking. It bought together Tel Aviv, London, and Hokkaido – as well as all of you here now, from across the globe.
By disseminating the ancient Indigenous Ainu fish skin craft – as exemplified in this robe – to a non-Indigenous student, we were able not only to provide an example of an environmentally sustainable alternative material for fashion, but also, in so doing, to suggest a way of preventing marine pollution by exploiting skins discarded by the food industry that would otherwise be thrown in the sea. We were able to sustain an endangered historic tradition, to bring it to a new arena, and to plant the seeds of its further dissemination as the fashion students graduate and become industry professionals across the world.
The paper is centred on the research questions:
‘How can we assist fashion students in developing sustainable materials by sharing traditional fish skin craft from Ainu Indigenous Peoples?'
‘How can a faculty provide creative new ways of teaching that benefit both staff and students during difficult times?'