University of Arts London - Elisa Palomino
The film “Preservation of Hezhen Fish Skin Tradition Through Fashion Higher Education” will be premiered as part of the official selection of the Fashion Film Festival Milano (10th-13th December). The film, art directed by FISHSkin researcher Elisa Palomino, together with Zhongjin Zhang and Joseph Boon, focuses on the Hezhen society, one of China’s smallest ethnic minorities, living in north eastern China by the Amur river basin.
The film focuses primarily on identifying the historical, cultural, environmental and socio-economic importance of fish skin as an innovative sustainable material. It proposes a vision of sustainability as an anthropological study of the resourcefulness and resilience of the Arctic indigenous peoples, their lifestyles and fish skin practices. The application of the craft to fashion via sustainability practices has been tested through a participatory workshop with fashion students from Central Saint Martins taught by Hezhen craftspeople.
During the last century, Arctic indigenous peoples resisted both colonization and repression by humans, and dramatic ecological changes in seafood security. Fish skin craft became a way to communicate traditional knowledge combined with cultural resilience. In 2006, the Hezhen method of making fish skin clothes was listed as intangible cultural heritage, and Wenfeng You, the main craftsperson featuring in the film (alongside Sun Yulin), was appointed its heir.