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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?'

Proud to present FISHSkin project to the visitors of ITMA 2023, world’s largest international textile and garment technology exhibition. As part of the spacious booth of our partner Kornit Digital, FISHSkin is presenting its circular economy and collaborative research concepts, as well as two artisanal fish leather handbags.

The handbags were designed and manually crafted by our researcher Ori Topaz from Shenkar; the skins she used were printed with her patterns prior to crafting the bags by Kornit Digital, using special adaptations for best results; tanned salmon skins are from our partner Nordic Fish Leather of Iceland.

Please stop by and say hi if you are around;

June 8-14, Fiera Milano RHO, at Kornit Digital booth.

Handbags photos: Achikam Ben Yosef

Twice a year, in the Jewish holidays’ family dinner, a traditional dish called “Gefilefish”* is being served, made of minced carp meat. Our researchers Ori Topaz and Sharon Murro, from Shenkar College, collected the leftovers from this culinary tradition – piles of local carp skins – and took it through manual domestic vegetable tanning, on the way to become a new wearable.

This work serves as a case study for using fish skins locally, and as a direct result of local culture and tradition, with sustainability and fashion impact.

The result is exhibited at the Tel Aviv Biennale of Crafts & Design 2023, opened last month at the MUZA Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, made out of around 60 pieces of rather small carp skins.

* Gefiltefish - flat large cooked fish balls, made of carp meat, traditionally garnished with a round slice of carrot.

Photo on model: Roni Cnaani, ©MUZA Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv

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