Do Icelanders have a special attitude towards sustainability and the environment?
Silla: The land here is scarce and there were times when one
could not be picky. It was all about surviving with what you had,
and I think this is one of the main reasons why we have a tradition
of a close relationship with nature.
Vignir: It is a historic part of our Icelandic identity and a tradition borne of the hardships of our harsh climate to make use of all the resources available to us, to make use of them to the extreme, turning everything into something that can be used. We even try to re-use damaged or falsely coloured skins. For example, we give away scraps from the cutting room to the local kindergarten for handicrafts.
Fish skins have been a waste product of the ever-expanding fishing industry for over a hundred years. We have found a way to give these waste products value. We do so in a way which takes advantage of the natural supply of hot water that flows underground everywhere on the island due to geothermal activity. The tanning and colouring processes require a vast amount of hot water.
However, it remains challenging to find the perfect way. What is sustainable and what is a threat to our nature?
Silla: Yes, and there is no simple answer. First of all fish
skins were a real waste which no one thought that they had such a
potential as leather.
We are often asked, whether we use chrome in the tanning process. We are always answering that we do use chrome, but we refine our waters with the most advanced technology and when cleaned they reenter the tanning process.
We are really happy though that we also found a solution to tan with mimosa, because it had been a long, difficult process to develop this vegetable tanning treatment for fish skins. The mimosa tanned leather is really special, it has this nice color from the tree.