DON’T BIN THE SKIN
Don’t bin the skin (make some nice leather goods with it). “This is a snakeskin jacket. It’s a symbol of my individuality and my belief in personal freedom.” Without any doubt one of the best movie quotes ever. But if “Wild At Heart” had been released in the 2020s, instead of the early 1990s, chances are Nicolas Cage’s idiosyncratic piece of garment might have been made from an entirely different sort of skin altogether: that of Atlantic salmon.
That is, if Jean-Marc Casteigt would have a say in it. Since 2017, he not just smokes and cures high-quality salmon. He also turns their skin into beautiful, high-end leather. Together with his daughter Marie-Sophie, his son Pierre and his son-in-law Nicolas, Jean-Marc has founded Cuir Casteigt, bringing an environmentally friendly alternative to the French and international luxury market.
The story started in 2016, in an effort to reduce waste as a result of the company’s fish processing activities. With some support of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, and inspired by another EU-funded project called FEMER the company embarked on a journey to transform their salmon skin residues into sustainably tanned leather. The main challenge was to find a tanning method that did not use heavy metals such as chrome – which is not only harmful to the environment but also the tanners’ health – but was still durable.
To create the first prototype, the company went all the way to Italy and found a partner in a Tuscan textile company, Conceria Anaconda. Two years later, the development of the tanning process was completed and a patent was filed in June 2018.
The company’s environmental credentials go beyond the metal-free production process though. By using “waste turned by-products” of an existing economic activity, salmon leather represents a circular economy alternative to crocodile, snake, lizard or sharkskin-based products.
Today, Casteigt Cuir sells salmon leather products in various categories, ranging from clothes, bags, belts or purses, and even jewellery.
Just another example of what a little help of the EU can do.