Salmon Skin Purses and an Eel Skin Clutch

10 Feb 2015
3 min read
Taking on the ethical question marks that pepper the fashion industry, Heidi and Adèle create eco leather bags and accessories with a distinctly beautiful difference. Sophie Cater finds out more…

How did Heidi and Adèle come about?

In 2013, we decided to throw caution to the wind and channelled our ambitions into a common business. After over twenty years of friendship, we knew we would work well together because we have a similar life ethos,where happiness is the greatest measure of success. So we created Heidi and Adele the brand. We wanted to channel our creativity through innovative materials, intelligent, functional designsandultimately produce beautiful handbags forbusy women. Something new, different and exciting that would promote what we are passionate about – eco exotic leather, the sustainable alternative to more well-known exotics such as snake and crocodile.

Which eco-skins do you use and what’s the process behind them?

We only work with non-endangered species. We have chosen salmon and eel skins based on their visual characteristics, their textures and the fact they are by-products of the food industry.

The production of fish leather is a long and complexprocess, as such there are only a handful of manufacturers worldwide capable of making a high quality product.It takes between 30 and 45 days to complete and each species has different requirements. The main difference between tanning normal leather, such as cow hide and tanning fish leather,isthat the first stage, which involves strong chemicals to remove hair from the hide, obviously does not take place. We are uncompromising on the quality of our skins and it is only aftersampling with several suppliers that wehandpicked a factoryin Iceland for our salmonskins and one in Korea forour eel.

How do you make the skins so vibrant in colour?

All types of skin will take colour at a varying degree. Fish skinstend to be thinner and as such absorb the dye throughout which makes for a bolder, brighter colour.The scales on the salmon and the spine ridge on the eel createa textured surface which looks – and feels- amazing. We have chosen a large selection of colours and finishes to highlight the beauty of these leathers such as occasionally using gold foil which envelopeseach individualscale. You’ll never look at your salmon fillet the same way again!

We read that you use the skins as a by-product of the food industry. Is it tricky to source the material this way?

There is no large scale production for these skins. The factories tend to be located close to the farming or consumption areas and as such, even though we are a new business, we are already sourcing globally. It takes time to locate these partners, to test and select their products, to sometimes create a bespoke colour or finish, to visit themand ensure our ethical criteria match and we did take the best part of a year getting to the stage we are at now.

Why do you think alternative materials are becoming more popular these days?

There have been a number of upsetting scandals in the fashion industry recently, from horrifying conditions in factories to the gruesome ways animals are farmed and killed for their skin or fur. As people’s awareness of the consequences of their fashion choices increases, alternative materials becomemore popular. Endangered species, such as python or crocodile, should not be used in fashion and certainly not in the numbers we are seeing today. We hope that with the help of celebrities endorsing sustainable practices, people will make eco-friendly leather part of their wardrobe and the green revolution we are advocating will take off.

Where’s next for Heidi and Adèle​?

Our aim for 2015 is to increase our visibility, for more people to discover our brand and our ethos,the incredible eco-exotic skins we work with and continue to promote our message about using sustainable products and practices within the fashion industry.

Heidi and Adèle​