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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Our fashion advice for this spring? Skip the stingray 'leather'

This weekend, Living Oceans Society found itself in uncharted waters: giving advice on fashion trends in the Fashion and Beauty section of a major newspaper.

Check it out: there we are in the Globe and Mail, right alongside supermodels, world-famous designers, and other sorts who wouldn't associate with us in the real world.

Such as this designer, who is shown
viewing our staff photo

Wait, what?

Yep, that's really us in that article- well, more specifically it's our ED Jennifer Lash - and she's there to give Living Oceans' take on stingray 'leather', otherwise known as shagreen.

See, apparently stingray skin is so hot right now. It's used to give things like shoes and bags that certain fashion magic that you can only get with skin of a stingray's back.

I'll admit that the stuff does have a bit of a badass history, at least as far as fashion accessories go. According to a paper by Daniel Pauly and others,

"Ray leather was first used in Asia for sword and body armor manufacturing (Mason, 2005) as the skin is very durable, flame resistant and also provides a good grip because it does not become slippery even when covered in blood during battle."

Which are all attributes that are absolutely necessary for a purse, obviously. 

The problem with stingray leather is in the 'stingray' part of the equation. Much stingray skin comes from the cowtail ray, which is caught in Southeast Asia. The cowtail ray has all of the hallmarks of a species that cannot support intense fisheries pressure: it is long-lived, grows to a large size, and has low fecundity.

Demand for stingray leather appears to be increasing in recent years. According to the paper by Pauly et al., US imports of stingray leather doubled during the late 90's and early 2000's. After reviewing the cowtail and similar species' biology and the available information on catch and stocks, the authors conclude that the cowtail ray, and similar species, are not likely to be able to withstand increased fishing pressure to support high demand from the fashion market.

So, our advice: skip the stingray and go with the fake stuff instead, because being partially responsible for unsustainable levels of exploitation is definitely not hot - not now, not ever.

p.s. And I want to make everyone aware that in this article, Living Oceans Society accomplished what was long thought to be impossible:

We got the word 'elasmobranch' included in a
Fashion and Beauty article. 

1 comment:

  1. Anyone who has ever visited one of Living Oceans Society's offices knows that those who work there are on the cutting edge of fashion.It is not surprising then that they are on top of this very disturbing trend. Good work L.O.S!