Something fishy bout Mayu bags
Mayura Davda-Shah, 27, was pursuing her graduate degree in Boston, USA, where she lived for the better part of a decade, when she took a trip to Iceland in November 2015 with her friends. Little did she know that her experience would lead her to build a start-up venture that boasts of its eco-friendly nature. “Passing the local markets of Reykjavík, I came across these beautiful small leather goods and I was intrigued by the way they looked and felt. When I inquired, I learnt it was made from fish skin and salmon leather,” says Mayura. She adds, “In the Nordic region, the concept of using fish leather to keep warm or make shoes is about 5,000 years old. Fish skin waste is a byproduct of the fishing industry,” says Mayura.
Born and brought up in Solapur, Maharashtra, a place known for its abundant fresh catch, Mayura took her piscatorial fascination to creating wallets and clutches out of fish skin waste in her brand — Mayu. But what is it? Mayura explains, “Fish is caught and sent to fish processing houses, but before the filets are cut and packaged, the skin needs to be descaled in most cases. Salmon is one such fish. That is what gets converted into leather in tanneries in Iceland and Germany. The fish processing unit and the tannery operate side by side so as to further minimise waste.”
Inspired to bring this exotic, yet sustainable look to fashion, she decided to bring this concept to India. However, her ambition was met with a rude halt. “When I visited places in India that are known for leather manufacturing, I realised the waste water that comes out of the industry, the affluent system and the working conditions of employees were not pleasant, to say the least. I had to decide between putting up a tannery and beginning operations from level zero or just sticking with designing products and outsourcing the material. I chose the latter,” she says. The benefits of designing, she adds, also had higher margins and value addition to the fashion label.
Mayura’s specialty lies in her claim that in the entire process of making her ethical statement, no fish is ever killed in the making of these products. “This is a green product because we are not killing fish for the skin,” she affirms, adding, “We are using parts that would go into the bin. The high-end, ultra-luxury brands of today use hide of animals that may be endangered, which we are not doing.” Their current line of products uses salmon and wolfish, because “visually the skins looked the best”. She adds, “The kind of look people demand from a water snake skin or python is what salmon skin closely resembles. Wolfish has spots and just like our fingerprints, no two fish skins are alike,” she adds.
And so, with the fish leather being imported from tanneries in Germany and Iceland, she began manufacturing the finished goods in a “zero waste” facility in Chennai. Keeping ‘sustainability’ in check, Mayura claims to not exceed 1,000 wallets and clutches, in terms of output.
While she is still awaiting certification by B-Corp and Positive Luxury (globally recognised sustainable fashion certification) Mayura has already conceptualised and started work on her next venture. “There is a certain section of the market that is looking at animal-free products. My next collection is on vegan products, which is made out of plant and fruit waste,” she says. The waste material from plants, resembling textile and leather texture, she adds, is procured from a company in London, UK.