When we stumbled across these handbags, we couldn’t believe what they were made of!
Local designer Lilja Viggósdóttir has combined *salmon skin* with her minimalist design to create handbags, designed in New Zealand and produced in Italy. Ethically manufactured with meticulous attention to detail, Lilja’s Nordik products are not only beautiful, but also environmentally conscious.
nzgirl caught up with Lilja on how she got started in design, the unique material she uses and her tips of aspiring designers!
I’ve never heard of leather made of salmon skin before! Why salmon leather?
I discovered salmon leather in 2014 when I was on holiday in Iceland visiting family. I’d never seen it before and I became fascinated with the texture and soft yet strong nature of the material. After learning about the sustainable nature of how it was made in Iceland using renewable hydro and geothermal energy, I was inspired.
Salmon leather is a bi-product of the fishing industries and I love the way they’ve created something unique and beautiful from, essentially, a waste product. The tannery where I get my salmon skins from are among the best in world, with numerous awards and recognitions for being a leading enterprise in the development of fish leather. They’ve recently designed a salmon leather which is washable; it’s this kind of versatility which is needed in the industry and I love being a part of that.
How do people normally react when they hear “salmon leather”?
The most common reaction is in regards to the durability and strength, how you could construct a bag from such a thin substance. I think people often associate it with the salmon skin you find on your dinner plate. Salmon leather’s strength and durability surpasses that of a regular hide. The cross fibre structure allows it to have a tear strength of 90 Newtons, it is very flexible and dynamic. It’s an incredible material to work with. The next question is generally about the smell, but it just smells like regular leather.
Your first collection is named Einstök, which means “unique”. Is there a special meaning behind the name?
The name for the collection was decided on after I had received the first bag samples, I was showing them to my close friends and family and the word I kept hearing was “unique”. When I learnt the word in Icelandic, it just seemed to fit. I’ve always tried to tie everything back to my Icelandic heritage because that’s where I feel most inspired.
How did you get started in designing?
My mum taught me how to sew when I was sixteen as I grew very tall and it was difficult to find dresses which were long enough. She taught me how to pick the right fabric for the garment, how to read and adjust a pattern and how to find the best fabric shops which we still visit together nearly ten years later. It’s something that we both share a passion for and it’s so special that she started me on my journey in designing.
What are your top 3 tips for aspiring designers in New Zealand?
My first tip would be to ensure you have an absolute passion for what you do. That’s going to keep you going through the really difficult times, and there’s certainly lots of those!
The second is to take a moment to learn the business side of starting your own label. It’s incredibly important to have that knowledge and know how you’re going to turn this creative idea into a successful, functioning business model.
The third tip is to always learn from your mistakes, which you’re bound to make, as hard as you try not to!
You know we’re getting our hands on one of Lilja’s beautiful bags as soon as we can 😍 Check out more of her products here!