Nothing fishy about trout skin sandals

Maulon-Licharre - Let the scales fall from your eyes...

A French shoe manufacturer is urging fashionistas to take the plunge with what he claims is the world's first range of trout skin espadrille shoes.

Jean-Jacques Houyou has set out to persuade his compatriots that they should be wearing trout rather than merely eating them with a caper and black butter sauce.

The stack-heeled women's sandals in seven colours will go on sale in France this summer, selling for around €120 a pair.

Houyou has sourced salmon trout for the shoes - whose skins he claims are particularly beautiful - from the cold mountain streams of the renowned Banca valley in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the French Basque country.

All come the Goicoechea family's fish farm, whose trout are prized by gourmets.

And although his company is called Don Quichosse - a play on Don Quixote - Houyou insisted he was not tilting at watermills.

He admitted however that making the espadrilles was an "extremely exacting process, the most difficult thing is to find two skins with the same marks which makes each pair so original," he told AFP.

"Every pair is different because of the material itself," he said of the handmade shoes which are lined with goat skin.

Houyou has previously made Japanese-style sandals with salmon skin at his small factory in Mauleon, the centre of France's espadrille industry.

Eco-friendly

Most of his 10 shoemakers work in their homes turning out 20 000 pairs of espadrilles a year, which traditionally have soles made of jute.

But he has used cork to sole the trout skin shoes, which come with heels in two heights.

Espadrilles, often made of canvas, can trace their lineage back 4 000 years, and are still hugely popular summer shoes.

They are also much more eco-friendly than mass market footwear which is difficult, and sometimes almost impossible to recycle.

Several luxury shoe brands have also embraced what they term "fish leather" for their shoes, with the Spanish designer Manolo Blahnik once creating 800-euros-a-pair sandals for an "eco shoes" range.

The Brazilian label Osklen has also had great success with it salmon skin Arpoador sneakers, which sell for $580.

It has previously made shoes from the skin of the Amazonian arapaima fish.

Fish skin boots have been worn for thousands of years by Inuit peoples, and fish skin shoes and handbags were common in Germany during World War II when cow leather ran out.

Environmentalists say that that countless tons of tannable fish skins are discarded every year because the public still worries wrongly that they might smell fishy.

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