MAYU: Accessories made from upcycling discarded fish skins
with Mayura Davda-Shah
18 june ‘22
Words by Kathya García
Caro Wristlet by Mayu
Mayura Davda-Shah has a distinctly international background. Although she initially pursued a career in the automotive industry, Mayura found that she was more passionate about design. She had a creative heart that led her to work in luxury and handcrafted accessories. In 2017, she founded MAYU, a brand that aims to inspire sustainable living.
The inspiration for the concept came upon her during a trip to Iceland. Mayura ascertains that her brand breaks away from the luxury industry because it seeks to empower people to make ethical choices that work as an ecosystem. It works to create shared value through consciousness. In this way, MAYU promotes a conscious way of life.
"Mayura ascertains that her brand breaks away from the luxury industry because it seeks to empower people to make ethical choices that work as an ecosystem."
Carlos bifold wallet by Mayu
MAYU’s sustainability core consists in having an ethical supply chain that creates shared value through the circular economy. As the brand puts it: passionate about using fashion for the betterment of our people and planet. They also create timeless and versatile designs made with quality, so they last a long time and don’t go to waste. MAYU additionally gives 1% of their profits to projects that address people and the environment.
But something sets MAYU apart even among the dedicated sustainable brands: fish leather. MAYU’s products are crafted from European fish leather that is tanned using natural vegetable dyes. Mayura witnessed enticing findings other than Aurora Borealis during her trip to Iceland. She came across 5,000-year-old upcycled Nordic fish leather.
Sia Beach Bag by Mayu
After her trip to Iceland, Mayura researched the material for about a year. She recalls how uncomfortable she felt every time she went to a tannery as she discovered she “did not want to be a part of the system”. That experience made her reflect on her own strengths, so she made a value chain analysis. Part of her new solution was to create artisanal products and to train the artisans. Therefore, the designs are atemporal, they do not respond to trends that are dominating the industry, nor follow the seasonal fashion calendar. They would prefer to focus on creating their own quality products from discarded fish skins than on looking at what other companies in the industry are doing.
Sia Beach Bag by Mayu
They do one collection per year, with a few product-drops every now and then. Evidently, Mayura’s dedication to her brand comes from a personal place. Her parents encouraged her to engage with nature from a young age. They instilled the values of sustainability from early on. That’s why she focuses on building a community. As to the luxury industry, she is convinced there are many opportunities fashion-forward brands could take to become more sustainable. Mayura took her background in business with her own consumer (and her network’s) preferences and the industry pain-points to create MAYU.
At the end of the day, the biggest contribution to saving the planet that the fashion industry can make is to dramatically reduce its waste. The circular economy is a great solution that more brands are incorporating into their business models by upcycling materials from our consumption that would usually be discarded. MAYU currently uses three kinds of leather that were made from upcycled materials: wolffish leather, salmon leather, and Piñatex.
Petite Laia Belt bag by Mayu
Nue Liva Pouch by Mayu
Petite Laia Belt Bag
Nue Liva Pouch Bag
Wolfish leather is ethically sourced and cruelty-free since it is made from by-products of the fishing industry. The print on each wolfish leather product is different and original, as every wolfish itself has unique spots. As to the salmon leather, MAYU refers to it as an exotic and sustainable alternative to animal hides. It’s also made from repurposed fish skins from the fishing industry. MAYU describes it as highly durable due to its “criss-cross” structure of fibres, which also give it an interesting texture.
Part of MAYU’s commitment to sustainable design is to integrate other solutions rather than be tied to a single type of material. Mayura also explained how MAYU was created both to address people’s concern with the environment as well as sustainability in fashion. As some of her clients are bound to lean towards vegan products, Mayura incorporated Piñatex in the company’s material repertoire. Piñatex has been popular for a while and is well known as a natural textile made from pineapple leaves. It is PETA-approved vegan, GOTS certified and AFIRM group compliant, since it is a by-product of the agriculture industry.
Petite Laia Belt bag by Mayu
Fish skins to beautiful bags
At the end of the day, Mayura admits that her brand’s approach to meet sustainability goals is in continuous improvement. She and her team look for sustainably certified suppliers and aim to source their materials from certified zero waste facilities. MAYU does what it says it does. Its fish leather was used to make something beautiful and useful, instead of ending up in a pile of waste.
Yet fish leather is not the end of the story for sustainability in the fashion nor the fishing industry. There are solutions out there for reducing waste. Creativity and resolve are key to finding these opportunities. And like MAYU, with continuous improvement processes, more brands have the potential to become more sustainable. Mayura believes that technology can also help move brands towards sustainability in this sector by addressing traceability and transparency, for instance. When consumers are demanding sustainable products, technology allows you to communicate that. And consumers are indeed demanding for sustainable products, fish leather goods included.