Shells discarded by the seafood processing industry are finding a new use in the field of fashion.

Italian fibre producer Pozzi-Electa has discovered a method of extracting protein, technically known as chitin, and turning it into a filament suitable for knitting or weaving fabric.

Moreover, far from exuding a fishy smell, the resultant fibre, which will be marketed worldwide under the brand name Crabyon, has been found to possess anti-bacterial properties that prevent the formation of odours caused by stale human sweat.

The substance can be obtained from all members of the carpace-bearing arthropod family although Pozzi-Electa is currently finding crab shells the most convenient to work with. It is similar in character to the cellulose that is processed from timber.

“Our fibre however doesn’t diminish the world’s already shrinking forest resources and is therefore a more environmentally friendly raw material, as well as being very economical because it makes use of what would otherwise be simply waste,” said Pozzi-Electa.

When the new fibre was previewed at the recent Fil Event textile trade fair in Paris it excited interest from visitors across the international scene, but seemed a particularly commercially interesting proposition to Japanese delegates. “Obviously with the heavy consumption of seafood as an integral part of the traditional Japanese diet any process which creates a profitable by-product for the fish industry is of major importance,” said Pozzi-Electa.