They said/We said: Just because you can genetically modify a stingray’s skin for a “stylish” pair of custom shoes doesn’t mean you should

In today’s “things that may be ethically questionable” news, the aptly named Rayfish Footwear will not only make you sneakers out of stingray skin, they will also genetically modify an alive-but-doomed stingray so that its skin’s patterns and etchings are one-of-a-kind. You know…so that your shoes, which will begin at $1,800, are one of a kind.

As the people at Rayfish Footwear describe it, your shoe will “grow” to your specified design choices thanks to a team of scientists who farm stingrays in the company’s Thai aquaculture facility.

The company’s website explains this process in heavily copywritten detail: “Rayfish Footwear uses a patented process of bio-customization, which allows you to design your own living, transgenic stingray. Using the DNA on file in our genetic library, you can combine the skin patterns and coloration from dozens of different species. Access the richness of natural selection. Evolve an infinite variety of shoes.”

Though the company won’t officially launch until later this year, they have soft-launched their products online through design contests. By logging onto their site, you can experiment with different templates and then enter your creation into a contest. The winners each win a free pair of shoes, and the pleasure of knowing a stingray “grew” those shoes just for them.

While we’re sure there’s a market for custom, high-end sneakers (even ones that look like they belong on stage at Cirque du Soleil) it’s worth noting that while stingrays aren’t currently endangered, there are several species of the fish that are vulnerable to endangerment. And of course, the whole DNA-engineering-for-the-sake-of-fashion thing has “PETA uproar” written all over it.

So what do you think: are the shoes ethically sound, or do you think their process of “growing” shoes is cruel and/or just plain weird?


Jihan Forbes: “Now, we love a good leather shoe, but there is something a little bit creepy about ‘growing’ (their words) a sneaker.” [Fashionista]

Marc Wilson: “Truthfully, I’m not sure if Rayfish’s addictive mix and match UI makes me feel like a hip consumer or an all-consuming monster.” [Co.DESIGN]


Caitlan Moneta, fashion market editor: “While I’m sure PETA is peeved, I’m blown away by Rayfish’s feat of bioengineering. Maybe we can work on finding a worthier use for the technology.”

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