Rayfish, a custom footwear company, is marketing leather sneakers that come in every color from shimmering gold to neon green, in patterns that mimick giraffes, zebras, leopard, and lady bugs. And they claim that these designs are grown directly on the hides of custom-engineered stingrays. But are these sneakers for real?
Rayfish claims that it has developed a "bio-customization" process that lets it achieve its enormous range of colors and designs using genetic engineering instead of dyes. The Thailand-based company says that it engineers stingrays to produce these colors (somewhat) naturally, letting consumers design their own ray to be harvested for its kookily colored leather. But pink leopard-spotted stingrays don't come cheap; sneakers currently cost between $14,800 and $16,200, although Rayfish says that, later this year when they are in regular production, sneakers will be available for a mere $1,800.
But don't go throwing your sneaker money at them just yet. An article from LiveScience suggests Rayfish's claims are, well, fishy. Utah State University biologist Randy Lewis brought up his doubts to LiveScience:
To the best of my knowledge, there is no way to do what they claim both in terms of the colors, as many of those colors on their website have no way to be expressed in the skin, and the ability to completely control the pattern that they imply has not been achieved for any animal.
Other genetics researchers noted that patterns in the skin are controlled by multiple genes, requiring some complex feats of genetic engineering. What Rayfish is claiming isn't necessarily impossible, but these researchers would like to peer-review their research before folks start plunking down hard cash on what turns out to be a dye job.