The Birkin Bag Controversy and What it Means for Sustainable Fashion

Are animal skin bags really worth it?

The Birkin bag is quite possibly the most well-known bag in the world. But last week, British singer Jane Birkin, the bag’s namesake, asked Hermes to dissociate her name from the crocodile versions of the bag after the results of a PETA investigation revealed the cruel slaughtering of reptiles used to make them.

For its part, Hermes claimed the crocodiles in question were never used for its Birkin bags, but rather for watch straps and other handbags it carries. Either way, they respected Birkin’s request and said they were looking into it.

Even though crocodiles aren’t cute and cuddly like angora bunnies or other furry animals, the PETA investigation revealed some pretty deplorable practices that no creature should have to endure.

What’s important to keep in mind is that there are good-quality (not to mention cheaper!) alternatives to animal skin bags, like faux leather, materials made from recycled plastics, or organic varieties! And pretty soon, animal skin may be a thing of the past.

But Birkin’s statement brings a lot of attention to the treatment of animals used in luxury fashion. After all, the bag is one of Hermes’ most well known, especially for its high price point ($10,000+) and long waiting list (it can take more than one year to get one!).

Birkin allegedly maintains a good working relationship with Hermes; she gets a royalty from them (which she donates to charity!) to use her name, so it’s not a formal contractual agreement in regards to her namesake bag.

But the controversy forces people to be more conscious of decisions they make; one article estimated that even though the long-term impact may be minor, PETA’s revelation may compel some celebrities to dissociate from the crocodile bags since they don’t want their names associated with animal cruelty.

To top it all off, PETA responded by purchasing a share in Hermes to “put pressure on the company.” Your move, Hermes!

[Photo of crocodile skin from Shutterstock]



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  • Paula Renee

    Thank you for this article and for promoting vegan fashions. Animals are not
    just fashion accessories, and they should not be cruelly killed for handbags
    and watchbands.

  • Lucy_P

    I was sickened when I found out that live alligators have their necks cut open, wires rammed down their spines, and their brains crudely scrambled with metal rods so their skins can be turned into bags.

    There is nothing “luxurious” about wearing or carrying around the skin of a dead, tortured reptile. Thanks to PETA for exposing the ugliness of the exotic skin trade.

  • Kim Marie

    YES, we don’t need to hack reptiles to death to make accessories. Just look at what Stella McCartnery or Joseph Altuzarra have done with cruelty-free fabrics! Their designs are flawless and ethical.

  • Andrea Devon Bertoli

    This is so great to read about! And who needs a handbag THAT expensive anyway?! it’s like the epitome of conspicuous consumerism and makes me want to barf.