PETA, the animal rights group, has urged the French luxury brand Hermes to stop using crocodiles in its iconic Birkin bags and adopt a corporate policy against the use of exotic skins. The group made the request following the death of Jane Birkin, the actress, and singer who inspired the creation of the bag.
Jane Birkin had previously asked Hermes to remove her name from the crocodile version of the bag in 2015, after watching a video released by PETA that showed how live reptiles were skinned or sawed open on farms that supplied luxury brands. She said she was "alerted to the cruel practices reserved for crocodiles during their killing for the production if Hermes bags carrying my name" and wanted the bag to be renamed until better standards were implemented.
Hermes, however, said it had reached an agreement with Birkin to continue using her name on all versions of the bag, including crocodile, and claimed that the practices shown in the video were an "isolated irregularity" at a farm in Texas. It said it had warned the farm to follow its recommended procedures or face termination of relations.
PETA, however, said that its investigation revealed that such practices were widespread and not limited to one farm. It said that crocodiles were kept in crowded and filthy conditions, deprived of basic needs, and brutally killed for their skins. It also said that other animals, such as snakes, lizards, alligators, and ostriches, suffered similar fates for the fashion industry.
PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk said that Hermes should honor Jane Birkin's legacy by retiring the crocodile-skin Birkin bags and banning all exotic skins from its collections. She said that Hermes should "embrace positive change and make a commitment to continue Ms. Birkin's legacy in a manner that respects the natural world and all who live in it by using the finest cruelty-free materials to create a modern Birkin and other accessories.
PETA also noted that many other luxury brands, such as Burberry, Chanel, Mulberry, Victoria Beckham, Karl Lagerfeld, Paul Smith, and Stella McCartney, had already banned exotic skins from their collections.
The Birkin is one of the most expensive and sought-after handbags in the world, with prices ranging from $10,000 to over $200,000. It was created in 1984 after Jane Birkin met Hermes CEO Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight and complained about her lack of a suitable bag. They sketched a design together on an air sickness bag and agreed to use her name for it.
Jane Birkin was a British-born actress and singer who became famous in France for her relationship with Serge Gainsbourg and their controversial song "Je t'aime...moi non plus". She was also known for her humanitarian work and her support for animal rights. She died at the age of 75 after a long illness.