It’s the signature bag of luxury. One of French luxury house Hermès’ signature accessories, the Birkin Bag isn’t just prohibitively expensive, it’s extremely difficult to score—despite the price tag— due to ceaseless high demand. But the bag’s namesake, 1960’s singer/fashion icon Jane Birkin, has asked Hermès to drop her name from the bag after discovering how crocodile skin (the material used in the Birkin Croco bag) is harvested.
In a statement released to AFP, Birkin said:
“Having been alerted to the cruel practices reserved for crocodiles during their slaughter to make Hermes handbags carrying my name… I have asked Hermes to debaptise the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place.”
While this may seem like some petty PETA-rabble rousing at first, Birkin is justified in her decision to remove her name from the Birkin Croco. PETA recently published an investigative report on how commercial crocodile farms are operated, detailing horror stories of crocs crammed in concrete pits before slaughtering them, using, “a captive-bolt gun or [being] crudely cut into while they’re still conscious and able to feel pain.”
Perhaps the most startling revelation is that, noting all of the terrible conditions documented in PETA’s report, it still takes two to three crocodile skins to make a single bag.
Hermès released a response to the controversy to The Cut:
“An investigation is underway at the Texas farm which was implicated in the video. Any breach of rules will be rectified and sanctioned. Hermès specifies that this farm does not belong to them and that the crocodile skins supplied are not used for the fabrication of Birkin bags.
Hermès imposes on its partners the highest standards in the ethical treatment of crocodiles. For more than 10 years, we have organized monthly visits to our suppliers.”
The statement from Hermès goes on to say that while Birkin has expressed her concerns over how the bags are made, it “do[es] not in any way influence the friendship and confidence that we have shared for many years. Hermès respects and shares her emotions and was also shocked by the images recently broadcast.”
Aside from Birkin’s expressed desire to distance herself, there’s no official statement on whether or not the French luxury house will actually remove Birkin’s name from the bag in any form, but the controversy highlights an unique dilemma for animal-based products—and the lineage of the Birkin Bag.