The ongoing controversy between PETA (People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and Hermes strikes another chord, this time with French icon and the bag in question's namesake, Jane Birkin. Earlier in 2015 videos surfaced, circulated mainly by PETA, revealing the questionable treatment of animals in the production of Hermes signature Birkin bag. It has been a well know fact for years that the Birkin bags are made of crocodile skins, but the visuals from the Texas crocodile farm that raises animals for their skins shocked many, sparking concern about Hermes' oversight of one of the brand's sourcing centers.
This alarm has thrown Jane Birkin herself into the mix. She wrote an open letter to Hermes asking that her name be removed from the bag in an attempt to distance herself from the allegations of mistreatment. Hermes responded with this public statement:
“Jane Birkin has expressed her concerns regarding practices for slaughtering crocodiles. Her comments do 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. 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.”
Crocodile skins, and namely the Birkin bag, has become a target point for PETA in recent months following the farm videos. In early July, PETA took took action to pressure Victoria Beckham who is frequently sighted in posh settings with non-other than Birkin bags. In collaboration with Freedom of Animals, a vegan handbag line using vegan leathers in the United States, PETA developed a one of a kind Virkin bag (vegan-birkin bag) in an attempt to woe the celebrity into switching over while not loosing the aesthetic. Posh Spice and her people have remained silent on the controversy. Since sending the replacement bag, Freedom of Animals has expanded production on their Virkin line to meet a wider demand.
As for PETA, who knows what the next step in their anti-croc campaign is, but one thing is clear, they are shining a spotlight on an issue that extends beyond Hermes, and one that splits the fashion community, and ruffles feathers in the conscious space too, on what to do to produce ethically and eco-friendly products.