Oh, the things I would do to have Hermès design a bag specifically for me, then mass produce it in my namesake to be sold as the ultimate symbol of status and wealth.
Jane Birkin doesn’t seem to care that she landed this exact opportunity, because she just asked Hermès to remove her name from the famed Birkin bag after learning that the brand purchases crocodile and alligator skins from farms that abuse their animals.
PETA recently released a report and video investigating the farming practices of some crocodile and alligator facilities that sell skins to Hermès for the Birkin bag and a variety of other accessories. The report reveals that these farms horribly mistreat their crocodiles and alligators by confining them to dark pits from their time of birth until their slaughter, cutting into them while they’re still alive and conscious, and leaving them to bleed to death.
Ms. Birkin boldly called out the fashion powerhouse for these poor practices in a statement released to Agence France-Presse. “Having been alerted to the cruel practices endured by crocodiles during their slaughter for the production of Hermès bags carrying my name,” she says, “I have asked the Hermès Group to rename the Birkin until better practices responding to international norms can be implemented for the production of this bag.”
Many women would do unspeakable things to have been in Ms. Birkin’s place in 1981, when she happened to sit next to Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London. The story goes that Ms. Birkin tried to place her straw bag in the overhead compartment of the plane when all of its contents spilled out. Mr. Dumas suggested that she needed a bag with compartments, and when Ms. Birkin told him that she had trouble finding a leather weekend bag that she liked, they started brainstorming possible bag designs that would suit her style and needs. In 1984, the Birkin bag was born as a result of this interaction, and it quickly gained traction in the high fashion community.
The Birkin bag became the beacon of status in the world of fashion, and it still holds that distinction today, but people have been shifting the way they portray their stature from donning uber expensive pieces to using their importance to voice concerns about certain injustices occurring in the world, even if these injustices are being performed for the production of something as coveted as the Birkin bag.
People are becoming more aware of the power of their own voices, and they’re becoming increasingly interested in using this power to spread much-needed awareness instead of promoting sales of products that don’t necessarily give back to the community.
This is partially why socially conscious and sustainable brands, such as Warby Parker and The Reformation, have grown rapidly in popularity over the last few years; not only do they carry stylish pieces, but they are also built on a model of spreading awareness through the fashion medium.
As far as I’m concerned, the Hermès Birkin is worthless unless it uses its powerful image to help heighten business standards in the fashion industry and spread the use of humane practices when it comes to animal skins and furs, and Ms. Birkin seems to echo this sentiment. Brands such as Hermès have a voice that influences the masses, and true progress can start with them.