Chanel's exotic skin ban was a practical decision, but with consequences

Not everyone heralded Chanel's decision to ban exotic skin from its future collections. An Op-Ed by several Chairs of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, argued that banning reptile skins will not save any species.

"In our opinion, as leaders within the world’s largest and oldest conservation organisation, the decision may be well-meaning, but it is wrong. It will adversely affect the conservation of wild animals and the livelihoods of the people who live with and depend on that wildlife," the authors co-wrote in the Business of Fashion.

Banning sustainable conservation programs jeopardises people

"We strongly support efforts to ensure high standards of animal welfare in all industries, and salute the efforts of companies exercising leadership in this regard. With reptiles, the luxury goods companies sourcing wild skins have empowered people to engage in excellent conservation programs, in many countries. These programs are thrown into jeopardy by the new measures, particularly if it sets a precedent for others."

Exotic-skinned accessories are not Chanel's profit drivers

Chanel, let it be said, didn't solely ban reptile skins from the good of its luxurious heart. Its share of accessories and bags made from exotic animals is but a small, single digit percentage, of its overall lucrative accessories business.

Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel's president of fashion, told WWD the decision "was primarily a practical one, as it had become too tricky to find animal skins that met both the brand’s design and ethical standards."

It has since emerged that unlike Kering and other luxury players, Chanel has not invested in securing its own exotic skin farms, in the same way it has been buying factories and weaving companies in order sustain craftsmanship and skills.

LVMH, as early as 2011, jointly purchased and controlled Heng Long, one of the world’s leading and most renowned tanneries of crocodilian leather, together with its founding family. Hermès has also been active in buying and controlling its supply chain: its tannery division, Hermès Cuirs Précieux, acquired French calf leather specialist Tanneries du Puy in late 2015. The company is also reported to own reptile leather maker Roggwiller in Louisiana, USA.

Chanel, it appears, missed an opportunity to vertically integrate production of exotic skinned accessories, relying mostly on third party farms for its products. “It is our experience that it is becoming increasingly difficult to source exotic skins,” Pavlovsky stated.

The question is if other sizeable luxury brands will follow Chanel's path and the impact it will have on sustainable programs and the livelihoods of those who operate them.

Photo credit: Chanel Small Hobo bag in python, source Chanel website

 

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