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Thursday, May 3, 2018

why vanity bags command such a high price ?!?!?!?

American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) are well-armoured with tough, scaly skin. They are gray-green or olive-green with long, slender snouts, which distinguish them from their cousin, the alligator. Also unlike the alligator, the fourth tooth on the bottom jaw of the American crocodile is visible when its mouth is closed. South Florida is the only place where you can find both crocodiles and alligators.  The largest living ones are not the most liked ones too. Some say, the animal most likely to eat a human—is the saltwater or estuarine crocodile. Average-size males reach 17 feet (5 meters) and 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms), but specimens 23 feet (7 meters) long and weighing 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) are not uncommon.  Saltwater crocs, or "salties," as Australians affectionately refer to them, have an enormous range, populating the brackish and freshwater regions of eastern India, Southeast Asia, and northern Australia. They are excellent swimmers and have often been spotted far out at sea.  Crocodiles are mostly misunderstood, feared and hunted for centuries.

I  have recently posted on the popularity of   ‘Vanity bags’  and the costliest one among them being auctioned for Rs.1.42 crores – a price that many cars would not command !   Read that article here :  Hermes Birkin bag

Victoria Beckham had  pledged never to use real fur in any of her celebrated fashion collections.  The former Spice Girl-turned-designer  angered campaigners after including alligator skin handbags and purses in her latest clothing range.  The 41-year-old, who has won widespread praise among the fashion industry for her upmarket designs, was criticised for  selling ostrich skin bags and satchels made from python skin at a cost of up to £18,000.  

The items designed by Miss Beckham, also include a £10,900 large box bag along with a £9,900 smaller version, both of which have been made from alligator skin. 

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have now raised concerns over where the animals used to make the items were farmed.  A crocodile farm or alligator farm is an establishment for breeding and raising of crocodilians in order to produce crocodile and alligator meat, leather, and other goods. Many species of both alligators and crocodiles are farmed internationally. In Louisiana alone, alligator farming is a multi  million industry.

Years ago, women’s obsession for quality handbags developed – the search for sophisticated, well-designed leather handbag increased leading to bags made of animal leather – from extinct animals and ones  made of crocodile, or alligator.   It is vanity fashion that an  alligator handbag, with a "griffe" or designer label, could give elegance and class to a woman who didn't have the money for a couture jacket or evening gown.  Of the some elitist brands, Birkin bag by Hermès, handmade in leather and named after actress and singer Jane Birkin is quite popular.   The bag is a symbol of wealth due to its high price and usage by celebrities.  By some accounts, in 1981,  Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas  travelled seated  next to Jane Birkin on a flight from Paris to London; and in 1984, he created a black supple leather bag for her.  That costliest bag was a fuchsia diamond-encrusted crocodile skin 2014 Birkin, sold to an anonymous phone bidder at Christie’s international handbags and accessories auction in Hong Kong. 

Sometime back in Aug 2014, passengers flying First or Business Class with Emirates, Qatar or Etihad, were luckier to receive  lavish gifts.  The airline's vanity bags were voted the best in the world. However, those travelling with Air Canada, Condor and Iberia  were not in the same league as  their amenity kits were ranked the worst. Forty-eight vanity bags from economy, business and First Classes from 27 of the world's top airlines were rated on a scale of one to six - with one ranked as 'taxiing' and six as 'fly me to the moon.'  Five  airlines achieved a six-star review: Emirates, Etihad, Japan Airlines, Qatar and United Airlines - while Air Canada, Condor and Iberia were awarded just three stars.

As demand from the world’s elite surges for the skins, luxury-goods companies are reported to be making acquisitions to secure supply of the beasts, whose habits can make simply collecting their eggs a matter of life and death. Raising the reptiles from hatchling to arm candy without scratches from other crocs is another major challenge.  “Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci are trying to elevate the level of perceived exclusivity of their brands, and exotic-skin products really help in this,” said Mario Ortelli, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in London.  Some big brands own farms and some have purchased ones.  Exotic animal skins make up almost 10 percent of the total revenue from handbag sales for luxury brands, at least double their share a few years ago,  it is estimated. 

While salt-water porosus crocodiles found in Australia are the trickiest -- with enough skin produced for about 25,000 bags a year -- no crocodile is easy or cheap to raise, and it takes years to breed them.  South Africa’s Le Croc crocodile breeding farm and tannery,  along reportedly  sends about 5,000 Nile crocodile skins to Europe each year.  To begin with, cow leather comes from animals raised for beef, and their hides are a by-product. Though some people consider crocodile meat a delicacy -- and growers like van As feed it back to the animals -- it’s the skins that pay the bills for crocodile farmers.  While cows can ruminate for hours on their own in a meadow, from the moment an 80-gram African Nile crocodile hatchling snaps its way out of the egg, van As has to provide a calm environment.  Their pens are cleaned daily and the animals require a strict feeding routine. Only the same few handlers are allowed to approach them. They dine mostly on chicken and selected oils to improve their skin. That all promotes growth, reduces stress and helps keep the crocs’ mighty jaws off each other.  “The bottom line is that one cannot expect to harvest a first-grade skin from an animal which has been abused,” said van As.

Making life easier for the crocodiles also helps their handlers. While the Nile crocodile isn’t as large, territorial or aggressive as the porosus, it’s hardly friendly. They grow to about 5 meters (16 feet) in length and weigh up to 700 kilograms (1,543 pounds). And they will eat almost any prey that ends up in the water. One of van As’s farmer colleagues was killed by a crocodile after falling in the water.

For them it is no animal, but rich cash supplying product; yet they claim that keeping the animals happy and handlers alive isn’t enough to sell to the biggest luxury companies.   It is stated that to keep the belly in good condition, the slaughter, skinning and parts of the tanning process at Le Croc are done by hand. For slaughter, the animals are checked and stunned twice before being killed by a cut at the nape of the neck and a pithing of the brain. The skins Le Croc supplies to customers are then tanned or dyed on site.

To be sure of its clean supply,  LVMH  purchased an Australian crocodile farm for A$2.6 million ($2.5 million) while Kering bought tannery France Croco a month later. In the end, it’s all worth it to such companies and Hermes International SCA, whose waiting lists for its famous Birkin bags can be years-long.   There are women who don’t care about money that love the beautiful things – the bags made of crocodile skin are in demand and so is the demand for crocodile and alligator – a trend that is unlikely to end in near future, as the fashion World promotes it to be a classic.

Back home, the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology (MCBT) is a reptile zoo and herpetology research station.  The  leading institution for herpeto faunal conservation, research and education,  is the first crocodile breeding centre in Asia.  It does not supply skin to any fashion manufacturer but was  established with the aim of saving three Indian endangered species of crocodile—the marsh or mugger crocodile, the saltwater crocodile, and the gharial, which at the time of founding of the trust were all nearing extinction.

It is very different across various parts of the Globe !!!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
2nd June 2015.

With inputs taken from :

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