Chanel Says Adieu to Exotic Skins


Chanel made headlines this week when it announced that it was banning the use of exotic skins. While many industry insiders were shocked by the news, some of the brand’s signature pieces—including the sharkskin Boy Bag and Mini Flap in alligator—vanished from its website. Rather than taking an ethical stance, however, Chanel cited difficulties in obtaining exotic skins as the real reason behind the ban. Unlike conglomerates like Kering and LVMH, which hold majority stakes in several high fashion houses, Chanel still relied on third-party farms for its animal products. This lack of control over their supply chain likely shut the brand out from high quality material, thereby making them a “loser” in the luxury handbag market, in particular. Even so, activists view the announcement as a huge moment in the push for ethical fashion, with trepidations coming from those who know the business well. In the words of Enrico Chiesa, managing director of a major Italian skins supplier, bigger brands that have a lot of money invested in animal products “will not” quit using them. This outlook raises more questions about who is in control of the fashion industry—an issue that has become increasingly prevalent over injustices such as the exploitation of child and woman garment workers abroad, unpaid interns at home, and more. In other words, does the business have an ear for ethics, or is money its sole motivator?

For Further Reading

Enrico Chiesa isn’t the only one who doubts fashion “disruptor” trend. In this article from Vox, the writer calls out ethical fashion brands for catering to a limited size market.

Discussion Question

What do you think about Chanel’s decision to drop exotic skins?

Action Item

Keep tabs on which brands are abandoning and/or avoiding animal products in their pieces—and why they are doing so!

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