On Tuesday, Louis Vuitton announced the opening of two new leather goods workshops, both of which will specialize in the production of handbags made of exotic skins.
The duo of workshops, both located in France, will eventually employ 500 craftspeople tasked with handling crocodile, ostrich, and python leather. According to Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke, LVMH has increased its investment in exotic skin, a trade which he characterized as crucial for the wellbeing of animals.
"We believe that done in a sustainable fashion, this is an extremely important trade to maintain, because if we don’t maintain... the making of objects in this exotic skin, these animals will disappear," Burke told WWD.
"If you do not buy these hides, their habitat becomes much more valuable as real estate development."
Burke added that, by the end of 2022, all crocodile skins used by Louis Vuitton will adhere to traceability standards the company first introduced in 2019.
Crocodile farming is touted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a legitimate method of conservation. It's also a practice some characterize as cruel.
Like the faux fur vs. animal fur debate, the use of exotic skins is, clearly, a nuanced issue.
What's also clear is that Louis Vuitton's decision to double down on exotic skins stands in sharp contrast to fashion's larger shift away from animal-derived material, most notably fur.
In 2021, luxury conglomerate Kering went fur-free. The same year, high-end retailers including MyTheresa and Nordstrom began to phase out furry hides and exotic skins.
Even Chanel — a maison privately owned by the Wertheimer family — decided to stop using crocodile, lizard, and stingray leathers in 2019, citing difficulties obtaining responsibly sourced skins.
While Louis Vuitton parent company LVMH hasn't introduced such extreme measures, it instated updated animal welfare standards for the fur farms and leather tanneries it works with in 2019.
Interestingly, plenty of brands that have eschewed fur still sell goods made of exotic skins. Gucci, for example, sells python bags, as does Bottega Veneta.
Fashion has taken a firm stance against fur, but what about skins of a more slithery sort?