AN AUCTION RECORD: HERMES SAVES CROCODILES FROM EXTICTION

by Eleonora Pedron with the Team MONACO. One year ago a single handbag was sold at a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong for $223,000, breaking a world record for handbags sold at auction. That record-setting handbag was a pink crocodile-skin Hermès Birkin with gold and diamond hardware. Topping the lists of couture with the highest resale value, it’s always Birkin bags. The cost of new Birkins range from $12,000 to more than $200,000, and they regularly sell on the secondary market for more than their original sales price. The highest-pulling Birkin listed on eBay, for example, which sold for $99,900, is a Himalayan Birkin in Blanc, made of matte “almost albino” Niloticus crocodile leather. Of the top 10 highest-priced sellers on eBay, eight are crocodile leather, and two are ostrich. On eBay, the uppermost tier of the hundreds of Birkin bags currently listed are priced at just under $150,000, with the lowest “Buy it Now” prices at around $5,000. Some consumers are dying to get their hands on one–Birkins’ can have a wait list of up to six years, depending on the materials used. Some say these bags are more than just status symbols for the uber rich. For those who are not inclined or remotely able to pay five-six figures for a handbag, the big question is likely, “why?”–possibly accompanied by some salty language. So as much as one can explain stratospheric couture prices, let’s have a look at some of the factors at play with the Hermès bags. First, at the end of 2015 Hermès had to acknowledge that the growing pressure of a survey carried out in Texas and in Zimbabwe from PETA (Persons for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ) was giving great damage to the brand, and therefore responded by sending a memo to stores calling for crocodile-skin bags to be pulled from the shelves in New York, London, and all stores in France.  In order not to lose would-be customers around the world, including model and singer Jane Birkin, the inspiration behind Hermès’ Birkin bag, who demanded that Hermès remove her name from the bag, Hermès indicated that the purchases do not happen in farms such as those reported by PETA. The skins come from tanneries that have to adhere to strict ethical standards before they can sell internationally. For example, all the terribly abused crocodiles in the exposé by PETA are very small, while those for Hermès require many years to reach maturity, the hide must be untarnished, they must be attended to constantly and the crocodile farms must meet strict ethical standards before they can sell internationally. To achieve these results the farms must be equipped with the most modern equipment and professional technical team. One of these tanneries, established in the Northwest Province South Africa, also operates  a Crocodile Farm for tourists who want to gain a deeper experience and understanding of the crocodilian species. During the visit to the Guest House the tourist will gain an insight into how wild crocodile populations whose existence was threatened and on the brink of extinction was saved by the commercial utilization of crocodile.

Crocodile Creek Farm in South Africa from the air

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