The Birkins are one of the most coveted and exclusive handbags in the world, and have been since the 90’s. Now they are known to be the ultimate status symbol and the it-bag of the fashion industry. Hermès is known for the use of premium quality ostrich, crocodile, lizard, goat and calf leather to make these bags.
An Hermès Ostrich Bag | Photo: Flickr
The value of the Birkins has increased from the 1980’s by more than 500%. One might wonder what exactly is so special about these handbags? The simple answer; the premium quality and the craftsmanship. Or at least that was the answer. Today’s generation of influencers who can easily get their hands on one the Hermès Birkin, seems to know almost nothing about the bag. What was once a celebration of hard work and exclusive craftsmanship has now turned into a rat race of who possesses the biggest Birkin collection between celebrities and influencers.
Due to the recent surge in the popularity of these handbags, thanks to influencers like Victoria Beckham, Jamie Chua, Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, the Birkins have become more in demand than ever before. Hermès is known to only produce a small amount of Birkins each year and majority of the Birkins being sold in the market are previously owned bags. But, it is obvious that due to its limited availability and high demand, the number of bags being produced are increasing each year.
Victoria Beckham photographed with her pink colored Hermès Ostrich Bag | Photo: GettyImages
The most expensive and extravagant Birkin bag ever made by Hermès was the Himalayan Birkin, crafted by the Nilo crocodile hide. These bags are wildly rare and mindbogglingly expensive and over-the-top. The bags are made with platinum hardware which is encrusted with diamonds, while the leather is dyed to imitate the white snow capped Himalayan mountains. The bag became so popular in the fashion industry that the same style was recaptured in the Hermes Kelly bag in 2014.
One of the largest exporters of the Nilo crocodile skin is Zimbabwe. Nile crocodiles have a life span of approximately 80 years when they are in their natural habitats, but at the facilities In Zimbabwe they are slaughtered and abused from the age of 3. Surprisingly it takes two to three crocodiles to make just one handbag. Crocodiles are known to survive even in the harshest of conditions, the crocodiles at the facility are tied down and held by one worker, restricting its movement while another worker slices its neck open, forces a wire down their spine and hangs it up while blood drips down its body. About seven crocodiles are hung up in a row, quivering in pain, creating a pool of blood below them. This was the gruesome video uploaded by PETA back in 2015, aiming to create awareness about the truth behind luxury products. Sadly, even half a decade later, the bags are still in demand and animals are still being tortured so that they can be sold off for millions, ultimately ending up in the arms of one of the influencers.
Hermès Himalaya Bag | Photo: GettyImages
While the video released by Peta is grotesque to watch, it's easy for these Birkins owning influencers to turn an eye to the obvious torment and abuse these animals have to go through in the name of fashion. Victoria Beckham is reportedly known to own about a 100 Birkin bags, which is one of the largest Birkin collections in the world, while her beauty brand- Victoria Beckham Beauty is animal cruelty free and vegan. Same goes for the infamous Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner; their beauty brands, KKW beauty and Kylie cosmetics are 100% cruelty free, but their closets are not. It’s funny how convenient it is for these influencers to be hypocritical about what they stand for. They don’t mind getting praise for a cruelty free and vegan brand, for supporting animal rights and even turning to veganism to put on a show of saving animals when in reality these are the people who make animal abuse and torture still persistent in the world.
While it is true that fashion is art and we should have immense respect for the craftsmen who create these pieces, we should not support the toxic industry that luxury fashion has created with no regards to animal rights, human rights and basic ethics. The craftsmanship of the Birkin is commendable and will always be appreciated when worked on leather that is produced with better and ethical alternatives. Us, as consumers, should also be responsible for the products we buy and the brand we support. Luxury brands such as Chanel have recently banned use of fur and skin of exotic animals, while brands like Stella McCartney have always been an ethical and cruelty free fashion brand, they have also never condoned the use of animal leather or fur and have always looked for better and ethical alternatives, like faux leather and has recently started using mushroom leather. While brands like Gucci, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Hermès and Valentino, have been branching out to more sustainable and zero cruelty alternatives, trying to create a sustainable future, but that is not going to be enough as majority of their products including wallets, belts, shoes, etc., are still using animal leather. There has also been a rise of Indian brands who use vegan leather like, Malai, Paoi and Arture.
It is high time one of the most followed people like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian take responsibility for the content they put up and realize the power they hold in shaping the mind of their fans, majority of whom are young adults and teenagers who are the future of the world. As the future generation of the world, the responsibility falls at our feet to care for everything given to us, including animals. It is our job to be mindful about who we look up to and who we let ourselves get influenced by, to have opinions of our own and to believe in what we stand for regardless of an influencer's opinion.
Krina Maru is an aspiring medical student offering a fresh perspective on fashion and pop-culture trends.