It's been 31 years since Hermès's iconic and exorbitantly expensive Birkin Bag made its debut, and little about the tote has changed since. While the handbag's aspirational price point has increased over the years — now falling into the $10,500 to $150,000 range at retail — it may soon receive its most significant update yet, if only at the demand of its namesake, Jane Birkin.
On Tuesday, PETA announced that the British-born actress and singer has asked Hermès to rename its crocodile bag after learning of the disturbing practices used in its production. A recent PETA investigation alleged that an alligator factory in Winnie, Texas — which sends skins to a Hermès-owned tannery — employs a number of inhumane practices, including slaughtering the animals while they're "still conscious and able to feel pain." It takes two or three crocodiles to make just one handbag.
Birkin outlined her request in a statement, first shared with the AFP:
Having been alerted to the cruel practices endured by crocodiles during their slaughter for the production of Hermès bags carrying my name…I have asked Hermès Group to rename the Birkin until better practices responding to international norms can be implemented for the production of this bag.
PETA then thanked Birkin in a statement:
Once, Birkin bags marked people as celebrities or at least members of the super-rich, but soon, no one will want to be caught dead carrying one, and animal advocates will then breathe a sigh of relief.
UPDATE: Hermès has issued the following statement in response to Birkin's request:
Jane Birkin has expressed her concerns regarding practices for slaughtering crocodiles. Her comments do not in any way influence the friendship and confidence that we have shared for many years. Hermès respects and shares her emotions and was also shocked by the images recently broadcast.
An investigation is underway at the Texas farm which was implicated in the video. Any breach of rules will be rectified and sanctioned. Hermès specifies that this farm does not belong to them and that the crocodile skins supplied are not used for the fabrication of Birkin bags.
Hermès imposes on its partners the highest standards in the ethical treatment of crocodiles. For more than 10 years, we have organized monthly visits to our suppliers. We control their practices and their conformity with slaughter standards established by veterinary experts and by the Fish and Wildlife (a federal American organization for the protection of nature) and with the rules established under the aegis of the U.N.O, by the Washington Convention of 1973 which defines the protection of endangered species.
All that's to say: don't expect the name of the Birkin bag to change anytime soon.