Chanel is the first major luxury brand to completely halt production of exotic leathers. On May 31, 2019, Chanel will no longer produce any accessories using exotics.
In December 2018, Chanel announced that they planned to no longer create products made from snakes, crocodiles, lizards, and stingrays because of ethical issues. Now, that announcement has hit the production floor.
Handbags, shoes and clothes made from exotic skins are the most expensive and coveted luxury products on the market. Animal-rights activists have long targeted trade in the materials, where they say abuse of animals is rampant and that many skins are sourced illegally, endangering wild populations.
As of May 16, 2019, the privately-owned French luxury company has no bags or accessories made of exotic leather for sale on its website.
“We are continually reviewing our supply chains to ensure they meet our expectations of integrity and traceability,” the company said in a statement. “In this context, it is our experience that it is becoming increasingly difficult to source exotic skins which match our ethical standards.”
Chanel’s move is unlikely to have a major impact on its bottom line, analysts said. Exotic skins likely made up a share of total sales in the “high single digits,” Guy said. In its statement, Chanel said it was working to “create a new generation of high-end products,” using different materials.
There is a wave of consumer demand for ethical consumption, emphasizing environmentally and socially conscious brands.
Many millennial and Gen-Z luxury consumers say they prefer to buy products that are ethically sourced and have minimal environmental impact, even if their purchases don’t always reflect that.
In February 2020, the British department store chain Selfridges will ban products like watches, luggage and handbags that are made from python, alligator, crocodile or other exotic animal skins. As of next year, its stores will only sell leather derived from agricultural livestock.
The other major players in the industry like Hermes, LVMH, and Kering Group have moved towards their ability to source exotic skins ethically by owning and operating reptile farms instead of sourcing them. That way, they’re caring for the animals through the entire supply chain and have control of the animal’s welfare. The ever-increasing price point on exotics is because of the care that’s gone into caring for them.
Kering chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault said, “it’s not an endangered species, but if we don’t change anything, they will become an endangered species.”