Louis Vuitton New Wave Chain Bag in Quilted Leather

Amidst the ongoing debates over the use of exotic leathers in luxury fashion, Louis Vuitton has doubled down on its commitment - or should we say, its exotic "skins." Recently, the parent company, LVMH, unveiled two new workshops in France dedicated to crafting exotic handbags. 🇫🇷✨

Louis Vuitton City Steamer MM in Leather

Image Credit: David Atlan/Louis Vuitton

Accompanied by LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault, France's Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, paid a visit to the newly established factories in Azé and Vendôme. These facilities commenced production in October 2021 and September 2020, respectively, but the global pandemic delayed their official inauguration festivities. 🎉👜

While this move is seen as a reaffirmation of Louis Vuitton's commitment to exotic skins, it is being pitched as a substantial boon to the French economy. The two sites are gearing up to employ over 500 freshly trained artisans, contributing significantly to employment in the region. LVMH also anticipates additional business development stemming from these facilities. 👩‍🍳💼

Louis Vuitton already had two pre-existing workshops in France dedicated to crafting exotic leathers like ostrich, crocodile, and python. Unlike rival brand Chanel, which discontinued the use of exotic skins in 2018, LVMH chose to intensify its investment in these materials. 🐢👜

The question that arises is how this move will be received by consumers. With the growing trend of conscientious and sustainable luxury shopping, is Louis Vuitton moving against the tide?

Animal rights organization PETA has been highly critical of the methods employed by luxury brands in sourcing exotic animal skins. Recent videos released by PETA depicted the conditions in which crocodiles, lizards, and snakes are harvested for their skins on farms in Indonesia and Australia. PETA continues to demand that these companies abandon the use of exotic skins in their products, even staging protests in front of their stores to convey their message. 🐊🚫

Louis Vuitton Capucines Mini Bag in Taurillon Leather

Image Credit: PETA

Luxury conglomerates at the heart of this controversy assert their commitment to ethical and sustainable sourcing practices and insist that they take these allegations very seriously. LVMH, for instance, pledged in 2019 to engage in sustainable farming and ethical sourcing.

However, it was LVMH's CEO Michael Burke who offered a unique perspective that garnered attention. When questioned about the use of exotic skins in the industry, Burke stated, "We [Louis Vuitton, LVMH] believe that done in a sustainable fashion, this is an extremely important trade to maintain because if we don't maintain this trade, the making of objects in this exotic skin, these animals will disappear." 🤔🐍

He went on to explain, "If you do not buy these hides, their habitat becomes much more valuable as real estate development... the only way for that land to remain in its natural state is to have that land have value, and the highest value that this land can have is producing crocodile or alligator eggs, which we then buy for about $50 apiece. And for every 100 we buy, a year later, we have to release 10 one-year-old alligators and crocodiles back into nature, which is what has brought the species back from near extinction." 🏞️🐊

From this perspective, one might wonder if Burke's argument carries some validity. Is it justifiable to harvest crocodile, lizard, and snakeskin if it ensures the preservation of their habitats and keeps them thriving in their natural state, even if it means using their skins for handbags? Could swampy marshes potentially be kinder to Mother Nature than real estate developments that disrupt the ecosystem? It's certainly a unique take on the matter. 🌿👜

Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Félicie Pochette

Image Credit: Gerard Uferas/Louis Vuitton

In addition to expanding exotic handbag production, Louis Vuitton faces other controversies. Just weeks ago, workers at several production facilities staged a walkout to protest unfair wages and working hours. Ultimately, Louis Vuitton agreed to reduce the weekly working hours by two and provide a 7% salary increase to leather workers. Whether this is deemed sufficient remains an open question. Some luxury houses, like Hermès, have shared their financial success with artisans during the pandemic, offering substantial bonuses to their employees. 💼👩‍🏭

Louis Vuitton Multi Pochette Accessoires in Monogram Canvas

Image Credit: Loic Venance/Getty Images

As LVMH's profits soar and the demand for luxury goods continues to rise, Louis Vuitton seems determined not only to continue producing exotics but to expand its production. Undoubtedly, the brand believes that there is still a market for these bags, like the Himalayan Crocodilian Capucines, for instance. Currently, with its financial might, Louis Vuitton appears unstoppable. It openly demonstrates its commitment to serving the very individuals who have fueled its success - at least for now. And what about the iconic Louis Vuitton Monogram canvas? Some suggest that fewer are available as more styles are offered in leathers and exotics. Whether this marks a genuine shift towards a more "haute" direction or merely a passing trend remains to be seen. Only time will tell. Stay tuned... 🕰️👜

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