The Hermès Birkin bag is an undisputed fashion icon. Its story is an endearing one, the bag being named after the British actress and singer Jane Birkin, who in 1981 sat next to the then Hermès CEO on a flight, and grumbled about her inability to find the perfect weekend bag (life was hard in the 80s). Not long after, Birkin (the person) received the first Birkin (the bag) at her apartment with a note from the CEO. Thirty years on and the bag has become the most wanted in fashiondom – allegedly unable to even be purchased by normal folk.
But the romantic tale has taken a nasty turn. As a result of an investigation by PETA into the treatment of crocodiles allegedly used in the manufacture of the uber expensive croco version of the bag, Birkin has released a public request asking Hermès to ‘debaptise’ the bag and stop using her name until they treat their crocs better. There’s even a graphic video of the abuse on YouTube.
Whether Jane can actually prevent Hermès from using her name (despite them trade marking the hell out of it) is complicated and governed by different laws in every country. Regardless, the brand damage could be much worse. Considering that most of the mystique around the bag has been created by mega celebrities being snapped toting a Birkin, a boycott may only be a Beckham/Moss/Kardashian tweet away.
Not that we want to start anything, but #banthebirkin is pretty catchy. Hermès has released a statement saying that they’re investigating, they actually inspect all of their suppliers personally every month, and anyway the suppliers in question don’t even provide them with croc.
If they are to be believed, the fallout Hermès is experiencing is despite them doing everything right: ensuring their suppliers are doing the right thing and even checking in on them in person. Have a look here for our other tips on being an ethical brand.