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Are Exotic Skins Out of Fashion?

  • September 21, 2020

In 2019, LVMH promoted what it billed as the world’s first standard for responsible crocodilian leather sourcing, along with three pilot farms that supply to Heng Long, a “first and only” exotic skins tannery in Singapore that LVMH acquired in 2011 to seize better control of its supply chain. Baptiste Voisin, the strategy director, said in a statement at the time that existing regulations “seemed insufficient,” because of their weaker traceability requirements.

The pandemic, an LVMH spokeswoman wrote in an email, has only “accentuated the need to preserve the biodiversity of our planet.” Biosecurity rules under Cites, LVMH said, have been reinforced since the initial outbreak, and LVMH is “committed to their strict implementation.”

Dr. Dominic Travis, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, worries that the loudest voices in the room aren’t looking at the situation holistically. Outlawing anything, whether the wildlife trade in general or the exotic skins trade in particular, could drive it further underground and make it more insidious and harder to regulate, he said.

And there may be unintended consequences for the broader ecosystem. Some critics of faux materials have argued that replacing skins, leathers and furs with petroleum-based “vegan” products that persist for hundreds of years only compounds the planet’s plastic crisis.

“When anybody gets too specific on one single solution, I tend to get concerned,” Dr. Travis said. “We’re here because we’re not thinking about the system, or the whole spider web. And the change we need to make is to think about that more, not less. When you call for yanking on one strand of that web, it just continues the problem that got us here in the first place.”

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