Recently, Rihanna was spotted wearing a green snakeskin trench coat while clubbing in New York City and Kim Kardashian was strutting her stuff in a pair of snakeskin boots. For whatever reason, snakeskin seems to be back.
Going with the flow of this demand for precious animal skins, Kering – the parent company of Gucci, Puma, Yves Saint Laurent, and other fashion brands – has bought a python farm in Thailand to ensure snakes are ethically reared before they're skinned and made into fashion accessories.
The move is part of their “2025 Sustainability Strategy” that hopes to rebrand the company as a green and eco-friendly business. By 2018, they hope to “ensure traceability” for 95 percent of their key raw materials, and 100 percent by 2025.
“This is a long-term commitment to developing sustainable and responsible sourcing of Kering’s python skins – it takes time to ensure this is done to the highest standards,” Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering's chief sustainability officer, told The Guardian.
The whole issue is an ethical minefield for conservationists. For starters, profiting from the killing of an exotic animal for the purpose of high-end fashion is always going to leave a bad taste in the mouth of many animal lovers. By buying these farms, it also appears to legitimize and promote the trend.
Equally, pythons take years to mature and grow to full size. Paired with being tricky to breed in captivity, it isn’t a terribly economical business.
On the other hand, it provides regulation to a market that is not going to disappear overnight. The IUCN estimates that at least 500,000 skins are exported from Southeast Asia each year, contributing to an illegal python skin trade that is worth $1 billion dollars a year, the vast majority of which have poor ethical standards. By creating legal and regulated farms, it takes this trade out of the black market and the hands of criminals.