Thursday, December 3, 2009


Are you rocking the latest Hermes Handbag? Are you aware that there's a high demand for alligator skins within the 'alligator' industry and Hermes demands have dominated the market?

You see, some people believe that it's quite reasonable to spend $30,000 on a alligator handbag, especially if it's designed by "Hermes".

To produce these fashion handbags, many fashion designers are offering alligator caretakers less for their labor (alligator caretaking). Some people are actually stealing allligator eggs from the wild and some farmers are being left empty handed.

According to Meat Trade News Daily:

But some farmers insist that the newfound frugality of the Gucci set cannot by itself explain the absolute washout of the alligator business. More than a few are beginning to blame the practices of executives in the European fashion business.

For decades, the skins would be sold to 10 or 15 independent, often family-owned tanneries around the world that specialized in reptile skin, or so-called exotics. The prices were generally good, even generous. Some farmers, the ones that ran big operations, made millions of dollars.

The tanneries in turn would sell to the high-end fashion houses like Cartier, Hermès and Gucci, and from there the alligator would end up wrapped around someone’s wrist.

But things changed. In the mid 1990s, Hermès began buying tanneries and, as of a couple of years ago, became the largest player in the exotic tannery business.

Hermès bought aggressively from the farmers, and is still buying, though recently at prices far lower than in the past and lower even than the price of raising an alligator. All of this could be attributed to a very bad market. Luxury watch sales, on which the farmers are hugely dependent, are off by as much as 25 percent. But farmers look at the situation and say something does not add up.

While the tanneries are offering farmers little for their raw product, citing the recession, fashion houses are complaining about the astronomical prices for tanned hides. Many labels are giving up and moving away from alligator altogether, and well-known luxury brands like Manolo Blahnik say it is increasingly difficult to make a profit on such an expensive product.

Every time I go to Neiman Marcus and say every year the price is going up, they fight me tooth and nail,” said George D. Malkemus III, the president of Manolo Blahnik. “They say, ‘I’m not going to spend $4,000 for an alligator shoe.’ ”

If alligator is still popular but is simply unaffordable, asked Zachary Casey, who until three years ago owned one of the largest farms in the state, why are thousands of the reptiles sitting unwanted in Louisiana? And why have prices for the raw product dropped so low? He says Hermès is hoarding the skins, forcing other fashion houses to pay dearly and leaving the farmers with few other options.

Caroline Schwartz-Mailhe, a spokeswoman for Hermès, said in an e-mail message that the company bought only about a third of the skins produced in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, far from a monopoly. Ms. Schwartz-Mailhe added that the continued aggressive buying from farmers was a way “to support them in these difficult times and to respond to Hermès’ increasing development in alligator skins.”

Recent signs suggest that the luxury market is rebounding, at least somewhat. But some of the smaller farms simply will not make it.

Mr. Fletcher has been losing $15,000 a month on his little farm off the highway here near Raceland, about 50 miles southwest of New Orleans. He found a python and a loggerhead turtle and is considering opening a roadside zoo for tourists. But the plan of making it big in alligators, which once seemed like a good idea, has left him heavily in debt.

“I guess it’s like being married to Miss America,” Mr. Fletcher said. “You get all the benefits of the hugs and kisses, but she’s mighty high maintenance.”

According to the handbag forum:

It takes not one, but two alligators to create the Hermes Kelly handbag. The best exotic skin is found on the jowls and tummy of the gator. The belly is used for the body of the bag and the neck skin becomes the sides.

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