Jane Birkin appears to be competing with the Kardashians in an attempt to break the Internet as well as the world of high end hand bags. On Tuesday, a statement was released announcing that Jane Birkin Asks ‘Hermes’ To Remove Her Name From The Iconic Purse. The company’s chief executive at the time, Jean-Louis Dumas, named the bag after Ms. Birkin about 30 years ago, and it remains one of its best-sellers: an accessory practically synonymous with the brand. All of our fave stars, from Kim Kardashian to Beyonce, have donned the staple purse and now, Ms. Birkin wants her name removed from the crocodile purse, thanks to PETA.
After watching a video that PETA released of inhumane practices of crocodiles for the skin used on Hermes Birkin Croco bags, she was repulsed. Ms. Birkin said in a statement, “Having been alerted to the cruel practices endured by crocodiles during their slaughter for the production of Hermès bags carrying my name … I have asked Hermès Group to rename the Birkin until better practices responding to international norms can be implemented for the production of this bag.”
Cue shock, horror and lots of headlines about how Ms. Birkin wanted her name off the Birkin bag, and what could this mean for Hermès, etc etc etc. Except for as usual this is being completely exaggerated. . First, Ms. Birkin’s statement said that she had asked only that Hermès rename the crocodile bag — not all handbags that bear her name, which come in a variety of skins, including calfskin — and then only until the supplier could be properly vetted.
Beyond that, she can’t actually legally compel Hermès to change the name. Hugh Devlin, a lawyer at Withers LLP in London who specializes in the fashion sector, said Hermès trademarked the name in 1997 and can thus use it as the company sees fit.
As to where the confusion began, well, PETA sold the news as “Jane Birkin Demands That Luxury Hermès Birkin Handbags Be Renamed” and all sorts of outlets ran with it.
Of course, it’s better for brand image is an accessories name is not controversial. And brand image is a big deal especially when we’re talking about luxury items. But this is all a cosmetic issue, not one that will change the product at stake; so please don’t panic would-be Birkin owners everywhere.
In any case, Hermes responded pretty diplomatically. Here is an excerpt from the company’s statement:
“Jane Birkin has expressed her concerns regarding practices for slaughtering crocodiles. Her comments do not in any way influence the friendship and confidence that we have shared for many years. Hermès respects and shares her emotions and was also shocked by the images recently broadcast. An investigation is underway at the Texas farm which was implicated in the video. Any breach of rules will be rectified and sanctioned. Hermès specifies that this farm does not belong to them and that the crocodile skins supplied are not used for the fabrication of Birkin bags.”