Chanel is saving “countless animals a miserable life and a violent, painful death” with its decision to become the first luxury fashion house to turn its back on exotic animal pelts, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).

Head of fashion Bruno Pavlovsky confirmed Chanel “would no longer use exotic skins in our future creations”, saying it was becoming more difficult to source high-quality pelts ethically.

Handbags, coats and shoes made from snake, alligator and stingray skins command premium prices, with Chanel handbags reportedly selling for up to US$10,300.

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Python skin bags were also removed from Chanel’s website, although second-hand bags were still on sale for more than US$6,250 via online resellers.

David Yeung, founder of Green Monday and Hong Kong’s avid climate change advocate says of this move: “Green is the new black. Ethical and sustainable is the new cool. It is up to the brands to choose whether they want to take the lead in this movement or be perceived as a follower or laggard. Chanel has long been in the forefront of fashion. Their decision will surely trigger a new wave of positive and much overdue changes in the fashion industry.”

Green Queen’s founder and Editor-in-Chief Sonalie Figueiras also agrees. “2018 has been a turning point in the conversation about animal rights and dietary ethics. Left and right, documentaries and media headlines have made it abundantly clear that consuming and using animal products comes at a huge moral and environmental cost. Chanel banning fur and exotic skins is a huge step in the right direction from a major fashion player and it is sure to make others brands reconsider their stance.”

Sharon Kwok, former beauty queen and actress in Hong Kong, says: “Many consumers are not fully educated about their products. Products such as wallets from pangolin skin could still be purchased in places like Bangkok and the consumer would then unwittingly get caught with illegal goods at customs. Many exotic skins are actually not allowed into many countries so its a good reason to avoid such items. It is difficult to avoid all leather products today but l am thrilled at the many new options available, especially if sustainably sourced or recycled.”

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Animals rights groups cheered the move, with Peta and the Humane Society International (HSI) claiming that the iconic house founded by Coco Chanel was also renouncing the use of fur.

But Chanel did not mention fur, saying it would no longer use crocodile, lizard, snake and stingray to make coats, bags and shoes.

Veteran designer Karl Lagerfeld had earlier told the industry bible Women’s Wear Daily that Chanel used fur so rarely that he could not remember the last time it featured on the catwalk.

He said the brand had chosen to drop exotic skins rather than having it “imposed on us”.

“We did it because it’s in the air. It’s a free choice,” he added.

“Chanel is saving countless crocodiles, lizards, snakes and stingrays from suffering,” said HSI director Claire Bass.

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“The growth in fabulous luxury and eco-friendly fibres that do not involve animals suffering and dying is helping to drive forward this new era of ethical fashion.

“Fur-using brands such as Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton need to take heed and embrace this fur-free future.”

Peta also piled the pressure on Louis Vuitton, which is owned by fashion giant LVMH.

“It’s clear that the time is now for all companies, like Louis Vuitton, to follow Chanel’s lead and move to innovative materials that spare countless animals a miserable life and a violent, painful death,” it said.

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Although top fashion brands have been under heavy pressure to renounce fur, with Gucci, Armani, Versace and John Galliano all deciding to go fur free, Chanel’s decision to stop using exotic skins came out of the blue.

It said that it was now concentrating on developing a new generation of “ultra luxurious” products to replace them from its famous design studios.

Animal rights campaigns against the use of crocodile and snake skin products have not got the same traction with the public as similar crusades against fur, with some luxury brands even investing in reptile farms so they can guarantee that skins are sourced ethically.

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