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Firms Seek Use of Alligator, Crocodile Skins

Lobby forms against a possible ban in California of alligator skins.

Accessories makers are rallying to support legislation that would allow alligator and crocodile skins to be sold in California next year.

This story first appeared in the April 28, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The state Senate will hold a hearing today in Sacramento on a bill that seeks to permanently amend the state penal code, which will outlaw the sale of these skins as of Jan. 1.

The new bill, written by Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, is supported by the Accessories Council, California Retailers Association, California Small Business Association and companies such as Chado Ralph Rucci One Couture Inc., Roje Leather, Dualoy Leather and Geneva Watch Group, among others.

Animal rights groups oppose the legislation.

It is already illegal to sell python in California, and Accessories Council president Karen Giberson said outlawing more exotic skins, which are harvested from sustainable alligator and crocodile farms, will have an extremely negative effect on some businesses.

“A brand like Nancy Gonzales, for example, that is based on exotic skins, would be devastated,” she said. “Even those companies that are not using skins now support this bill, because they don’t want to be restricted in the future.”

Given the fashion industry’s fondness for exotic handbags, watchbands and shoes, the inability to sell in the country’s largest retail market would be a blow.

However, Nicole Matthews, a spokeswoman for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), said: “Wearing the skins supports a cruel industry that is devastating to the environment,” adding that it takes 20 times the energy to farm the skins than it does to produce fake ones.

Virginia Handley, legislative director of PawPAC, California’s political action group for animal rights, said: “Besides the fact these animals are not killed very nicely, many of their skins can be confused with those of endangered animals, so any manufacturer or retailers selling them could be contributing to the endangerment of other animals.”