PARIS — Grupo Insud, an Argentine powerhouse engaged in areas including life sciences, agribusiness, culture, nature and design, purchases land for the development of forestry activity in the north of Corrientes, Argentina; creates a farm to sustain the local Caiman latirostris crocodilian species, then launches a leather goods line specializing in their skins. In terms of supply chains, it doesn’t get much more local.
Swimming against the stream of the Millennial-driven vegan movement are brands like the group’s fledgling Buenos Aires-based luxury bag label, Solantu, staking out a niche in sustainable luxury with designs made from the skins in a rich color palette.
Purchasing a Solantu piece, the brand says, contributes to Grupo Insud’s conservation program for the animals, and supports local craftsmen and communities while engaging with the area’s eco system. Local hunters used to trading on the black market for crocodiles, for instance, can train as egg hunters and be educated in the need for sustaining crocodile populations. Over the last 12 years, Grupo Insud and its crocodile farm have successfully brought the Caiman Latirostris species back from the brink of extinction, the group said.
The animals are never isolated, despite the risk of nicks, and are well treated, Alexandra de Royere, the brand’s chief executive officer and creative director, said in a recent interview here.
“You have to create an environment where they’re more zen and less aggressive with each other.”
The farm is certified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
“We control the production. Chanel pulled out of using [exotic skins] because they said they could not control the production,” continued de Royere, adding that the first objective of the farm was not commercial.
“At a certain point, the group’s shareholders [bio-chemist Silvia Gold and psychiatrist Hugo Sigman], upon realizing what a pity it was to let such beautiful skins — this beautiful natural resource — [go to waste], asked the question: ‘Why don’t we, working with the artisans of Argentina, create a value-added niche luxury brand based on the crocodile?’”
On exotic skins being considered a taboo by some, de Royere said on the contrary, the project had received support from local students due to it “adding value economically to the region.”
“We believe in the harmonious and virtuous cycle of managing an eco-system socially and economically,” she said.
De Royere, a former investment banker and collector of contemporary art, has chosen as the brand’s other signature its Art Deco clasps inspired by Argentina’s Golden Age, mixing semiprecious stones like onyx with elements like guayubira, a native wood.
“Art Deco was the first [artistic] movement that meant something on every continent….If you talk about Art Deco to an American, they will think about New York and Miami. For Asia, there’s Shanghai and Sri Lanka….Buenos Aires has its own take,” she said, adding that the plan is to collaborate with artists and designers, though there’s no rush, with the desire to grow the brand organically through a niche network of retailers and trunk show-style events. The brand already has a solid following, she said, with clients seeing the bags as collector items.
Prices for the brand’s limited-edition bags range from $1,790 to $4,990, with seven stockists to date including Moda Operandi and Harvey Nichols.