Bottega-Veneta-Icon-Croc-Handbags-580x327

It seems as though we had a bit of a kerfuffle on our hands over the weekend.

On Friday night, Megs posted pictures of two bags as the last in our 12 Days of Bottega Veneta series. The bags were made of crocodile and depicted with Wally the Stunt Alligator, a resident of the Everglades Holiday Park in South Florida. Note: Wally was not harmed in the making of this (or any other) post.

Despite that, reactions to the photos were decidedly mixed. Some people found them beautiful and thought provoking, while other commenters left messages on the blog and Facebook that ranged from “unacceptable” to “perverted.” With reactions that disparate and opinionated, we couldn’t help but have an official Blog Debate.

One commenter brought up that Wally might think that the bags were his mom and dad, so let’s dispatch with that issue right away – alligators and crocodiles don’t have the cognitive ability to recognize a handbag as being made of an animal that’s similar to themselves. Even if they did, gators aren’t exactly cuddly family creatures; when in the wild, they very often bite, maim and kill each other. That’s why it’s so hard to find good alligator and crocodile skins for bags – even in captivity, it’s difficult to stop them from attacking each other in ways that create serious wounds (and later, serious scars).

Taking those things into consideration, I don’t think we managed to hurt Wally’s feelings. Indeed, it could be argued that anthropomorphizing Wally into a creature that’s capable of human emotions serves him a greater disadvantage than recognizing his innate alligator-ness. Ascribing to him complex emotions of which he is not capable is not advantageous to him in any way and merely makes those that do it feel more satisfied with their own sensitivity. I’m sure that Wally is perfectly satisfied with his own alligator thoughts.

An issue that was brought up more often is that of respect. Is it inherently disrespectful to depict an animal with objects made from similar animals? I don’t think so, but certainly many commenters disagreed with me.

In my estimation, it would be far more disrespectful to completely divorce the idea of animal products from the animals that died to make them. Removing any reminder of the crocodile from the depiction of a crocodile bag only makes the animal’s life less significant, and it only makes it easier for consumers to forget that something died in order to make the products that they wish to consume. Certainly some people do wish to forget entirely that living things died for their bags, but it’s not our job to facilitate it. People that find the thought so ghastly may want to reconsider the role that animal products play in their lives.

So what is our job? Well, Vlad’s job as a photographer (philosophically, at least) is to capture images that elicit some sort of reaction when people view them. Whether those reactions come because the photos are beautiful or because they stir up some other kind of emotion in the viewer is not entirely relevant to his goals – the reaction itself is the goal, and if the photos provoke thoughts and emotions, then it has been accomplished. Art’s success is not necessarily predicated on its positivity.

As for the rest of us, our job is to create a context within which we can all think about bags, fashion and accessories. The fashion industry is a behemoth, and it affects the lives and livelihood of not just animals, but humans at every level of society and in every corner of the globe. Losing that perspective on the things we consume would be irresponsible and short-sighted, but retaining it is not always pleasant and pretty. If Wally’s afternoon in the presence of a few crocodile bags can remind us all of those issues, then I think he has managed to make himself a very important alligator.

But this is, after all, a blog debate. Let us know how you feel about the issue in the comments.

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  • Tamee

    I don’t think it was intended to be disrespectful.

    It is what it is. Two handbags and the source of the material that was used to make said handbags. I personally don’t have as much time as others seem to obviously have to sit and ponder whether or not it was disrespectful.

    Alas, such is the pitfall of being human and having the capability to think.

  • Sarah

    I dont think you meant any harm by the picture. This is your blog and it is what you view to be art. I personally think it is a beautiful picture that makes you think. Great job with it!

  • kemilia

    When I saw the picture, I just knew it was going to cause some sort of reaction, either in our minds or on this blog. I doubt very much that Vlad was being disrespectful.

    While I love handbags, I am well aware that some creature had to die so I could carry my stuff around; I don’t like that reality.

  • Linda

    I thought it was a sad picture but did bring home the reality of where our bags and other leather goods come from. Poor animals. :(

  • Amanda

    I think the photos are super cute. The bags are hot, and Wally is adorable.
    I doubt that Vlad was trying to be disrespectful to anyone. That being said, if you cant handle the pictures, dont look!

    • Linda

      Amanda, I happen to have Purse Blog as my home page so it was right there for me to see whether I wanted to or not. I love sitting down with my coffee in the morning and checking out what new updates Purseblog has posted, of course I’ll do the smart thing and change my homepage if this is a direction if this is going to be a reoccurring theme.

      • http://www.purseblog.com/ Megs Mahoney Dusil

        Linda – this is by far the most out of the box photo approach we have taken. And while we will want to try new things, I can say that this is not going to be a new ‘norm’. We will stick with what our site is about: handbag reviews. And some of them will involve our photography, but as you can see from our past photography, most is mainstream.

  • Jane

    The pictures were truly beautiful. I completely agree with Amanda about assigning human emotions to animals. Animals and their brains were not invented by Walt Disney, people need to stop pushing human emotions onto animals. However, that is not to imply that animals do not have feelings. I am from a small town where the majority of its families survive by the “circle of life” to use a Disney song. When people eat meat or buy leather they deem it acceptable because they don’t see the animal or animals alive. Where I grew up you raised the animals, took care of them and loved them and had to witness their deaths for meat and leather. Yes, it was sad, however, we had a greater appreciation for that animal and treated them with the greatest love as any domesticated animal. I have great respect for Vlad and Megs to have the vision and humor to create such beautiful pieces of art. I hope you continue to shoot such incredible art, and only true art evokes such great emotion. Thanks again.

  • John 5

    I think they were super cool pictures and were something a little out of the ordinary. As stated before, if you don’t like what you see, don’t look! Not everything will be to everyone’s liking, and how dull would life be without a little variety or spice?

  • B Wallen

    I’m a big supporter of knowing where our products come from, especially if they are sourced from animals. My children knew from a young age where their food came from with the idea to engender an awareness in them that if we live as carnivores/omnivores, we should keep in mind that something had to die to provide nutrition for us. As long as we are not wasteful of that, I am not anti-meat, etc. But, it does mean that I try to avoid leathers or furs which don’t come from meat animals. Alligators are meat animals (as well as pest animals) in many parts of the US. I have a much bigger problem with the idea of furs farmed from non-meat animals since the waste in that case seems disrespectful and unnecessary.

  • amanda

    Before you published your original post, it probably would have helped if you had been clearer as to what kind of post you were trying to produce; either a handbag review or thought-provoking art. I think you were trying to produce a handbag review and are now defending it as thought-provoking art given the response to the photos. I also think if you had set out trying to be thought-provoking, your images would not have been accompanied with the gushing review and “drooling” over the bags and would have instead been accompanied by a slightly more restrained commentary. Personally, the problem I had with the photos had nothing to do with how I thought Wally might be feeling, as I don’t pretend to know the first thing about alligator or crocodile behaviors and thoughts. I simply wondered…what was the point of this? You could have posed any animal with these bags, but you chose to pose these croc bags with an alligator. Was your intention to make people think about where the skins for their handbags were coming from? Possibly, although it didn’t seem like it. Instead it seemed like you were trying to produce cute photos, as in, look how cute Wally the alligator is posing with the croc bags(!). That intention is potentially offensive to many since it smacks of a lack of respect for the life that was lost to create the two exorbitantly priced handbags you featured. I don’t remember the exact line you wrote, but even in your original posting you mentioned feeling uncomfortable during the shoot because it seemed wrong to have Wally posing with the bags. And I wonder along with an above poster as to whether you would think to pose leather bags alongside a cow.

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      Well, first, I didn’t write the copy for the original post, Megs did. Second, I just went back and re-reard it, and I think that trepidation about the content of the photos was expressed early in the post and and it was indeed acknowledged that there was a controversial aspect to depicting crocodile bags with a live alligator. I don’t think that expressing an appreciation for the bags, as Megs did, in any way negates an awareness that a very similar animal died in order to make them. It’s possible to do both things simultaneously, and it seems like that was their intent. That’s how it read to me, at least, and I didn’t see these photos or that post before anyone else did or with any other background information. Megs may have expressed it differently than I would have, but everyone has their own writing voice. I don’t think that means her intent was demonstrably different.

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Megs Mahoney Dusil

      I appreciate your thoughts on this. To be frank, there was no super deep thought process that went into the pictures. Vlad and I thought it would be a great idea, very cool photos, so we did it. Every time we take our own images we try to give a different view, perspective, shot – and that was all this was.

      I realized that a debate could ensue from it, but I was not trying to have that in the first post. Amanda wanted to share her thoughts on the subject – and like she said they differ from mine.

      We respect everyone’s opinion on the pictures and obviously will read them and think about them. I understand that some people find the photos offensive, that was not the intention, but clearly can be the outcome for some.

      Overall, the pictures were meant to be an interesting idea – showcasing two bags along with an alligator. Trust me, we would totally take a picture of a leather bag with a cow if we could find a cool way to set it up. Outside of the box, but very interesting in our opinion.

      • amanda

        “Trust me, we would totally take a picture of a leather bag with a cow if we could find a cool way to set it up. Outside of the box, but very interesting in our opinion.”

        This strikes me as so sad, and not to mention, tasteless. I can appreciate your opinion, though, its yours and you have the right to it as I do mine. I don’t read your blog much and certainly won’t in the future (given Vlad’s reply below), but I hope you’ll give a second thought to posting similar pictures in the future. It seems to me that unless you are trying to persuade people away from using leather and exotic skin goods that these photos are counterproductive to your cause. They seem better suited for a PETA campaign. I’m also a little surprised Bottega Veneta is okay with the Purse Blog taking artistic license in the promotion of their items.

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Megs Mahoney Dusil

      I guess it depends. Many people seeing these photos loved them. Some people did not. It is the only photo shoot that has involved a live animal. I can’t 100% say that we will or won’t use another animal in another photo shoot in the future.

      My point in reference to the cow was that I *would* include a cow in a photo with a bag. I would also take a picture of me on a horse carrying a bag. I would take a picture of my dog with a bag next to him. I clearly see the difference, in that those animals are not being used to make handbags – but the point of the photos was not to be disrespectful or crude whatsoever.

      People will buy whatever they like ultimately. Some people are 100% against any good that comes from an animal, some will do leather but not exotic, some will not do python but will do croc/gator. That is a personal choice for everyone and we are not trying to sway people. I share what I like, what I don’t like, and hope to give hundreds of options in between.

    • myc

      i am 100% with you!

  • 19yearslater

    Thank you, Amanda. Alligators are not human and we needed a reminder. The fact is that we would all be dead without killing something, and while we don’t need croc handbags we do love them and crocodiles don’t hesitate to kill. Cows are not beautiful or exotic in the eyes of most people so the question of taking a picture of a leather bag with a cow really does not pertain.

  • heels

    It’s almost like having Amanda agree to having photos of her taken with scraps of a dead human sewn together in some “artistic way”, without her knowing its a dead human. Doesn’t sound pretty, does it? But the bottom line is that this is a very popular blog and obviously not everybody is going to agree with what you have to say. So, just stick with your words and stop coming up with different stories in response to each comment to justify your actions. The reaction to these photos are just what they are, Purseblog loses credibility from my perspective because you guys keep changing your opinions to satisfy your readers! If you think your little photo shoot was a good idea, STICK WITH IT!

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Vlad Dusil

      Oh I am sticking with it. And as a matter of fact, I have more provoking ideas in mind for the upcoming year.

      • Linda

        Vlad, I’m curious, did you have these ‘ideas’ in mind before or is this more of a combative response to those that were offended by the picture, to taunt them that there are more to come?

        I’m really of mixed feelings about it. I did not enjoy the picture, nor find it cute or beautiful, in fact I thought it showed more of the ugly side of fashion. But, on the other hand, is it respectful of us to buy these handbags and give no thought at all to the animals that’s died so their skin can be used? After all, this isn’t to nourish or clothe our bodies but for a purse, something that women often purchase and then toss aside when something else comes along that they like better.

        I’d love for TPF to remain more of a ‘happy’ place for those that love handbags and fashion and less about tying to be ‘thought provoking’ for the purpose of stirring up debates. We get enough of that with politics, I like TPF because it’s a break from all that. I’m well aware and especially after that picture that it’s a form of denial but there it is.

      • http://www.purseblog.com/ Megs Mahoney Dusil

        Linda – The idea was not to stir up a debate. Once we realized it became that Amanda decided to do this post on it to discuss the topic and for people to share their thoughts. We always want people to share their thoughts, but we were not and are never trying to stir controversy ‘just because’.

      • Linda

        Megs, I didn’t think that was the intention with the original photo. The reason I asked about it now was based on Vlad’s response that he had more’ provoking’ ideas in mind for the future. So that makes me wonder if it has now become the intention and if that response was to ‘provoke’ those that were bothered by the photo. I don’t know, it just kind of seemed like a taunt, but perhaps he meant it more as a tease. :)

      • http://www.purseblog.com/ Megs Mahoney Dusil

        I think he was more saying that he is standing behind the photo he took, is not backtracking on it or deleting, and is always looking for new photo ideas!

        Totally teasing! :)

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Megs Mahoney Dusil

      Amanda wanted to write this post just to share her view and have a discussion. Her view and opinion may actually be different from mine and both of ours may be different from Vlad’s view.

      I personally am not trying to change what I wrote or what picture Vlad and I took/posted. Vlad and I came up with the idea and we loved the idea. We loved it for our site and for our readers. We loved it for the bags that we had right then. We did not think of it in any way than artistic – and truthfully I thought of it quite simply, to show an alligator next to a croc bag, the end.

      There is no changing my stance on it. No photos will be removed, no words will be retracted. I will still say that it is one of the most fun photo shoots we have done and in my opinion one of the most imaginative. I am still shocked they actually let us have the alligator up close like he was.

      I really do love reading everyone’s opinions – positive and negative. It does not mean I agree with them all, but we are all different and all have different perspectives, and I appreciate that.

    • An4

      “It’s almost like having Amanda agree to having photos of her taken with scraps of a dead human sewn together in some “artistic way”, without her knowing its a dead human. Doesn’t sound pretty, does it?” Comparing dead humans to dead animals? The two are not the same. Not in our culture, not in this world. If you kill an animal you probably won’t go to jail. Actually, Family Guy had a great episode on this recently (Dog Gone).

  • Jo

    I guess the ones who are outraged by the display of Wally next to the croc-skinned bags are most likely ignorant people who prefer to remain that and not to be told the truth. The truth is ugly and nobody wants that. The bags are beautiful and the sum of money their plonking down is hefty. It’s understandable that they want their shopping experience to be a happy one. That’s why people shop after all – that temporary happiness that it brings.

    However, I for one am VERY glad you posted the pictures of Wally with the bags. I really am. It serves as a reminder that those pretty bags were once living creatures and we killed them for the sake of fashion. It keeps me in check by asking myself that while the fashion industry keeps churning out these beautiful bags to tempt me, do I really need that many bags? Do I need the animals to die because I like their skins?

    Whatever your reason may be for putting up the post, be it artistic or simply wanting to state the facts, I thank you for bring awareness to the general crowd. Oh, and in such candour too! Keep it up=)

  • Merve

    You know i love your blog guys and eventhough i appreciate the artistic photography and the fact that it has caused debate, i have to agree with Amanda and say that the photos do not aid the promotion of BV or any other exotic. I can’t really profess to lead my life in the exemplary way I would wish, I eat meat and i spend ridiculous amounts of money on bags and shoes. Money that would be better spent on charities or animal rescue centres. However I know that I would give up all my extensive bag collection in a heartbeat for any one of my animals. So to be faced with an alligator on top of a croc BV..makes me glad i dont own one. It would be the same as putting a picture of a suckling baby calf on a restaurant menu that has veal as a specialty. Im not saying an alligator and a calf are the same thing but a life is a life. I prefer not to be faced with the animal that has to be killed for my satisfaction unless im trying to become a vegan. As far as i can remember none of the big fashion houses have ever risked producing such an image so for you guys to shed such light is extremely innovative. However there probably is a very good reason that they havent done this, its because it would cause a bit of an outrage and like i said it would be detrimental in selling their product.

  • Rebecca

    I like BV bags and I buy a lot of leather bags. And honestly, I do know where the leather comes from! But showing such a picture does not give me the slightest feeling to buy a croc bag from BV!
    Its gone too far, I think its little disrespectful. We are eating animals, using their skins and everything possible but to picture them next to their finished product and even see it is disheartening!

  • Jennifer

    I would’ve never in a million years thought it would be a debate-I just took it as this is what skin the bag is. Like, so people would know whether it was alligator, croc, etc…Guess I don’t think very deeply! LOL! Keep up the good work & I love your pix!

  • Marilyn

    There was no doubt the pictures would get all sorts of reaction. If people are so willing to pay top dollar for items made out of animal skins/parts/etc, they should also be able to stomach AND face the fact that sacrifices were made for those dollars. Why turn your head away in shame when the chicken gets slaughtered for your meal? Likewise with bags.
    Having said that I did go “Oh dear” when I saw Wally next to his processed cousins, but I wasn’t offended. I just hope that the crocs led a good life before they were processed into bags. It’s the same like organic chicken and beef no?

  • kristie

    I usually don’t comment but I held Wally at that park in August! What a cutie.

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Megs Mahoney Dusil

      Did you?? He is a great alligator – and their alligator show there is pretty cool too :)

  • Anna Cooperberg Gzz.

    I thought that this was an especially beautiful photo shoot; as art, it was wonderful, and it was philosophically thought provoking, as many of you have pointed out.
    The anthropomorphism of animals is a very interesting topic to me; I even chose to do a research paper last year entitled “Naming the Holiday Ham,” where I proposed that naming animals would have a profound difference on how we treated them; for example, people might be less likely to purchase and eat a ham named Rosie than one that was not named, as they are now.
    This relates to the issue at hand, as Wally is a named alligator and thus some may view the photos as cruel, believing him to have human qualities that allow him to recognize his kin (while both are crocodilia, they have different taxonomic qualities). As was pointed out before, alligators haven’t been proved as having this ability. I think then, that this cruelty is something that we have perceived alone- as well as bringing us closer to where our exotic bags and clothing come from.

  • An4

    To answer the question in the title – no, I think it isn’t “disrespectful”. Respect is something that needs to be earned and I think animals are not rational beings who can earn it. Animals can attack, hurt and eat us. Yes, so can humans, but they will be punished because they should have KNOWN better. We can’t talk to animals, we can’t reason with them, we can’t explain them what’s right and wrong. They follow their instincts. We can appreciate them because they are useful to us – as pets, food, help etc., but we don’t see them as equals. They are living organisms, but so are plants. Where do we draw the line? Intelligence? Cognitive abilities? Maybe our society will evolve some day into beings who won’t hurt or use other forms of life for their own needs, but for now we’re obviously not there, so this still isn’t “disrespect” in my opinion.

  • 19yearslater

    I’m sorry, but this site is not called Eco Bag: The Blog. As it was written, the alligators did not know the bags were made of crocodile. A human would know. We are not the same as animals. I felt that Megs was very tasteful and clear about Wally’s involvement in the original post.

  • Kelly

    Great pictures. Great bags. Thats the bottom line. Someones always gotta moan about something..

  • mochababe73

    You know what, you can’t please everybody, or you would go insane. I love the pictures, and I say keep doing what you’re doing. It’s beautiful. I am also from the country so I have a very hard time attaching human emotions to animals. If people would stop treating animals like human beings and calling them children maybe this whole debate would be a moot point.
    It’s very noble to feel this way, and I am so glad that someone has that kind of time. I am just not that noble.

  • MAGGIE (COACH ADDICT)

    Yes, yes it is …. but really just because we do not see the Cow, Goat, Lamb or Gator does not mean they did not die in order to make a bag or to eat… It is really two faced to say something like this is ofensive and then have a room full of Leather bags, wallets and shoes..

    Actually I think the add looks really nice…

  • mary s

    i said it before there is nothing wrong with the picture no harm fell on the animal at all. if people have a problem with it they should just not buy the bags made from leather…. canvas bags are really nice.

  • KellyX

    it’s just posing a steak next to a cow….only that maybe the cow really will not appear to be as beautiful as an alligator …?

    yeah its cheap. i mean cheaper..but still..

  • AstaK.

    The most certainly it is perverse.
    Fashion is full of demons:

    http://www.donaldtyson.com/behemoth.html

    Now that is a fat lady!

  • rene

    “it would be far more disrespectful to completely divorce the idea of animal products from the animals that died to make them. Removing any reminder of the crocodile from the depiction of a crocodile bag only makes the animal’s life less significant, and it only makes it easier for consumers to forget that something died in order to make the products that they wish to consume. Certainly some people do wish to forget entirely that living things died for their bags, but it’s not our job to facilitate it.”

    i know this is an old old post.. but when i read what you wrote i cant help but totally relate to what you mean so i thought i would leave a note to let you know that IMO theres nothing closer to “justice” than what you depicted. love your blog!

  • Lily

    people who still patheticly argue this issue with comparison to cows and sheep etc. just have to get over themselves1 like that’s the same?! really!? i’m not a tree hugging vegan, if you breed sheep & cows for food, then might as well use their skins, if you hunt a deer who enjoyed freedom then fair neough, eat it and use the skin for whatever, but going to wild delibrately hunt animals purely for their skin – if that’s not wrong then what is?! ok ok so Hermes breed its own corcs or whatever, ban it! if people don’t eat the meat then it’s just wrong! vanity has got to controlled, there’s a line that must be drawn, simple as that. fur is ugly, let’s be honest here, the only reason it took off because the eveil who wears it on her back! you know whom i’m talking about! the evil who controls the fashion media! for the people who think there’s nothing wrong with skin animals alive for fur, or using exotic animals for handbags, don’t cry for your pets if they’re caught by certain people for food! we’re battling with poachers in africa for endangered animals, and prevent chinese cutting shark fins and throw them into sea alive for god’s sake! does any fashion house dare to use tiger fur???!!! guess not! it’s all about the law. if there’s strict regulations on leathers like the way we prescute poachers, and percieve using exotic leather/fur as a shameful thing, will anyone really miss fur or croc handbag??? please….

  • Lily

    sorry about the typo, in a rush. anyway i’m too passionate about this issue….

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