The black market is alive and well for python skins. The illegal trade reportedly amounts to a total of $1 billion each year (roughly the same amount as the legal trade), the vast majority of which is used for high fashion purposes. Turns out, weak regulation is failing to stop half a million skins from being imported illegally each year from south-East Asian to Italy, Germany and France, where they are made into designer handbags, shoes and belts. In an attempt to improve the international trade and protect pythons, Kering (which owns Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, etc.) has teamed up with the International Union for Conservation of Nature to establish the Python Conservation Partnership.
The Partnership issued its first report this week, which "offers an alternative solution to the sourcing of python skins for which demand is escalating … python farms could be part of the answer." The report goes on to state: "We must make sure that attention is not diverted from the urgent need to preserve wild pythons and their habitats through direct site conservation and action against illegal trade." Chances are, in the not to distant future, LVMH and other luxury conglomerates will buy up one or more of the existing commercial farms that currently exist in China, Vietnam and Thailand. This is what Chanel did with its lamb hide provider and LVMH with a crocodile tanning company. In the meantime, I guess we can assume Gucci's python skin goods are not made from illegally traded pythons.