Does fashion made out of a destructive, invasive species make it more ethical than other conventional, animal-derived products? Invasivores might tell you yes, but nevertheless, it's a controversial question that Paris-based Polish designer Monika Jarosz didn't initially intend to ask. Yet here it is: KOBJA, Jarosz's line of luxury belts, bags and purses which has reportedly gathered a cult following, is made with poisonous cane toads, an invasive species now overrunning the South Sea Islands of Australia.
This highly poisonous toad is in the process of destroying several local species. Animal defence associations have recommended its selective elimination. In this way, each toad skin is recycled, not destroyed.
Introduced into Australia from Hawaii during 1935 to help with agricultural pests, the cane toad (Rhinella marina) is a prolific breeder, and now numbers in the hundreds of millions. Their impact on local ecosystems and biodiversity is so severe that the Australian army was called in to control their populations.
For Jarosz, who first got the idea for her designs when a friend gave her a stuffed frog from New Zealand, this undesirable excess of poisonous frogs invading Australia was an unexpected opportunity, as she was having trouble finding a supplier for toad skins.
The skins are now prepared in Carins, Australia, before being sent off to France to be tanned, dried and dyed in a meticulous, 14-step process. Jarosz also adds lavish touches like inserting Swarovski crystals, in addition to bright colours and careful detailing.
These one-of-a-kind accessories are being sold in Tokyo, Beijing, New York, Paris and Berlin, and don't come cheap either: smaller purses will cost anywhere from $275 and $330, with larger ones ringing in at USD $1,600. Can this line of luxury accessories -- made from skins that would otherwise be discarded -- count as eco-fashion? Let us know what you think in the comments below; more info over at KOBJA.