S'pore a top supplier of crocodile leather

S'pore a top supplier of crocodile leather
Luxury item: A Kwanpen handbag made from crocodile skin.

Singapore is a major player in the international crocodile leather industry.

Long Kuan Hung Crocodile Farm exports 1,600 skins every year to places as far away as Europe and Japan.

While the numbers are small compared to what other farms around the world produce, some of the crocodile skin here will eventually be made into pricey, coveted handbags.

Another homegrown brand is Heng Long International, which is ­among the top five exotic skin tanneries in the world and has been supplying crocodile leather to luxury European fashion houses for decades.

The company, which has nearly 70 years of experience under its belt, processes more than a quarter of a million crocodile and alligator skins yearly.

Heng Long's executive director, Mr Koh Choon Heong, told The Straits Times last month: "Few Singaporeans realise that if they own a crocodile skin bag, it was most likely dyed in their very own backyard."

In 2011, the tannery was bought over by French luxury goods powerhouse LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton S.A. in a deal worth $161 million.

The Koh family reinvested a portion of the proceeds to maintain a 49 per cent stake in the company, with LVMH owning the remaining 51 per cent.

Heng Long supplies crocodile leather to other luxury brands also, including local brand Kwanpen. Kwanpen traces its roots to its current president's father, Mr Kwan Pen, a first-generation Chinese immigrant to Singapore, who produced his first handmade crocodile leather bag in 1938.

Now headed by Mr Leonard Kwan, it has established itself as a reputable crocodile skin goods brand. Most of its skins are sourced from Heng Long.

This article was published on May 11 in The New Paper.

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