There Are Better Ways to Spend $55,000

Have Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen completely lost their minds?

Behold their latest brainchild, a collaboration between the twins’ label, The Row, Brit artist Damien Hirst, and Just One Eye, purveyor of “one-of-a-kind collaborations” and “thoughtful artistic exploration.”

And by thoughtful artistic exploration, they mean $55,000 worth of dead Nile crocodile, covered in faux prescription pills, and signed by Damien Hirst. Oh, the hubris.*

But wait. It gets better.

fugly olsen hirst backpack
$55,000 backpack by The Row + Damien Hirst, via Refinery 29.


According to Refinery 29 (which published the ridiculous price Just One Eye apparently does not have the two cojones necessary to post alongside the bag on its site):

“A portion of the proceeds go to UNICEF, so that’s nice. What portion, you ask? Well, we had the same question when we called to inquire about the price, and were told that the donation amount is “at Damien’s discretion.”

At Damien’s discretion. Again, the hubris.

Am I alone in thinking that the overall message of this bag is absolutely grotesque? Not only are all the parties agreeing to push a backpack for a whopping $55,000, but they also make a mockery of the animal that died for this bag by studding its skin with “multicolored prescription pill appliqués”? Prescription pills? Really? Is that what we need to push even more deeply into our collective psyche? I guess I should be grateful that the croc is at least visually palatable, rather than severed, dissected, presented in formaldehyde or covered in maggots—but I digress. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Google Damien Hirst.)

I’m all for quality goods and craftsmanship, and obviously, we all have the option to spend our money as we damn well please. But unless $54,999 actually goes to UNICEF, this whole endeavor is lost on me.

Got $55,000? Spend it on Villalobos Rescue Center or The Fort.

If any of you out there feel the need to spend $55,000 for something as hideously excessive and flagrant as this bag, may I suggest two of millions of alternatives you have for charitable giving.

Villalobos Rescue Center

I’m sure most of you have heard of Pit Bulls & Parolees, but just in case you haven’t, it’s a U.S.-based reality show about the Villalobos Rescue Center (VRC), which gives prison parolees and abused/abandoned Pit Bulls a second chance at better life. Not only does VRC hire parolees and take in and adopt out needy Pit Bulls, it also helps raise awareness about the oft-misunderstood Pit Bull breed, and works to educate and fight anti-Pit Bull legislation/regulation.

As you can see from the Villalobos Facts image, it costs $1,000 a day to run VRC, and out-of-pocket expenses for each dog taken in is about $700.

$55,000 would run VRC for 55 days, or spay/neuter, chip, and medicate 78 dogs.

Dogs that come from situations like this, and much, much worse:

Phoenix, who was rescued in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Image via VRC.

Donate to Villalobos Rescue Center

The Fort

One particular parolee, Jake Gardner, found his footing—and his true calling—when he went to work for VRC founder Tia Torres. Over the last couple of years, he’s been a steady, reliable presence on the show and at VRC, and the time finally came for him to spread his wings and fly again. He recently left VRC, moved to North Carolina, and started his own non-profit, no-kill dog rescue, The Fort—Fortitudine Vincimus Rescue Center:

Fortitudine Vincimus, Latin for, “By Endurance We Conquer.” The Fort is a non-discriminatory Pit Bull rescue. While our focus is primarily The American Pit Bull Terrier, a life is a life and we will never discriminate against a dog based on breed.

Jake is committed to saving abandoned and abused animals from the streets and kill shelters, and he needs help. In his last episode of Pit Bulls & Parolees, he tells Tia that he could never pay her back for all she did to help him, but he can pay it forward.

$55,000 would help Jake get The Fort established and pay it forward.

Donate or foster a rescue dog in North Carolina by contacting The Fort at:

P.O. Box 296
Asheboro, North Carolina 27204

(336) 505-9199

* “Hubris (ˈhjuːbrɪs), also hybris, from ancient Greek ὕβρις, means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality…” via


    1. Dang, you are FAST on the comments, doll! Love it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. When I see things like $55,000 croc backpacks and I think of all the kids and animals in the world that need our help, it just drives me crazy. Let’s hope Hirst and the Olsens give a massive chunk (read: ALL) the money from the sales of this backpack to UNICEF. Like they need that money?!

  1. Hi Vahni,

    I think $55,000 for a backpack is insane and totally wrong. I am all for spending $55,000 on the Villalobos Rescue Center or The Fort.
    There’s an organization in Missouri that pairs teens who are heading down the wrong path with dogs who have either been left or has behavioral issues and it’s such a win win situation. The teens get a since or responsibility and determination to change their ways because they are training the dogs to be trained to get adopted into good homes. These organizations need the money and it would help so much.

  2. Oh wow, this is absolutely disgusting (the bag I mean). Thank you for sharing The Fort and VRC, it’s always wonderful to hear that not everyone is crazy and there are people out there still trying to do good.

  3. The only explanation I can think of is that all parties have, in fact, lost their minds. The bag is hideous and the message with the pills is hardly comical. I’m disgusted! You obviously know I rescued Olive, and being that she’s a pit-mix I have a huge soft spot for this type of thing. Love this post. Thank you for spreading goodness, integrity and conviction. If someone seriously buys that thing, they are out of their damn minds too!

    Save the pitty’s!


  4. Of course there are so many ways to spend / donate this 55 000 $ . Your suggestions are great !
    Hope many people see this post and take actions on it ! I will share it of course !

    XX Luba

    :: Well Living Blog :: Discover some gourmet products with bulgarian roses and their healthy benefits

  5. my husband’s family is actually from Asheboro and have donated money to The Fort because they are avid dog lovers. I agree with this post completely, thank you for sharing it!!!!!!
    brooke @ what2wear

  6. I’ve always loved the Olsens, but this is crazy. Unfortunately I don’t think this ‘hubris’ (love that word!) is exclusive to this collaboration. The elitist echo-chamber that is the high end fashion industry is out of touch with the rest of the world. That is one of the many reasons I hardly ever read the mainstream fashion magazines anymore. It would drive me crazy to see articles about shopping on a budget with $200 tops featured, as if that’s considered budget-friendly. I’m so thankful to have discovered the world of fashion bloggers. Pretty much all my fashion inspiration and info comes from blogs now. Real people, wearing real clothes, and living real lives!

  7. When this came into my email inbox…I thought you were joking…like seriously thought the bag picture was a joke.
    Disgusted isn’t even the word. Is it to get people talking so they are relevant again? Because as of right now, they aren’t on my fashion radar. Disturbing.


  8. Pretty hideous story. You’re totally right–there are tons of better ways to spend that money. Honestly, though, that bag wouldn’t be *that* bad without the pills all over it. However, the addition of them makes you wonder exactly what their state of mind was when coming up with the design.

  9. When I read about this bag I thought it was insanely ridiculous! I agree— the whole thing seems like a bad joke or an insane case of hubris. I am disappointed, because I am typically a fan of The Row….

  10. My first thought was, what if it gets caught In the rain? Will the pills dissolve? It would be kinda cute if it was all vinyl, but I agree its gross to take a beautiful animal skin and glue stuff all over it.
    Love those animal shelters! And there are so many other good charities as well.

  11. My Lord, this is completely outrageous! They obviously ran out of good ideas during the brainstorming design session. Yes, I agree with you as well as many of the comments above, there are far more causes and things to support than to acquire a pill covered backpack! Great video shared too!

  12. MUCH better suggestion! Honestly, Tia ad the work of her daughters and parolees always gives me the chills. Can’t watch that show with getting emotionally attached and crying! Totally unexpected to see this cause on your blog but I’m such a huge advocate. It’s one of my secondary dreams (after I’ve lived out my career as an artist and have had my 15 minutes of fame, haha) to open up a German Shepherd rescue. While not in as bad of a shape as a breed, they’re still very misunderstood. It sucks to walk your dog and have everyone cross the street at the sight of your dog instead of those strangers that instantly cozy up to a lab or some fluffy lap dog =P

  13. A family could live off of this much money for a year. And someone spends it on a backpack. I’m not here to judge, but this is a very sad state that our society is in.
    Thanks for sharing and even giving better suggestions to use this money!

  14. Good grief, does it have to also be so ludicrously UGLY as well?
    Even if you’re determined to be entirely selfish with your $55,000 of spare change, there are still a million better things to do with it. Travel the world first class – not work for a year. Just don’t spend it on this awful, tacky bag.

  15. Wow… I don’t even know what else to say.

    I will never understand the mentality that leads to a decision to do something like this. Did anyone in that concept meeting have an OUNCE of common sense? Apparently not. It’s disgusting. Plain and simple. If 100% off the proceeds were directed to charity it would STILL be disgusting.

    I hadn’t heard of Pit Bulls & Parolees, but I do know that you have a soft spot for rescue dogs (and I certainly don’t blame you there!) so thanks for bringing these great organizations to our attention. Supporting either of these organizations would be money well spent!

  16. Thank you for posting this V. That gross bag with a random charity dontation left up to the “artist” is bullshit. Thank you also for showing us a real charity, and all the good $55,000 could do to help those sweet animals, and to give the parolees a second chance.

  17. What a great suggestion for an alternative to supporting the death of animals in the name of fashion! I highly agree that spending money to help animals and especially that particular cause is a much better way to spend $55,000 than on a not so appealing bag!

  18. When I heard about this bag, I was is disbelief. That much money for an ugly bag? Why use real croc skin in the first place? I’m not a fan of using real animal material and then the pills glued on? You’re right, $55,000 is how much a good portion of people make in a year. They should donate ALL proceeds to the charity.

  19. Hello Vahni!
    I just love to read your blog. You are not afraid to say what you think. Agree totally! Not that it’s only a hubris but total uncreative thing and trash. I mean, it’s not that we who love fashion don’t understand some artist’s intervention.For instance once I had a chat with friend about fashion and when I mentioned Rei Kawakubo’s three-sleeved Comme des Garcons’s coat, she was wondering “why 3 sleeves?” and I wasn’t able to explain to her what’s that something about 3 sleeves. (We almost argued:) I love Olsen’s The Row plain design, nice cuts, sophisticated craft work etc. but only on the clothes. I dislike the accesories because of the animals who were killed for their few walks on the red carpet…blaah! And my goal isn’t to humiliate their design, but, cum on, killing the alligators just for a little backpack in which can barely put the wallet and cell-phone?!”#$ And this pills… Helmut,you disappointed me…..
    It’s very generous of you to draw an attention to dogs rescue center! 50000 can also be help for the real homeless people (not the “homeless Olsens look”) or other socially disadvantaged people. Donated to scholarships for an orphans. Yes, 50000 can be spent in 50000 different ways than this one!

    1. Thank you, Anika!I agree, I like The Row, but their ever-escalating bag prices are ridiculous.

      There is only ONE HERMES, only one luxury brand that can truly demand and get those prices, because of the craftsmanship, history, and prestige of the house. The Row’s tacky, artist-collab bag—no matter how expensive—will never hold the same clout.

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