I’ve always found it peculiar that fur and leather are held with such high regard in the fashion world. These ‘materials’ are used far too often, especially within luxury fashion, by designers such as Fendi, Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier etc. Luxury as a word is defined as ‘a state of great comfort or elegance’ – sure, forced breeding, torture and skinning creatures alive is comfortable and elegant.
Aside from the obvious unethical aspects of shedding animals of their skin and fur for the sake of style, the industry itself is incredibly unsustainable and harmful to the planet. The fur and leather industries farm animals specifically for the production of their fur or skin, not only adding to the rising toll of unnecessary animal deaths, but contributing significantly to the detrimental effect of animal agriculture on the environment. This includes the use of resources such as land, food and water, in addition to greenhouse gas emissions, use of dangerous chemicals and many more harmful acts.
Earlier this year, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Asia organisation worked in collaboration with Ogilvy & Mather (a world renowned marketing agency) to create a fake pop-up shop in one of Bangkok’s trendiest shopping malls. The shop appeared to be selling luxurious leather garments and accessories which held a certain air of decadence and quality. The superior elegance of the shop and the items was soon tinged with a deep sinister feel as the shoppers got closer to the pieces, opening them up to reveal pulsating hearts, blood and other organs – a very realistic recreation of the bodies that the leather belongs to. Hidden cameras were placed throughout the store which captured the shoppers’ horrified reaction as they absent-mindedly opened up the bags, the jackets, turned the belts over or tried the shoes on. This experiment further cemented my understanding of contemporary western society’s conceptual approach to fur and leather. We know technically were the materials are coming from, but the majority of us (or at least the unsuspecting people who entered the pop-up shop) are not consciously aware or haven’t made an emotional connection to what is going on.
I’m sure many of you have come across PETA’s campaign video, as I have multiple times, but I think it holds an incredibly important message. The use of leather and fur in fashion – especially over-priced, ‘luxury’ garments – needs to be spoken about. Alex Williams from the New York Times mentioned this exact issue in an article from 2015;
That’s the curious state of fur in 2015: so many people seem happy to sell it and show it, but nobody wants to talk about it.
In this same article, Williams mentioned the Roman fashion house Fendi, and their intention to debut a ‘haute fourrure’ show during the Haute Couture shows in Paris. The show was celebrating fur, with the garments being either completely or at least partially based on the material. A few months later in great contrast to this fur tribute, Stella McCartney released her line of completely faux fur garments! Supported by other fur-shunning designers such as Calvin Klein, Simone Rocha, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. It completely astounds me that most designers continue to use real fur and leather when the cruelty-free alternatives appear just as soft, comfortable and luxurious (the images below compare a fur coat by Fendi with one of McCartney’s faux fur garments).
Now, more than ever, is the time for us to speak up about the fur and leather industries and animal agriculture in general. With the internet as such an accessible resource, I think its time for viewers, buyers and designers to do their own research concerning animal welfare. This is already happening amongst some designers and organisations, as mentioned earlier, but there is still a great divide between those who have compassion and those who don’t.
Further information on the environmental effects:
Lodhi, Arwa. 2015. “Tell Luxury Fashion Houses Fur Isn’t Chic.” Eluxe Magazine. Accessed 1 October 2016. http://eluxemagazine.com/video/fur-isnt-chic/
Nieto, Diana Verde. 2015. “Luxury Fashion & The Great Fur Debate.” Luxury Society, 12 October. Accessed 1 October 2016. http://luxurysociety.com/articles/2015/10/luxury-fashion-the-great-fur-debate
Williams, Alex. 2015. “Fur Is Back in Fashion and Debate.” The New York Times, 3 July. Accessed 1 October 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/05/fashion/fur-is-back-in-fashion-and-debate.html?_r=0
Vila, Alixandra Caole. 2016. “Terrifying! PETA Opens ‘Leather Shop’ With Bags Featuring Pulsating Organs; Shoppers Horrified”. Nature World News, 17 May. Accessed 11 October 2016. http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/22319/20160517/terrifying-video-peta-opens-leather-shop-with-bags-featuring-pulsating-organs-shoppers-horrified.htm