Hides and feathers are just as cruel as fur, the fashion industry is told

<span>Street style nail art against a plush coat at Copenhagen Fashion Week’s AW2024 shows in January.</span><span>Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/xsabplzvx5OblJKAv7mMGg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/3eb4d325988c2a34aa7739b 9b8c4d087″ data-src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/xsabplzvx5OblJKAv7mMGg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/3eb4d325988c2a34aa7739b9b8c 4d087″/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Street style nail art against a plush coat at Copenhagen Fashion Week’s AW2024 shows in January.Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Copenhagen Fashion Week has just announced that it will ban exotic skins and feathers from the catwalks next year, becoming the biggest industry event to do so yet.

Skål to Copenhagen Fashion Week to raise the bar for other events,” said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of corporate projects at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). “Now all eyes are on other Fashion Week organizers to follow suit.”

Fair fashion campaigner Venetia La Manna agrees: “It really proves to me that this organization – fashion weeks, potential brands – can make these big steps if pushed.”

But there is still a long way to go. Although the ban follows similar developments from smaller fashion weeks such as Stockholm and Melbourne, as well as from brands such as Burberry and Chanel, it will be some time before exotic skins, including crocodiles, snakes, alligators and ostriches, as well as ostrich and peacock feathers, are sold on considered cruel in the same way as fur.

The catwalks of New York, London, Paris and Milan were home to an aviary of feathers only last month. They were also on the red carpet this awards season.

While there hasn’t been a clear spike in the use of exotic animal skins, one of the most talked-about designs of the past year has been the so-called Millionaire Speedy bag. Pharrell Williams’ design for Louis Vuitton, made from crocodile skin, lived up to its name with a price tag of $1 million. Saltwater crocodiles have some of the most sought-after skins in the industry, according to a report from the ethical fashion advocacy group. group Collective Fashion Justice, and “luxury brands such as Hermès and Louis Vuitton not only purchase these skins, but now own factory farms themselves.”

The case against fur has gained traction after many years of work by animal rights activists. It is now banned by most of the biggest brands in the luxury sector, and in December the British Fashion Council also formally banned fur during London Fashion Week, although the ban has been tacit since 2018.

But Emma Håkansson, the founder and director of Collective Fashion Justice, says that while the industry has generally “decided that it is unacceptable to kill an animal specifically for fashion”, she doesn’t think she can yet imagine of the cruelties involved in feather supply chains. , usually involving ostriches, in the same way.

There is a lack of education. “The mainstream consumer doesn’t put two and two together and think there is some cruelty involved in feathers,” she says.

But there is disgusting cruelty involved in both feathers and exotic skins, according to Yvonne Taylor of Peta: “Snakes are pumped with air or water while still alive, and lizards are brutally decapitated. Workers ram metal rods through the spines of crocodiles and into the brains of alligators in an attempt to kill them.”

Part of the issue is “the way fashion separates the animal from the final product,” says Håkansson, whose organization, along with World Animal Protection, consulted Copenhagen Fashion Week to convince them to implement this policy. Recently, while researching feathers, she showed people a photo of a dress with an ostrich feather trim. The vast majority did not identify them correctly. The same also applies to brands. Last year her research found that retailers including Asos, Boohoo and Selfridges had wrongly labeled real feathers as ‘fake’.

By brushing aside cruelty even as consumers recognize feathers as coming from animals, or exotic skins as coming from crocodiles, La Manna highlights a cognitive dissonance: “We continually withdraw from the reality of what is in our clothes, whether that now workers are ‘rights violations, whether that’s gender-based violence, and of course animal cruelty.’

She also thinks that people in the West have been conditioned to be less likely to have a problem with cruelty to a cold-blooded reptile than to a furry mammal.

Håkansson agrees that an emotional barrier exists: “It’s very difficult for people to connect with the reality that a crocodile or a snake has absolutely the same feeling as a fox or a mink,” she says.

But despite all the progress in fur, there has been a setback even in that area. “I think it’s honestly because the cool girls have started wearing it again,” says Le Manna.

Not least this is the fault of the mafia women’s trend, which has seen huge fur coats Sopranos-chic in fashion. “TikTok is in the business of recycling your grandma’s fur,” says Hillary Taymour, the designer of ethical brand Collina Strada. “This is causing a resurgence in the use of fur and faux fur in the industry. The trend is spreading like wildfire and we saw it everywhere in the fall collections.”

While the emphasis is on rewearing vintage furs and upcycling materials, Taymour believes it is the glamorization that is “ultimately harmful. By creating the trend and supporting it, you welcome fast-fashion houses to run it [it].”

Håkansson also believes there has been pressure from the industry to say that these materials, such as fur and leather, are natural, as opposed to synthetic materials derived from fossil fuels. But, she emphasizes, they are no longer biodegradable after processing.

The decline in fur may be related to a broader trend of sustainability issues, which were so dominant in the fashion industry a few years ago, have faded into the background. Håkansson suspects fatigue. “There was the beginning of the pandemic, when there were dolphins in Venice, and everyone was excited about what the world could be like. And then we just got a little tired and went back to hyper-capitalist mode.”

Taymour agrees that the conversation has calmed down, citing the increase in the cost of producing clothing, especially sustainable clothing, since the pandemic. “Large companies have nipped the conversation in the bud to continue making margins,” she says.

Håkansson hopes that people will become more patient. “There is a feeling that solutions, if they don’t happen overnight, won’t work.” But, she said, “people have to be willing to play a longer game.”

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