LONDON, United Kingdom – For many of fashion’s iconic characters, from Vogue‘s Anna Wintour to the prolific designer Karl Lagerfeld, who designs for Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous label, fashion and fur go hand in hand. Just last week, Lagerfeld vigorously defended the use of fur to the BBC saying that “in a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags, the discussion of fur is childish.”
Of course, there are plenty of people who would disagree with this point of view – the folks at PETA, for one. A PETA spokesperson told London’s Daily Telegraph that Lagerfeld is “a fashion dinosaur who is as out of step as his furs are out of style. The vast majority of fur these days comes not from hunters as he suggests, but from Chinese fur farms, where no law protects the millions of animals who are routinely beaten and skinned alive.”
So, who’s right?
The answer, of course is not straightforward. Perfectly intelligent people may disagree after having heard all the arguments because, on an issue like this, an individual’s point of view will ultimately depend on how they believe animals should or should not be treated, and how their skins and fur should or should not be used in clothing.
This is why I have found the approach of the aggressive protesters outside the Bryant Park tents, waving bloody photos and screaming at editors and buyers going to see the New York shows, to be pretty pointless. They may actually be doing a disservice to their cause by making it easier for people to dismiss their antics as those of the lunatic fringe.
On the other hand, I found this video by PETA, narrated by Tim Gunn of Project Runway fame, pretty arresting and thought-provoking. It made me think twice about how important it is to know where our clothes come from. It’s easier to ignore these issues when our fashions are made in faraway places without our awareness. But, when some of the visuals are thrust in your face and the logical arguments are presented, it’s a lot harder to turn a blind eye.
There are clearly different approaches for raising awareness of issues like the use of fur and leather in fashion, but the most effective methods are those that provoke intelligent discussion and debate.
This seems to be working. Yesterday, I received an email from Alexia Weeks, the Online Marketing Coordinator for PETA Europe, saying that as a result of this video and a personal appeal from Tim Gunn, Donna Karan has decided to drop fur from her collections, beginning with Autumn/Winter 2009.
Warning: Some of the images in the video are graphic and may turn some readers off, but then again, I guess that is the point.