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

Last Updated: June 15, 2024By

Making Fashion More Ethical: Copenhagen’s Bold Move

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Copenhagen fashion week just dropped a bombshell: they’re giving exotic skins and feathers the boot from their catwalks next year. It’s a game-changer in the fashion world, and folks like Yvonne Taylor from Peta are raising their glasses to that. “Cheers to Copenhagen for setting the bar high! Now it’s time for other fashion big shots to step up.”

Venetia La Manna, a champion of fair fashion, is nodding in agreement. “This proves that big players in fashion can make big moves when they’re pushed.”

But hey, let’s not start the victory dance just yet. Sure, smaller fashion weeks like Stockholm and Melbourne have already made similar calls, and brands like Burberry and Chanel are on board too. But let’s face it, it’s gonna take a while for everyone to see exotic skins and feathers in the same light as fur.

Just a month ago, the catwalks of New York, London, Paris, and Milan were practically a bird sanctuary, with feathers everywhere. And don’t even get me started on the red carpets during awards season!

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While exotic animal skins haven’t seen a crazy surge in popularity, there was one design that stole the spotlight: the Millionaire Speedy bag. Pharrell Williams cooked up this baby for Louis Vuitton, made from crocodile skin, and slapped a cool $1 million price tag on it. According to Collective Fashion Justice, saltwater crocodile skins are like gold in the fashion world, and luxury brands like Hermès and Louis Vuitton are all over it.

Fur has been getting the boot from the fashion world thanks to years of hard work by animal rights activists. Most big luxury brands have waved goodbye to fur, and London fashion week formally kicked it to the curb back in December.

But Emma Håkansson from Collective Fashion Justice says we’re still not seeing the whole picture. While the industry has agreed that killing animals for fashion is a no-go, the cruelty in feather supply chains, especially with ostriches, hasn’t hit home yet.

There’s a lack of awareness. “Most folks don’t connect feathers with cruelty,” says Håkansson.

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But let’s get real here. Peta’s Yvonne Taylor paints a grim picture of what goes down in these supply chains: snakes pumped with air or water while they’re still kicking, lizards getting a rough decapitation, and crocodiles and alligators meeting brutal ends.

One big problem? Fashion tends to hide the animal side of things. Håkansson’s group teamed up with World Animal Protection to convince Copenhagen fashion week to make this move. She showed people a dress with ostrich feather trimmings, and most didn’t even realize what they were looking at. Same goes for retailers like Asos and Boohoo, who’ve been passing off real feathers as fake.

Putting cruelty aside, even if people know feathers and exotic skins come from animals, there’s a disconnect. “We ignore the realities of what goes into our clothes,” says La Manna.

And let’s not forget the emotional barrier. “It’s hard for people to see a reptile as sentient like a fluffy mammal,” says Håkansson.

But while fur was making strides, it’s taken a step back. “Cool girls” are bringing fur back in a big way, thanks to trends like the mob wife look. TikTok’s buzzing with tips on rocking your grandma’s fur, and designers are eating it up.

And the industry’s pushing the idea that fur and leather are “natural,” unlike synthetic materials. But Håkansson points out they’re not so eco-friendly once they’re processed.

Maybe it’s all part of a bigger picture. Sustainability was the talk of the town a few years back, but now it’s taken a backseat. Håkansson thinks we’re just tired of it all, slipping back into our old capitalist ways.

But let’s not lose hope. Change takes time, and we’ve gotta be in it for the long haul.

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