“Shame, shame, shame on you. Shame on you for what you do.”
Chants beckoned from the mouths of anti-fur protesters outside Camden’s Roundhouse earlier this September, where Mary Katranzou held her 10th anniversary collection for London Fashion Week. There has been a huge rise in anti-fur protests at fashion week recently, with The Guardian reporting over 250 protestors campaigning at London Fashion Week last year. Prior to the shows this season, the British Fashion Council (BFC) conducted a survey of all 80 designers participating in the official catwalk and presentation schedule. This came after the singer Paloma Faith wrote a letter on behalf of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) asking the BFC to ban cruelly obtained fur from being used at all their events. Despite the survey showing that this past season of London Fashion Week was the first ever to be completely fur-free, the anti-fur movement still refused to stop their protest. As part of their Positive Fashion Initiative, the BFC wrote in a press release that the turn away from animal fur reflects “a cultural change based on ideals and choices made by designer businesses, international brands as well as consumer sentiment but also encouraged by the stance of multi-brand stores who are moving away from selling fur”. If designers no longer support the use of fur on the runway, then why was there still so much protest during the past season?
Using fur within her previous collections, Katranzou’s shows are not uncommon ground for protestors to express their views. During her LFW AW18 show, a member of the animal rights movement SURGE made it onto the runway to shame the designer and protest against the use of animal fur for fashion’s sake. Although this kind of disruption is disrespectful to designers who do not use any real animal fur in their collections, it was still a powerful and symbolic act against those who do. Reminiscent of the many scandalous protests throughout history, maybe in 100 years we will look back at this era with horror that it was acceptable to exploit animals for fashion, in the way we look back when women could not vote.
However, in July 2018 a group of MPs called for a ban on the sale of real fur after the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee uncovered that some retailers, including BooHoo and Kurt Geiger, were selling real fur as fake. Despite the ban of fur farming in Britain since 2000, there is still a loophole, as fur can be imported from other countries and sold in the UK. Therefore, although a complete ban on the sale of real animal fur would be ideal, it is not currently realistic. In the meantime, the British Fur Trade Association is pushing for accurate labelling of clothes so consumers can become more aware of what they are wearing. Despite the progression towards a fur-free fashion week, it is a shame that within such an innovative and pioneering field, we are still having to make baby steps towards a cruelty-free industry.
However, there are still concerns amongst designers about using faux fur due to the environmental damage caused when producing synthetic materials. Although sustainability is an incredibly important and significant issue, it remains unnecessary to put the environment at harm for the sake of fashion when there are so many alternatives. Using materials such as polyester, nylon and cotton can replicate fur in a more ethical way and with renowned designers making the change to faux fur, we can start revolutionising the way brands think about the ethics behind fashion. After Riccardo Tisci become the new Creative Officer at Burberry, the brand announced that they would stop using real fur in their collections and Gucci, Versace and many others have since followed suit. If it has become fashionable to be anti-fur, let’s hope it can become a trend that lasts.
It is unfortunate to see the lengths protesters have to go to make a difference and that it has come to a point where hard-working designers’ shows are being bombarded. Yet protesting outside high profile events, such as Katranzou’s, is what gives the anti-fur movement its exposure. Without this, designers and the BFC might not have felt the need to come forward and denounce their support of the fur trade. With ethical fashion becoming increasingly important for brands, we can hope that there will be a transformation to a cruelty free industry. Fashion should not be at the expense of living beings.