Last week, I reported and produced an audio slideshow about the recession’s effects on small-scale high-end designers. These aren’t high-profile celebrity designers, like Dior or Prada, but New York City designers who are represented in upscale independent boutiques. During my reporting, I learned that these designers had to scale back on luxury materials, like fur, chiffon, and leather, because they became too expensive. This got me thinking about fur in particular–specifically, if fur has become too expensive for these designers, are celebrity couture designers also scaling back on it?
No, they’re not.
Back in March, The Wall Street Journal reported that designers, like Luca Luca, Michael Kors, among others, are pushing fur looks pretty heavily these days, regardless of the recession. According to the Fur Information Council of America, a non-profit trade organization that analyzes trends in the fur industry, U.S. fur sales reached $1.3 billion in 2010–up 3.1 percent from the recession-wracked year of 2009, but still under the 2005 high of $1.8 billion.
Although money may not be an issue, animal activists remain one. It’s quite funny how this same Wall Street Journal article details the steps that PETA has taken to calm down its approach. Now they throw parties instead of cans of red paint (though there still is the occasional protest), but they still urge designers to reconsider the materials they use–especially fur pelts.
But there still are some extreme animal activists out there and the debate continues. It even shows up in the media.
- Fendi, Seoul Government Feuding Over Fur, Monday May 16, 2011: On Monday, news broke that the municipal government of Seoul, South Korea under pressure from civil animal rights groups forced Fendi to remove all of its fur garments from an upcoming fashion show on Jun. 2. Out of 40 total looks, 20 included fur. News spread from The Wall Street Journal to The Huffington Post, but this article in Women’s Wear Daily stands out among them. Why? Because this post included Fendi’s response: “Fur is part of the DNA of Fendi.” This begs the question: will fur always have a place in fashion despite what opponents do or say?
- Oslo Fashion Week Bans Fur on Catwalk, Dec. 9, 2010: This article in Norwegian Fashion details how Oslo Fashion Week became the first Fashion Week in the world to ban fur from its runways late last year. It gives good insight into the reasons why a team of Norwegian designers sought to create ethical standards in the fashion industry, and their colleagues who supported their effort. Still, though, it also reports how Copenhagen Fashion Week–the neighbor to the south–does not share the same opinion. For the Danes, skin, leather, even fur are all parts of fashion.
Given the situation in Seoul, it seems that Oslo’s streak is spreading–should we be on the lookout for greater ethics in fashion? Hey, Tim Gunn is already on board. But this brings up another discussion: activism on the internet.
- Anti-Fur Protestors Take Over DKNY’s Facebook Page, Nov. 29, 2010: In this Mashable post, Lauren Indvik writes that PETA activists staged an anti-fur protest on DKNY’s facebook page. For those of us who missed the event, Indvik also posted a screenshot of how the protest was organized: in quick succession, facebook users whose profile photos bore individual letters that spelled DK BUNNY BUTCHER left their mark on the page. It may seem like a small act, but the message spread to the page’s 200,000 plus fans.
But no matter what PETA does, there are designers who choose to stand by their materials.
- Julien Macdonald: Defender of the Fur, Feb. 19, 2006: In The Independent, Welsh designer Julien Macdonald opened up about why he needs to include fur in his lines, regardless of what PETA supporters think. He saidthat 60 percent of his business is catered to the Russian market, and that his biggest sales come from fur. If he didn’t have fur, he said, he would have to close.
What do you think, readers? Does business trump ethics?