Since today is Fur Free Friday, I have to get this off my chest. I love animals. Love being kind. Love fashion. And I hate being confrontational and political. So I’m going to go out on a limb here now. There’s truly no place in fashion for fur. There. I’ve put it in print.
What I really love is the stance my friend designer John Bartlett takes as he speaks for those without a voice, the animals. His voice and platform are clear as a bell. He uses no animal products within his collections. He wears none in his life. He is a compassionate trail blazer whom I think of as an inspiration and guide. As I’ve become more educated about some of the ways the fur industry mistreats its “product” – which, come on, is a living, sentient being who feels pain and suffering, just like we humans would if our skin was flayed from our bodies while still alive – I feel I can no longer support the concept of fur.
This has been a hard party line for me. Many, many of my friends, editors and designers wear, promote and create from animal hides. Fur is all around us these days. Rampant on the runways. Flagrantly framing most New Yorkers faces, with the fox-trimmed hoods of their down-filled parkas. Even I myself have a vintage military parka purchased recently at my neighborhood thrift shop that has a small swath of fur around the hood, a “recycled piece” of pelt, the owner assured me. It’s a nominal amount of fur but I’m thinking of seam-ripping it off. An animal still had to die for that. Be killed for that. Not in sport, but probably with his leg clamped in iron teeth. Or after having spent his life in a tiny metal cage, cowering in fear, filth and suffering, before being brutally “put out of his misery.” Just for a little bit of fur around my face. Fur has been marketed to us as this luxury must-have, even though it’s stained by the blood of the poor beings providing it. The pictures, videos and stories of how these poor creatures are treated – mistreated, rather – at the hands of fur farms and trappers – it’s just unbearable.
So I’m conflicted. I don’t think of myself as judgmental. I have a lot of fur myself – mostly vintage, purchased many years ago. But I will no longer buy a new garment that is made of fur, or even one that has any new fur accent on it (I have made this a mission for myself for the past several years now). Nothing with a fur-like fabric from China (they often misrepresent on the labeling and they are some of the most egregious mistreaters of the animals). But I wear leather and suede. I have a cowhide rug. I have a sheepskin throw. I don’t eat meat, but it somehow makes sense that if an animal is going to be used as food by someone else, then my having the leather/suede/hide is not a brutal cult killing for its skin. I rarely wear the vintage pieces I have anymore out of respect for those who are anti-fur (more and more, myself included). But I feel hypocritical about those pieces. I was completely mortified and embarrassed the night I wore a fur vest purchased at a yard sale in Seattle about 13 years ago to a fashion show a couple of weeks ago where John was in attendance. It’s been very difficult for me to do the right thing when it comes to fur. Do I throw them away? Bury them? Sell them? Give them to my dog? I am ashamed that I harbor dead animals in my home from a previous time when fur was acceptable.
I love that this “leopard dress,” above, seen at The Brooklyn Museum’s “From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” exhibit of Jean Paul Gaultier’s genius, is not a real animal pelt, but rather the impersonation of one, created instead via thousands of embroidered beads. This exquisite piece of handiwork shows the master craftsmanship Gaultier embodies and his brilliance at the unexpected. Gaultier started his career working for a furrier, so sadly there’s no dearth of animal skins at this retrospective. But if more designers would take the animal out of fashion, as Gaultier did at least in the ensemble above, how designers like John, Stella McCartney and others continue to do in their current collections, by presenting animals in the abstract rather than in real skin and fur, we’d all be the better for it. The animals the most.
As John always says, let compassion be your fashion.