Exotic skins (crocodiles, lizards, snakes and even stingray) have been used by designers at high-end, luxury fashion labels such as Chanel, Gucci and Balenciaga for many years. In recent times, an increasing number of labels have banned the use of fur in their collections, amid increasing pressures from organisations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). This year saw London Fashion Week issue a total ban on designers showing any fur, but the British Fashion Council remained neutral stating “Our tradition does not really change; we are supporting the designers’ creativity and we do not consider that we are in the position to ban fur”.
The generating of furs for so-called ‘fur farms’ was actually banned in the UK in 2003, although the importation of fur and exotic skins remains legal and so is the right to use them in fashion collections.
“Are fashion houses really motivated by the will to reduce animal cruelty?”
But what are the real reasons behind the shift towards a reduction in the use of animal products in this multi-billion pound industry? Are fashion houses really motivated by the will to reduce animal cruelty, or merely by the changing demands of consumers and the need to adapt for commercial reasons?
Do a little digging and it seems that around a decade ago, certain luxe labels (including Hermes and LVMH) decided to ensure greater control over their product supply chain by purchasing their own farms in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Thailand and the US. They bought, or invested hefty sums in; crocodile, python farms and tanneries in a bid to ensure that the brands could guarantee the quality, and supposedly the ethical standards, of their future products.
Chanel chose not to follow suit and instead, relied on various different ‘third-party’ sources for its supply. Now it seems that this may have been detrimental, as it has meant less control over both the quality and the price of the exotic skins needed to create their handbags, purses and shoes. To quote Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel fashion, on their decision; “There is a problem of supply and that was not Chanel’s business anyway’’.
“there is definitely a shift happening within the industry”
Regardless of the reason Chanel have finally chosen to discontinue using exotic skins and furs in their collections, there is definitely a shift happening within the industry, potentially down to the demands of millennial consumers who are becoming more conscious of where their clothes come from and how they were made.
Evidence of this can be seen in the likes of H&M launching it’s ‘Conscious Collection’ and ASOS updating it’s animal welfare policy earlier this year, banning feathers, silks, cashmere and mohair in it’s product ranges, having already done so for fur.
“a reduction in animal cruelty can only be a good thing”
Personally, I feel that Chanel’s decision to ban exotic skins (and subsequent highly publicised announcement) is less to do with becoming more ethical and more to do with commercial sense and financial pressures. However, a reduction in animal cruelty can only be a good thing and is definitely a step in the right direction towards a more ‘responsible’ fashion industry. Fingers crossed it won’t be too long before other labels follow their lead.
Featured image courtesy of @chanelofficial on Instagram.