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Do anti-fur protesters really have an effect?

Will fashion ever wise up to anti-fur sentiments?

Protesters from animal rights organisations are far from a rare occurrence at London Fashion Week, and this year’s event was no different. Protesters came out in force to take a stand against the fashion industry’s use of a variety of animal products, and their main target: fur. It would be no stretch to say that much of the public no longer supports the killing of animals for use of their fur to produce aesthetically pleasing products, and it is unsurprising that fur has been a target from protesters for many years.

But why are some designers so reluctant to listen to protesters’ voices? Granted, over 90% of the designers showing at London Fashion Week did not use fur in this collection, but some brands (such as Mary Katrantzou)refuse to renounce the use of fur altogether. This did not go unnoticed by protesters, and many individuals came out to stand up for the rights of animals.

Activists from PETA often make an appearance at Fashion Week. PETA, a well-known animal rights organisation, founded in the 1980s in the U.S., has been criticised by some for its tactics, but praised by others for their vehement defence of animals’ rights. They proudly claim on their website how this year a group of topless protesters attended London Fashion Week with the words Wear Your Own Skin” written on their bodies. A protester from another animal rights organisation, SURGE, managed to get onto Mary Katrantzou’s catwalk; her chants of “Shame on you!” were caught on camera by many members of the audience. Though Katrantzou stated that only faux fur was used in this particular show, her past use of fox and mink fur makes her a natural target.

With brands such as Armani, Gucci and Vivienne Westwood completely renouncing the use of fur across their brands, it would seem that the protesters are having an effect. Indeed, the change in opinion amongst the general public would support this. The controversy surrounding Canada Goose jackets in the past few years highlights the outrage amongst the public, as unverified pictures of the alleged violent production of such jackets went viral. Pictures of coyotes in metal traps, coyotes being shot in the head: Canada Goose has a policy on its website highlighting that it uses ethically sourced fur, but it is now held by many people that there is no such thing as ‘ethically sourced fur’.

All fur used in fashion is, due to the deaths it causes, inherently immoral. Killing an animal simply for the use of its fur, when faux fur options are just as accessible and affordable, seems undeniably unethical: something that many brands have seemingly now accepted.

Yet, the protesters feel that their work to combat the use of fur in the fashion industry is not yet over, as some brands, such as Burberry and Mary Katrantzouare reluctant to completely renounce fur. This is hardly surprising when celebrities like the Kardashians are intent on wearing it.

Kim Kardashian and her sisters have consistently met criticism for their fur-wearing, even from fans. Indeed, in 2012, Kim Kardashian had flour thrown on her by someone claiming to support PETA. Simply reading the comments on the Instagram posts picturing the sisters wearing fur is sufficient to see the condemnation from the public. A case in point would be Khloe Kardashian’s post last April, which includes Kourtney, Kim, and herself, all wearing fur coats.

Likewise, more recently, on a post from January, Kim was criticised both for cultural appropriation due to her braids, as well as the fact that she was wearing what appears to be a real fur coat. The immense influence of the Kardashians amongst the public is not something that can be easily dismissed, and it is not surprising that when individuals like them consistently choose to wear fur, major brands such as Burberry will not renounce it completely. The Kardashians have undoubtedly become a brand, and shouldn’t they be help up to the same expected standards of ethical practice that other brands are? Perhaps certain supporters and members of the fashion industry do not feel that they have any reason to be ethical for the sake of its consumers as it could be argued that it is up to consumers to choose to buy ethically, and not up to the designers or celebrities to support ethical methods of clothes production.

It is clear that the work of the protesters is not over, but will they really affect the opinions of the Kardashians, or indeed the major brands? It is likely that they have had some influence on the matter, or else why would so many brands have already renounced it? Even if the protesters simply have changed public opinion, which has in turn changed the opinion of major brands, their influence was key. The videos and photos distributed by organisations such as PETA are powerful, but they do not seem to be touching the emotions of certain celebrities.Here, PETA’s reputation as extreme or fanatic may play a role, as protesters are sometimes seen, even amongst the public, as some form of fanatics, not representing the popular view.

So the work of the protesters can only be commended, when it is peaceful, and honest, but it does not seem to be enough for some of the high fashion brands. It is more than evident that the fact that major figures such as the Kardashians refusing to face up to their responsibility and influence as a vehicle for change is undoubtedly a principal barrier to creating a fashion industry that is completely fur free.

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