Who's Skin Are You In?
Every year, millions of animals are slaughtered in the name of fashion.
As a fashion journalist and general enthusiast for the craft, New York Fashion Week has always been my favourite time of the year. For me, nothing was more exciting than working during this time. I lived for the photos of eclectic street style fashion, keeping up with the latest trends and asking people about the credits for their outfits, so I could make a mental note of where to shop next. I never thought too seriously about this. I only thought about fashion week in terms of a career and how good it makes me feel. I never would have guessed that the questions I should have been asking as a fashion journalist shouldn’t have been “what are you wearing?” Instead, my questions should have been, “Who are you wearing?”
In recent years, many trends involve plenty of fur coats, leather skirts and handbags. When I furthered my research into the ethics of making these fashion pieces, I found plenty of criticisms from animal rights activists, making claims that this promotes unethical treatment of animals in the fashion industry.
While I have always purchased faux fur and synthetic leather, I realized that I bought these alternatives subconsciously because they were cheaper, rather than based on knowing that they promoted ethical treatments of animals. Now, I cannot look at a leather handbag without feeling like I’m an accessory to murder.
Is the immeasurable suffering these animals endure worth the fur coat you wear? The answer is always no.
If people had a better grasp of what animals suffer in order to further sales in fashion, people would take this issue much more seriously than they currently do. It hasn’t been a secret that foxes, bears and baby harp seals have been killed so their fur can be made into jackets, scarves and the trim of hats. Steel-jaw traps in the wild either catch these animals or hunters physically go and kill the animals themselves — usually with a lack of compassion.
Exotic reptiles such as alligators and snakes are killed so their skin can make wallets and tote bags. Not everyone is a fan of snakes, but we can all come to an agreement that they do not deserve to be skinned alive and have their heads cracked open with a hammer. Because their metabolism is so slow, it can take hours for snakes to die. Their suffering is only prolonged.
Domesticated animals are not exempt from this brutality. A recent investigation led by PETA revealed that dogs have been bludgeoned to death so their skin can be turned into leather gloves, belts, jacket collar trims and other accessories, many of which are distributed to North America.
When you look at a puppy, do you see the latest Prada tote bag? I know when I look at my puppy, who is soft in both his fur and his personality, I couldn’t bear the thought that others like him could be killed in the name of fashion.
Something must be done to curb these atrocities. However, please do not misinterpret this article as me condoning those who throw red paint on women who wear fur coats.
Actions like these only perpetuate the problem even further and bring attention to the action, not the cause itself. Taking action does not have to be something “big.” There is nothing wrong with starting out small. Try paying closer attention to the materials you are buying the next time you need some retail therapy.
Try looking for pleather jackets, cotton-based shirts and satin. Most clothes will have animal friendly labels on them, indicating that the article of clothing is fur-free and excludes real leather.
Paying attention to these labels makes a world of difference. Designer Stella McCartney, who is a lifelong vegan and animal activist, has a vegan clothing line that is still fashionable but ethical. Or, you could browse the SS18 collection here on My Elenoula Intimates. The sensual pieces are made out of 100% organic cotton that will not only have you feeling sexy and empowered, but also make you feel good about wearing pieces that won’t contribute to the suffering of animals, worker’s wages or the environment.
Become acquainted with other local designers who will design clothes that will not make you feel wrong for wearing what seems to be a real leather jacket.
If you want to move further along in promoting compassion in fashion, find local animal rights organizations in your area and contact them.
Express your interest in getting involved. Whether you sign petitions, speak at conferences or take part in a rally — your voice matters. These animals cannot say they are in pain. That is why you must use your voice to speak for them.
As I prepare to attend Toronto Women’s Fashion Week the second week of March, I will wear my cotton crop top, my favourite polyester laser-cut skirt along with my vegan jacket and booties. This outfit may not sound like much, but it is my own political statement: I will never wear another animal’s skin for the sake of society’s view on “luxury”.
Photography by: Meaghan Doerner