If Looks Could Kill: The Importance of Cruelty-Free Fashion

by Inga Yandell

Fashion has evolved over the centuries to reflect cultural emphasis and interests, reflecting the materials and manufacturing techniques of the time. Today, we have wearable technology and greater access to renewable and sustainable materials—both consumers and designers are keen to embrace ethical fashion that is responsible and innovative. But, despite the movement for ‘Kind Fashion’ much of the world continues to stock and swathe themselves in clothing made from animals—and antiquated practices and cheap production demands continue to support less than ethical treatment of people and animals in the industry.

It’s important to note that some of us buy for function rather than fashion. Outdoor clothing brands are particularly good at aligning performance with ethics as their customers already have a deep love and awareness for nature. Engineering wearables for Winter fashioned from natural fibres like merino wool or technical layers made from recycled materials (plastics and coffee waste are some examples of this). That means the options exist but the people lack awareness which is also a matter for campaign. Rather than fur coats, hoods, boots and the like…adventurers can pack cruelty-free alternatives, many of which can be more efficient at keeping you warm, wicking away sweat, repelling odour and water, dry faster and require less care.

Other factors influence our choices, price point is an obvious one but we are also heavily swayed by branding and celebrity which we identify with. Anything worn by the Royals is sure to sell-out within a day of public exposure, likewise labels for brands that have clear messages or ambassadors also help to represent the values we align ourselves with. Understanding this incentive is key to creating a demand for cruelty-free clothing, for elevating standards in sustainable fabrics and responsible manufacturing methods/means.

Indeed, this is the focus of a new campaign against fur initiated and endorsed by fashion elite. The designers and influencers are stepping-up to end animal cruelty and tip trends toward Kind Fashion.

Guest contributor Elise Burgess from FOUR PAWS Australia explains…

Compassion in vogue: How the ethical fashion movement is extending to animals

The rise in ethical fashion has progressed leaps and bounds over recent years, with fashion-conscious consumers leading the charge towards a future where we can have our smart-cut blazers and feel good about it too.

As part of this ethical fashion trend, major fashion retailers and brands are increasingly recognising their responsibility for the welfare of animals, choosing animal-free materials or making demands about animal welfare for their supply chains.

Last month, major global online retailer ASOS, which has 12.4 million active customers worldwide, announced that it is banning the sale of silk, cashmere and mohair products, having already banned fur and materials from threatened or endangered species.

A decision which is on trend.

Over 890 huge fashion labels including H&M, Michael Kors, Gucci, and Armani have also committed to fur free policies through the Fur Free Retailer global program, not only prioritising animal welfare and consumer demands, but also supporting an end to fur’s image as a ‘luxury’ item. 

But this isn’t the 80’s, I hear you ask, isn’t fur ‘over’ anyway? Shockingly no.

To this day, millions of foxes, minks, rabbits and raccoon dogs are brutally farmed and slaughtered for their fur. 

In fact, the global fur trade sources 95 percent of its fur from animals who are forced to live in small wire cages on fur farms. Animals trapped in these cages are denied any natural environment or the ability to express their instinctive behaviour.

At the end of their short lives, their death—by electrocution, gassing or by having their neck broken—is as cruel as their keeping.

What’s more, some animals used for fur such as foxes, have been selectively bred to produce extreme levels of excess skin and therefore, more fur. As a result, these poor foxes suffer from heavily folded skin, severe eye infections and badly malformed feet.

In April this year, horrific images from a fox farm in Finland showed animals locked in tight cages who could barely move due to all their excess skin. In the wild, polar foxes would normally reach a weight of roughly four kilos but due to deliberate breeding for the largest possible amount of fur, these animals instead reach a weight of up to 20 kilos.

While it may seem like a US or European issue where the winters are far colder, here in Australia you can still find fur being used in fashion. Lots of fur trims are available in our shopping districts on jackets, fur vests, fur accessories for handbags and even on some toys. Which is why in 2018, it is so important for Australians to show their support for fur-free fashion and products.

This can be as simple as not buying fur products or fashion items such as jackets or gloves with fur trim, or better yet, supporting Australian fashion retailers and brands who have committed to being fur free. Not sure if it is FUR or FRIENDLY? Check out the Fur Free Retailer list.

FOUR PAWS Australia is the Australian representative of the global Fur Free retailer program, and after listening to what compassionate Australians are saying, we want to help local brands and consumers be a driving force for global animal protection in fashion.

To find out more about fur in fashion, check out FOUR PAWS Australia.

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Inga Yandell
Explorer and photo-journalist, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide educational resources and a platform for science exploration.
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