Stella McCartney’s Fashion Show Makes a Statement on Animal Cruelty–And Has Some Fun Doing It

Person in a cow costume models a bag at the Stella McCartney show in Paris on Monday. Image: WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

Designer Stella McCartney has s been a longtime advocate for animal rights (her brand has worked without leather, fur, skins, feathers or animal glues since its launch in 2001) and has used her status as a top-tier designer to bring attention to issues of animal cruelty–which is a serious issue in the fashion industry. But yesterday, during her Paris runway show, the designer used the event as an opportunity to make a statement for the audience about fur and leather use: McCartney sent models in cartoon animal costumes down the runway during the showing of her winter 2020 collection.

As The Guardian explained,  “The optics were fun, but the message was serious – that there are animals on almost every catwalk, it’s just that they are usually dead.”

Compassion, But Make it Fashion: As Stella McCartney explained,

“What we try to do here at Stella is to sugarcoat a powerful, meaningful message in a little bit of humor and fun, to make our point in a palatable and digestible way so that people listen. These animals are the ingredients of everyone else’s fashion shows. We are the only luxury fashion house in the world that isn’t killing animals on the runway. I wanted to make that point, but in a joyous way.”

Additionally, as The Guardian noted, “last year, McCartney sold a stake in her brand to LVMH in a deal that gave her a role as special adviser on sustainability to the luxury group’s chairman and chief executive, Bernard Arnault. The role poses a challenge – Arnault was widely criticized last year after describing Greta Thunberg as “demoralizing” – but McCartney is confident she can have an impact.”

The End of Fur?: While the use of fur has been condemned for a long time by animal rights groups like PETA, most fashion brands hadn’t made commitments to go fur-free until recently.

Ditching fur is a growing trend, with cities, retailers, and brands vowing to stop its use and sale. As the BBC explained,

[In 2017], luxury online behemoth Yoox Net-a-Porter, which sells to some of fur’s biggest consumers such as China, announced it was going fur-free – citing customer feedback. “Do you think using furs today is still modern?” Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri asked eager students at the London College of Fashion in October 2017. “I don’t think so. And that’s why we’re not doing it.” For an industry that prides itself on being buzzy and on-the-ball, Bizzarri’s statement was a death knell for real fur.

Why This Matters: According to PETA, there’s no such thing as “ethical fur.” However, if designers make a commitment to stop using fur but don’t actively talk about the need for the fashion industry as a whole to do the same, the impact will be limited. Stopping the use of fur and even leather needs to be championed by top designers in order for the industry to change. Additionally, the press, influencers, and celebrities who attend fashion shows need to also be educated on sustainable fashion, once avoiding animal cruelty becomes “a thing” it will stay a thing!

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