A cruelty-free closet

Antoinette Sinnas chooses the humantitarian path when it comes to fashion.

Make a conscious choice this Christmas, says Antoinette Sinnas, who has chosen the humantitarian path when it comes to fashion and is the voice of our furry friends.

My daughters and I generally watch How it’s Made on You Tube – a very interesting and detailed programme, which takes its viewers behind the scenes on how everyday items are manufactured.

Generally, each episode includes how two or three products are made, with a mix of general items such as bread and jams, paper clips and cellotape, or cereal and chocolate bars.

After watching numerous episodes spread over a few weeks, we began watching a video on how silk is manufactured. As it progressed, we were horrified and quickly stopped it halfway through. Without getting into any of the cruel details, the thought of how silk is made is now etched in our minds forever and we vow never to own anything silk ever again, unless it’s peace silk.

We all know that pure silk is a widely used fabric in the high-end fashion industry. Considered luxurious for its softness and lustre, this versatile fabric also has breathable qualities, making it fit for any season. But Peace Silk? What exactly is it? Well, it is a humane method of deriving silk reeled from empty cocoons, where the silkworms complete their metamorphosis into moths and escape the cocoon. Only then is it processed into silk fibres. Now, this method is not as quick as the traditional version and no one likes to keep the clock ticking, but at least, brands that want all their products to be cruelty-free have this option available.

The thought kept troubling me for days and what struck me then was: What about fur and leather? If silk could cause such pain to such tiny creatures as silkworms, who are not the cutest and cuddliest of all, what about larger animals that are killed for their hide?

Photo: Shutterstock.com

I delved deeper into the matter and read innumerable articles that made headlines regarding designers who decided to ban animal fur. To my surprise, it was not just one or two world-renowned designers, but many who have vowed to go cruelty-free and chosen the humanitarian path.

Donatella Versace is one of the latest high-end fashion designer to announce that her family’s brand will no longer produce products using real fur. She has done a fabulous job keeping the brand a symbol of success, which was started by her brother Gianni, who died 21 years ago. Her extravagant and luxurious designs, which have fur such as mink, raccoon and fox as a staple on the runway, have now turned towards a more compassionate collection. Days after Donatella’s astonishing revelation, popular Italian brand Furla also decided to eschew fur.

Mega fashion mogul, Michael Kors, decided to turn over a new leaf in autumn 2018, following the footsteps of Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele and several other high-end fashion houses in the fur-free movement. For notable labels like these to make such a huge change speaks volumes. Gucci’s decision was certainly surprising as the brand sells one of the most successful lines of shoes – the fur-lined loafers.

Other massive global brands, HUGO BOSS and Giorgio Armani, decided to abolish fur in 2016. Fashion magazine Vogue announced that Tommy Hilfiger and Vivienne Westwood phased out fur from their collections back in 2007, Ralph Lauren in 2006 and Calvin Klein way back in the 1990s.

DKNY and Donna Karen’s parent company announced that, this year, their brands would be going fur-free too, thanks to a long-standing relationship with Humane Society International’s American affiliate HSUS.

Stella McCartney the founder and pillar of her ethical fashion brand established in 2001 delivers the message across perfectly: “As a vegetarian brand, we never use leather, skin, fur, or feathers. By taking this stance, we are proving it is possible to create beautiful, luxurious products that are better for everyone – animals, people and the environment.”

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Her products are currently fur- and leather-free as she’s pushed her boundaries using breakthrough materials and synthetic alternatives. Since 2013, the brand has been using alter-nappa for its shoes and bags. Stella, the daughter of rock legend, Sir Paul McCartney, who is a staunch animal rights activist himself, has launched a non-profit campaign called Meat-Free Mondays.

All these brands are taking a massive leap in the fashion industry and moving in the right direction towards a more humane future. This means victory for our furry friends.

I applaud PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals], the largest animals rights organisation in the world, which has over 6.5 million members and supporters, along with the other animal rights organisations for this momentous move. Their relentless public appeals, campaigns, protests, demonstrations and numerous meetings with fashion houses have finally paid off for the ethical treatment of poor animals.

The infamous ongoing PETA campaign – I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur – where most professional models and celebrities bare it all, portrays that wearing fur is not a sign of prosperity. Kim Basinger was one of the first to pose nude before the lens for the emblematic photo shoot, followed by her daughter Ireland. Her proud parents, Kim and Alec Baldwin, are staunch PETA supporters and have also donated thousands to yet another animal rights organisation, PAWS.

The Basinger beauties trailblazed the way for other celebrities to strip down, and the world so far has gotten to view some steamy yet classy pictures of Eva Mendez, Khloé Kardashian, Pink, Christina Applegate, Olivia Munn, Joanne Krupa, Christy Turlington, Karina Smirnoff, Pamela Anderson and many more. Call it soft pornography; call it whatever you want; their billboards and magazine spreads have certainly got the message across.

PETA revealed that it has acquired a single share in the French luxury and leather goods brands conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in order to take up the effort and put pressure on Louis Vuitton to seize selling merchandise made from exotic skins, specifically targeted at their bags, belts, watchbands and shoes made from crocodile skin. It published an exposé video revealing how crocodile farms in Vietnam, which sell hide to the company, skin their reptiles alive. Knowing PETA, they will certainly develop new tactics to solicit ways for brands to become merciful to their reptile mates.

People need to start realising that buying goods derived from animals is a totally cruel move, and more often than not, involves hideously gruesome deaths. Seriously, does anyone want to be another Cruella de Vil, who was after those innocent 101 Dalmatian puppies for the simple desire to clad herself in a spotted fur coat?

When you sport fur, you need to realise that what you’re wearing is actually ripped off the backs of animals after spending their short miserable lives inside cramped metal cages, sometimes left with the carcasses of other animals, and then bludgeoned, electrocuted, drowned, strangled, or skinned alive.

I’m not saying we go back to living like Adam and Eve with handcrafted leafy garments. Fast forward to the 21st century! Technology has advanced at such a fast rate that the textile industry has the potential to create a vast range of innovative cruelty-free fabrics. I own a faux-fur shrug and it looks indistinguishable from the real thing; as stylish and functional. So, I don’t see the reason to exploit another life to spruce up my wardrobe, and we all need to take a stand for cruelty-free alternatives.

Models on the runway need not be swathed in fur to look glitzy; nor do celebrities have to strike a pose on the red carpet covered in mink. To me, it’s more grotesque than glamorous and the matter should not be elbowed aside. Designers don’t have to capitalise on the lives of innocent creatures.

Stomach-churning undercover footage released by PETA showed how angora wool is obtained from the angora rabbits. The video went viral and the world witnessed the gentle screams of these burrowing beauties, which changed the hearts of many, and over 300 companies have stopped the sale of angora wool.

According to PETA, Inditex, the massive Spanish parent company of major high-street brands such as Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius, Oysho, Bershka and Uterque, decided to stop the production of sweaters, cardigans and other garments made with angora wool and to donate their remaining stock to Syrian refugees stranded in frigid weather conditions through the charity Life for Relief and Development back in 2015.

Harper’s Bazaar gives us a wide list of brands and some of them include Esprit, Lacoste, ASOS, H&M, Forever 21, Banana Republic, Nine West, Jig Saw and Urban Outfitters, among the other high-street brands, who have banned the sale of fur.

Brands in Malta such as River Island, Monsoon, Zara, Topshop, New Look, Marks & Spencer, Ted Baker, Massimo Dutti and Bershka offer affordable faux apparel. These high-street fashion labels have stocked their shelves with a vast range of cruelty-free clothing.

So, go ahead and buy yourself a faux-leather tote bag, or an edgy faux-fur coat this Christmas, or perhaps a cosy, funnel-necked jumper for the chillier days. You would certainly be sporting a chic outfit with a clear conscience, that is morally acceptable and doesn’t conceal a dark secret.

Go ahead! Make a conscious choice. Be the voice they wish they had; make the choice they wish they could.

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