Conservation and Trapping Science

Kering banned fur
Sep 26, 2021 16:32 ET
Original: Kering banned fur

[Reprinted from original]

In a significant industry decision, Kering, parent of luxury brands including Gucci, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta, has announced that none of its fashion houses will use animal fur by this time next year.

“Stopping the use of fur is another step forward in our commitment to animal welfare, and is in line with our commitment to sustainability,” says Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering’s chief sustainability and institutional affairs officer, who added the decision is an ethical one that reflects a larger shift in fashion, and trends in luxury in particular. “Modern luxury is also ethical luxury. You have savoir faire, heritage, design, quality of products, [efforts to] protect the planet, protect people — you can put an umbrella with ethical production, too.”

Kering’s company-wide ban on fur is the latest in a string of announcements by fashion companies banning fur, an increasingly controversial material because of concerns, chiefly, about cruelty to the animals involved in its production. Mytheresa announced a fur ban last month; last week, Oscar de la Renta made a fur-free pledge when Billie Eilish made it a condition of her wearing the designer label at the Met Gala. Brands and retailers that pledged to avoid fur over a decade ago include Selfridges, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, while the list of more recent commitments has been growing steadily, including from Neiman Marcus, Net-a-Porter, Burberry, Coach, Michael Kors, Miu Miu and Canada Goose.

Some Kering brands have already phased out fur, Gucci being the first to do so publicly in 2017 — and Daveu says others have avoided fur for years, but chose not to issue an announcement about the decision — but the decision to eliminate the use of the material, once the ultimate status symbol in fashion, at the group level is surely a move the industry will pay attention to.

“Gucci really jump-started the latest wave of brands going fur-free. I think an announcement like this further signifies that modern fashion wants nothing to do with fur and the risks associated with that trade,” says PJ Smith, fashion policy director at the Humane Society of the United States. “I think it’s a message to other companies, mainly LVMH, to choose compassion and innovation over really an outdated view of what luxury is.” (LVMH did not respond to a request for comment before time of publication.)



The announcement is a rare move for Kering, which tends not to issue directives or specific policies across brands. Instead, the luxury conglomerate, which is widely regarded as an industry leader on sustainability, sets high-level environmental and social standards and leaves it up to individual brands to determine how to meet them. "Making a corporate-wide decision is a very good and smart move,” says luxury retail consultant Robert Burke. "It’s in keeping with what’s happening in the industry in general. It is certainly something that the consumer's responding to. We're not seeing any opposition to it.”

It’s unclear whether the fur-free decision will set a new precedent for other company-wide mandates around sustainability; Daveu insinuated it won’t, explaining that today’s decision is more straightforward than most efforts relating to environmental and social issues.

“Fur is quite a binary topic. You use it or you don’t use it,” she says. Other areas of sustainability, such as reducing carbon emissions or biodiversity impacts, require more tailored solutions from individual brands — one may adjust how it sources cotton or wool, or what it uses for dyeing and finishing, for example, while a jewellery brand needs to focus on metals and gemstones. “You have to pick where it’s more complex depending on which kind of production. But we have the Kering standards for raw materials [and] all the brands have to follow and implement them,” says Daveu.

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Practically, because most of Kering’s brands have moved or committed to move away from fur, the announcement will really only impact Saint Laurent and Brioni. Neither brand resisted the move, says Daveu, but the decision did involve a lot of dialogue, explaining that Kering’s approach to sustainability is that it cannot be a constraint on creativity and should instead be a source for advancing it. “Like other topics linked with sustainability, you need to have a conversation with the brands, with the designers, to be sure it will be a collective decision. And to be sure that after, you have no turning back.”

The announcement comes at a time when pressure to stop using fur is growing not just because of increased customer awareness and demand for ethical practices, but also because of the health risks associated with its production. Fur farms were confirmed sources of Covid-19 spread among animals, and from animals to humans. Daveu says the concerns generated by Covid-19 played into conversations leading up to the Kering announcement, and while there was no direct correlation, she said it did reinforce the decision.

Asked whether there are any plans to phase out the use of exotic skins — which have started to accompany fur in the bans that fashion brands are pledging — Daveu deferred to the group’s standards for animal welfare in leather production generally, and to its push for innovative materials for the future.

“I have a feeling that in the following years, you will have a kind of revolution in these topics,” she says. “I’m sure that under the great pressure of [Kering chairman and CEO] François Pinault, we will continue to work in this way.”

Smith sees exotic skins as the next step in a larger shift, driven by consumers, towards more ethical practices. “I think that is the next step for many companies, for many of the reasons for moving away from fur,” he says.

For now, the signal that Kering is sending on fur is a significant one, and a reflection on what consumers are demanding. “In general, five or 10 years ago, brands never wanted to alienate even a small percentage of their customers. Now, this generation wants them to stand out, wants them to take a hard line.”

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That holds true In China as well, says Pei Su, CEO and co-founder of animal welfare nonprofit Act Asia, which has conducted research on both the production of fur in China and consumer surveys in the country, a crucial market for fashion’s global growth but where some brands have worried about alienating customers. “Awareness is not as high as in the West. But in our survey, when we say, ‘Do you know that fur production has done this and that,’ and [ask], ‘Would you buy fur again?’, over 70 per cent say no, they wouldn’t,” she says. “This is a very new concept for the Chinese consumer. But with Gen Z, they’re more aware of sustainability. They want sustainable products. That shows how we have shifted.” It can also be a teachable moment for the industry in China, says Su. “For lots of Chinese fashion retailers or brands, sustainability is very new to them. Sustainability is not only marketing jargon, it has to be accountable,” she says. “That comes back to why the Kering announcement is so important.”

Daveu says it’s a reflection not just of a consumer shift, but an internal shift as well. “The young generation of designers, they don’t want to [use] fur. They want to be responsible, ethical and eco friendly,” she says. “It’s modern luxury. It’s a really great step in our journey.”