I am sure most of you have seen the news by now; proclaimed animal activist (and all-round icon) Stella McCartney unveiled her ‘skin-free-skin’ at the recent Paris Fashion Week. Her catwalk consisted primarily of luxuriously minimalist nude and tan outfits, which drew focus to the aesthetics of the materials being used.

This ‘skin-free skin’ consists of technical fabrics, which utilise the latest technology to create very realistic, animal friendly replications of a variety of animal-based materials and textures. In this collection alone we saw alternatives to leather trousers, suede jackets, nappa handbags and trainers splashed with super chic micro-suede. Looking at the clothing on display, it’s hard to argue they’re anything but stunning, beautifully shaped and very innovative.

McCartney has only ever used non-animal products in her designs, and so her lack of experience with these textures has allowed for her to piece together very unique outfits. It’s very exciting, and hopefully this creativity starts a surge of new, ethical designs across the fashion industry. After the show, Stella took time to explain how she hoped the collection would challenge the prevalence of animal abuse and cruelty in the fashion industry. Previously, she says that imitation skins have not been as suitable to luxury retail as real skins have, which is why she simply avoided leather and suede looks all together.

This is a valid enough point, though it has to be acknowledged that animal skins are only ‘suitable’ due to aesthetic and habit, and that in terms of practicality, they’re actually far less suitable to wear than most ethical materials are. Surely though, McCartney has now cemented the argument that using animal skins in clothing is just cruel, and carries no real benefits?

Whilst brands like Stella McCartney’s are revolutionary, and pave the way for other companies to abandon these cruel methods, there is still an absurd amount of cruelty that is actually being promoted in fashion.

There isn’t information on product care as-of-yet but I think it’s valid to assume skin-free-fabrics will be more durable than most, as they are tailored for clothing purposes. Practicalities aside, however, we need to consider just how massive this news is for the fashion and animal welfare worlds, by looking into the practices that can (from herein) be proven as unnecessary ways of sourcing fabrics.

Leather is made from many animals, with the list including cows, pigs, goats, sheep, alligators, ostriches, kangaroos, and even dogs and cats, in China. Whilst the latter few might sound to most of us as a bit more barbaric than the ‘typical’ farm animals (which we are all sadly accustomed to seeing treated this way), the fact is that china exports their leather skins around the world. So, if you own a leather garment that has been made with leather from regions such as China, you might never really know which animal it came from.

Snakeskin is another popular fabric. To get this, snakes are commonly nailed to trees and cut open from one end to the other. They do this with the snake alive, as it’s said that live flaying keeps the skins supple. If that wasn’t graphic enough, it is essential to point out that snakes have a very slow metabolism, and can therefore take hours for to die in this way.

Whilst brands like Stella McCartney’s are revolutionary, and pave the way for other companies to abandon these cruel methods, there is still an absurd amount of cruelty that is actually being promoted in fashion. Canada Goose are a brand who have are infamously in the limelight for bragging that their Coyote fur trimming is sourced by using traps.

Fortunately though, a larger number of brands are embracing compassionate fashion, and even Doc Martens have a vegan collection despite a heritage solely based in leather. Organisations including the PETA are also playing a more vital role than ever in stopping animal cruelty. They recently announced that they intend to buy shares in Canada Goose, in order to take their ‘fight for animals straight to the boardroom’.

Sure, there will always be a black market for real skin, but the more compassionately we shop, and the more people like Stella, who can bring non-cruelty and sustainability to the heights of fashion, the more chance we stand of combatting these environmental issues.

You can read on more of Stella McCartney’s sustainability projects here.

Rhys Thomas

Image Credit – Andy Roberts via Flickr – license

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