Karl Lagerfeld has had a go at pointing out this wardrobe hypocrisy: “In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags, the discussion of fur is childish,” he opined. But then he also thinks social security is being drained by “fat” people and wants to marry his cat.
Delve into the supply chains of both industries, and you’ll find much to get upset about, including Peta videos showing the barbarism inflicted on some animals. Even if these are examples of bad ranches and slaughterhouses contravening codes of conduct, they should inform our view. Both industries are also linked with pollution. China has brought in its first anti-water pollution standards directed at leather and fur production. Authorities want to avoid the fate of the Buriganga river, which runs through the leather-production zone of Hazaribagh, Bangladesh, and has been declared “ecologically dead”. The Blacksmith Institute placed Hazaribagh on its list of Top 10 Toxic Places, along with Chernobyl. Thank you, leather. Meanwhile the production of fur creates more greenhouse gases and water and air pollution than any other textile.
Which is worse? If this were the Ethical Olympics, leather would win on a technicality, being a byproduct of the meat industry. In the minds of many, this makes it OK.
Perhaps because we sanction most leathers, we haven’t come up with a convincing alternative: pleather jostles for space with less impactful versions of real leather, like e-leather (made from scraps), Lite leather (which uses less energy to produce) and even vegetable-tanned leather.
Fur is either real or it’s faux fur, which is sometimes called eco fur – a bit rich considering it’s made from modacrylic and is therefore derived from oil and synthetic chemicals and will not biodegrade. The fur industry takes great delight in trying to out-ethicise faux fur on this basis. But faux fur doesn’t require the caging, farming or slaughter of furry animals and has made some technical leaps recently: no longer so prone to shedding strands of nylon, it’s notably glossier (but still not green).
Stella McCartney showcased “fur-free fur” recently. It’s the first time she’s used faux fur, previously reasoning that she didn’t want to stoke an appetite for the real thing. So it might be fashion itself that finishes off real fur – and that’s got to be a positive step.
Laura Tenison, who founded baby-store empire JoJo Maman Bébé, wants to encourage people to buy less and buy better, she says: ‘So that clothes can be given to friends, family and those in need rather than contribute to the shocking levels of landfill. We need to make hand-me-downs the norm again.’ She’s set up a scheme with environmental charity Hubbub.org.uk, which calculates that the average cost of clothing a child growing up is £11,000. So, before 30 April, get a form at JoJo Maman Bébé stores to donate outgrown clothes – and get an in-store voucher in return. Your garments will be gift-wrapped and distributed through Barnardo’s to families in need on Mother’s Day as a ‘From a Mother to Another’ gift (community.jojomamanbebe.co.uk/from-a-mother-to-another).
Greenspeak: solar surge
A term to describe the good news that solar power generation almost doubled in the UK during 2014. There’s now enough capacity to supply the equivalent of 1.5m homes.
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