Polarising opinions, and causing rifts in the fashion world, fur has never been a shrinking violet when it comes to making headlines. Seen as a symbol of status, wealth, and power, it is guaranteed to make an appearance every season.
However, with the trend of ethical resourcing and sustainability at the forefront of consumers minds, many high fashion brands are now moving onto a more palatable means of luxury.
Since Alessandro Michele took on the role of creative director at Gucci in 2015, he has overhauled their identity and breathed new life into its once fading image. A constant innovator, he never misses an opportunity to take risks with his bright, lavish designs that take you down the rabbit hole, into a land where freedom comes first, and monochrome comes last. His decadent, vintage style has endowed the Italian powerhouse, with a 51% increase in revenue for this year’s first quarter: the highest in 20 years.
Clearly the man is doing something that both chief executive Marco Bizzari and the consumer can get on board with.
So, it is no surprise that Michele has taken the brave step to ban the use of fur within Gucci. Now I say brave, not because I back the use of fur, but having followed haute couture and high fashion for many years now, but because I understand the weight that this decision carries.
The action will take effect from their Spring Summer 2018 collection, and they have also joined the Fur Free Alliance – a project working to stop the unnecessary killing and exploitation of animals in the name of fashion.
Gucci are by no means the first to go fur free; with Calvin Klein ducking out as early as 1994, followed by Ralph Lauren in 2006, and Tommy Hilfiger in 2007.
Ultimately this proves once again the influence the consumer can have on the way a brand operates. Today, as a mass audience, we are much more aggressive in expressing what we expect from a brand, in terms of both product and practice. ‘Modernity and fashion go hand in hand’ and according to Michele and Bizzari, fur is just not modern anymore.
As previously mentioned, the modern consumers purchase decisions are being motivated by the sustainability and ethical practices of a brand. Millennials in particular are the driving force behind this trend, and coincidently make up over half of Gucci’s consumer base.
With an air of distrust always seeming to loom around the retail environment, can we believe that the ban was motivated by their own beliefs, or by that of the buyer? And if so, would that be so wrong?
Businesses are here to make revenue and subsequent profit, so why should we be concerned if it was a selfish, or selfless act?
The left side of my brain believes we should not pass judgement on the process of gaining profits and success. The right side of my brain, that for the moment is wearing its cynical hat, wants to call it all fake news, and demand refunds on my emotional expenditure.
My natural distrust of good Samaritan deeds, especially when it comes to the retail market, is ruling over the obvious benefits of this move by Gucci.
We as a people should celebrate the simmering change coursing through the fashion industry, which has historically been a black-hole of unethical practice going unnoticed. Success! The plight of the righteous and the true has been heard, a small step with a huge footprint, bound to blaze the trail for further positive change!…
But, a mere two weeks after The Business of Fashion’s Gucci article was published, this spanner was thrown into the optimistic works that was my brain. This question was posed by the same publisher, “Will Millennials Boost The Fur Trade?”. The fashion industry is fickle, and no one should be surprised by this. Having so many creatives in one place makes for a lot of loud opinions, with trends popping up so fast you’ll suffer from chronic whiplash.
Any one thing can be viewed in six different ways. This makes the world an interesting place to be, it creates conversation which sparks innovation and starts the creative chain all over again.
But when does it stop being new, and start being the same old talk, dusted off and dressed up as the new cause of the people? The frustration is the timing of these two articles. The quiet thought in the back of your mind spouts a defiant chant of the futility of all these efforts towards a brighter future.
Any voice, whether it be loud or small, heard by the many or the few, in an industry as temperamental as this, are as effective as pissing in the wind. That it will be contradicted as soon as it is proclaimed.
Gucci, I thank you for your move in the right direction. But there is a part of me growing ever larger, that believes we cannot get everyone to see sense, rather than style.
By Maggie Stewart