The impact of fashion on animals and the environment
Event Recap of Fashion & Animals: Ethical Fashion and Environmentalism, 4/10/18
“Everywhere that I looked in fashion media… there was a presence of animals.”
This was the revelation that led Joshua Katcher (Founder & Creative Director, Brave Gentleman; Founder & Editor, TheDiscerningBrute.com; Instructor of Fashion, Parsons The New School) to look deeply at the relationship between animals and fashion.
Author of the forthcoming Fashion Animals, Katcher was overwhelmed by how abusive the fashion industry has been to animals. “I didn’t expect to find the things I found,” he said, just before showing various images, primarily advertisements, that represented this juxtaposition of animals with fashion.
On April 10th, Katcher presented these materials as part of his talk about the history and future of animal rights and the fashion industry. From fur coats to feather hats, Katcher shared statistics and examples that exposed the lesser-known connections between animals and clothes, including the story of a bird being driven to extinction because the demand for its feathers significantly rose after a celebrity was pictured wearing one on a hat.
Katcher also questioned how we can easily turn blind to these associations. Our aesthetic rationality, as he called it, somehow justifies our purchase of animal-based materials:
Ethical correctness rarely overcomes the perceived correctness of aesthetic beauty. Because something is pretty, we see it as a good. When something is ugly, we see it as a bad… And that’s aesthetically irrational.
This misalignment between personal morals and actual behaviors was a similar theme of how Kym Canter (CEO and Creative Director, House of Fluff) started her work in faux-furs. “It’s pretty easy now to look chic and not harm a fellow being,” Canter said, alluding to how advanced technology has allowed us to find more sustainable and cruelty-free ways to create clothing materials.
After a brief discussion, Canter and Katcher responded to the audience, with questions ranging from the role of consumerism and capitalism to advice and resources for new designers. Listen to the full talk and discussion below: