Chanel is the latest of high fashion houses to make the commitment of laying off fur and other exotic skins from their manufactured goods. It was officially announced on December 3, a day before Chanel’s Metiers d’Art fashion show in New York City. The news is a victory for animal rights groups who have long pressured the label, as well as many others, to resort to more sustainable and cruelty-free options for their products. With this development, the French maison joins the ranks of Gucci, Burberry, Versace, Giorgio Armani and Michael Kors who have all sworn off fur. Within this year, Californian cities Los Angeles and San Francisco have also approved the cease of sale and manufacture of fur, and London Fashion Week declared that the collections it will feature will no longer have the material.
The reason behind the decision is revealed to be practical as much as it is ethical. While Chanel does not depend significantly on fur for its sales, it still adheres to certain quality and ethical standards in sourcing its materials. A spokesperson has said that it is becoming harder to find fur and exotic skins that meet the maison’s criteria. “At Chanel, we are continually reviewing our supply chains to ensure they meet our expectations of integrity and traceability,” a spokesperson for the brand stated. Besides fur, the ban includes that of crocodile, snake, stingray and lizard skins. It will take its time ridding itself of garments that are already available on its boutiques.
Instead of putting its energy on less sustainable materials, the fashion house will be investing on the research and development of fabrics and textiles that will showcase the expert craftsmanship of Chanel’s artisans. According to Chanel’s President of Fashion Bruno Pavlovsky, “The future of high-end products will come from the know-how of what our atelier is able to do.” It has already succeeded in producing materials such as tweed-like fabrics that are made in more complicated ways and are therefore harder to imitate. There is a possibility of seeing these on future runways, although nothing has been confirmed as of now.
Karl Lagerfeld, who has functioned as Chanel’s creative director since the 1980s, was known for his work with fur, although it was not for the French brand. It was instead for Italian label Fendi which he still leads to this day. In fact, Lagerfeld is among the top fashion personalities responsible for making fur synonymous with luxury and glamour. But looking through Chanel’s history, the use of fur has been minimal; Lagerfeld himself stated that he does not remember working with it for the maison.
Animal rights groups such as PETA have long been pushing companies such as Chanel to resort to means that would not entail animal cruelty. This is now made easier by the developments in technology that make production of high quality faux fur, vegan leather and synthetic fabrics possible, as is the case with Chanel’s ateliers. With Chanel taking the fur-free and exotic skin-free direction, PETA hopes for the rest to follow. It has singled Louis Vuitton, another French maison, that still uses fur in its clothing and accessories.
Image credits: Chanel, Landon Nordeman for The New York Times, Getty Images, BG020/Bauer-Griffin/GC Image, Chris Waits