Monday, March 16, 2015

Letter from the Editor! | Für the Love of Fur...

Modeling premium (faux) fur-lined outerwear during the height of mid-2000s 'Casual Luxury',
A&F New Face Caitlin Wilber for A&F Chrismas 2005.   |   Image, Bruce Weber
         IF EVER THERE has been one sole representative of luxury, vanity, and status in the material culture of humans when it comes to wears (excluding jewelry), it has been animal fur. Affirming wealth and power, launching and fueling empires and fortunes, and even having played as a major catalyst in the development of the New World in the Northern Americas, fur has been a historic force in the story of human civilization (but then, so has slavery). In contemporary time, and now in a new millennium, it has become at odds in a collective hyper-globalized society where agents of reason/enlightenment and awareness for natural rights and the greater natural world push evermore strongly against the degradation of all life and the planet by malignant, cancerous human ignorance and greed. The issue with fur, while having been high ethical topic for years hitherto, now finds itself alarmingly frontstage like never before...

With the conclusion of this recent “fashion month” – what began with New York fashion week on February 11, through London and Milan fashion weeks, and finished off by the end of Paris fashion week on March 11 – for the Fall-Winter 2015/16 ready-to-wear womenswear collections, we were left with one thing very markedly clear: fur has exponentially shot up to now be at a never-before-witnessed high-and-wide level of usage in fashion by designers. The unprecedented use of fur, as what was displayed across the runways of the international fashion capitals, is only the culmination of a rise which really began throughout 2014: duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana made a real sumptuous use of fur for their medieval-inspired Fall-Winter 2014/15 ready-to-wear menswear presented in January and even highlighted it in a promotional film; Raf Simons prominently featured fur in his Dior Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2014/15 collection shown in July (there hadn’t really been any fur at all for Dior in years since 2011 when John Galliano left); flagship American Vogue, which generally features fur here-and-there within its pages anyway (thanks to Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour), then, reflecting the trend, went out of its way to make a greater-than-usual display of it in its September 2014 issue with fur-centric features “Playing it Cool” and “Call of the Wild” and also made prominent in Caroline Trentini’s “Belle Fleur” spread among others else in the pages; and our very own Abercrombie & Fitch made show it was right on the mark for the season (though with faux) with its Christmas 2014 assortment and Guy Aroch-lensed marketing campaign. By that winter fashion season of the year, fur became major unlike ever before (Mike had even commented to a Bloomberg Businessweek interviewer back in April that he was entertaining the idea of “faux-fur salons” instore Abercrombie & Fitch, “I so love that. Isn’t that cool?” although it never happened that far). With their presentations this past February-March for the upcoming Fall-Winter fashion season, designers across the industry have just unequivocally affirmed the trend internationally as the “in” element of fashion in the mid-2010s.

Top, Dolce & Gabbana FW2014/15 ready-to-wear (RTW) menswear
1st row, Dior Haute Couture FW2014/15 and Fendi FW2015/16 RTW
2nd row, Fendi FW2015/16 RTW and Dior FW2015/16 RTW
Final, clad faux fur-chic Amanda Norgaard, who's modeled for Karl Lagerfeld
(a designer who's also worked what he calls "fantasy" fur in his collections at Chanel),
for A&F Christmas 2014 and a look from abercrombie kids Christmas 2014.

To top it all off, and what really just did it as the final straw in heating the argument prominently to the forefront again, Karl Lagerfeld announced, after his ready-to-wear presentation for Fendi, that he will be premiering Fendi “Haute Fourrure (fur)” – on July 8 during Paris Haute Couture fashion week for Fall-Winter (unlike ready-to-wear which is presented months in advance, haute couture collections show right at the start of a fashion season) – as the debut haute couture collection for the Rome-based fashion house founded on fur craftsmanship. Haute couture is the ultimate display of creative work and luxury in fashion (and it’s really just a blackhole-for-profit showcase and marketing tool for the best a label's designer can create because, really, a rare few on the planet can afford the stratospheric prices)...and, considering it will become the collection with the highest use of fur ever in fashion, “a lot of animals were harmed in the making of this collection” should read a fine label. It’s really brow raising.

Commercially, the global fur industry is now estimated to account for an amount of about US$40+ billion (placing it at around the same size as the wifi industry). So is what the International Fur Federation reported last year, and its CEO, Mark Oaten, commented to the Telegraph upon reporting the finding, "It's easy to get caught up in the emotions the business can generate, but the truth is that the fur trade is an economic cornerstone in Europe and beyond." And now a year later with fur-use unprecedented, Karl commented during an interview to The New York Times:

"The problem with fur. … For me, as long as people eat meat and wear leather, I don’t get the message. It’s very easy to say no fur, no fur, no fur, but it’s an industry. Who will pay for all the unemployment of the people if you suppress the industry of the fur? The hunters in the north for the sable, they have no other job, there is nothing else to do. Those organizations who are much against it, they are not Bill Gates.[...] [But] I’m very sympathetic. I hate the idea of killing animals in a horrible way, but I think all that improved a lot. I think a butcher shop is even worse. It’s like visiting a murder. It’s horrible, no? So I prefer not to know it."

Alright. Well. I personally love my Kaiser. Since I began paying attention to his work in 2008, I've been admiring him for his work ethic and prolific creative prowess. And I'll always hold him in high regard, I always do. But I don't generally see eye-to-eye with him when it comes to some of particular aspects of his general philosophy on things. In regard to the matter at hand, for one, people make a living from the staggering global drug and human trafficking industry, too. "Who will pay for all the unemployment of the people?" Are we to also just justify everything of other questionable industries then (and to disregard the ill-fortunes which are beset on others involved apart from the people making a living profiting off at the expense (life and/or health) of the others)? The world evolves and people are to adapt. That is the principle way of life and that is how you survive and that is how we keep the world moving. And things we generally like to see go are those which are irrelevant and superfluous and unethical. I personally don't see how the fuck you can even make a living (and call it "descent") based on the expense of life while denigrating it with abhorrent violation of its inherent natural rights. These kind of "ways of life" / industries are archaic remnants of a primitive past and now, instead of out of natural necessity as was in the far-past, only kept buoyant by vanity and greed. Furthermore, the whole greater factory farming, animal industry is hilariously inherently unsustainable (in the amount of water, land, feed, and energy implemented and to not even mention the emissions into the atmosphere from the animal-and-product transportation) by the scale-in-size human civilization has now reached on Earth (and is projected to continue to grow) as global warming continues and with a rising population demanding ever more (billion head-count countries China and India are yet now only beginning to come into their own wealth and expanding middle class, so you can imagine the greater strain not even yet starting to take hold apart from the current resources and pricing issues we're seeing so far just now). The amount of feed, water, energy, etc., that goes into just a hand-palm size of beef, for example, you wouldn't imagine (it's well calculated there wouldn't even be any hunger on the planet if vegetarianism were a majority). And the fur industry is a part of this all. I think the people running and profiting off of animal-based work could find better ways to make a living and become a part of improving intelligently, innovatively the condition of the planet for all...and actually be unquestionably prideful of doing authentically positive, clean, honest work. Just a hunch.

Karl, furthermore, has a furry love-of-his-life: the famous Choupette (arguably the most spoiled non-human on the planet), his Birman cat. And I know he sure as hell would find it rather much displeasing to see his Choupette undergo what animals go through from birth to death being processed for product (I mean, even that, “from birth to death being processed for product,” how fucked up does that sound. It’s so unnatural and perverse). And he said it himself of what goes on, "I prefer not to know." And therein lays the Achilles heel to the entirety of his philosophy on the matter (and that of anyone else who holds a similar mindset). If you prefer not to know for yourself, if you prefer to remain ignorant, if you can’t look at the existential reality of what it is in the face and then still say it’s okay with no personal disturbance or qualms, then you've absolutely no sound ground on which to stand on to say the show must go on (“Your argument is invalid,” as an amusing well-established meme quip goes). As Paul McCartney (who's admirable daughter, designer Stella, has been the preeminent pioneer in abstaining from leather and fur on the runway) once strongly proclaimed, If slaughterhouses were made of glass walls, we'd all be vegetarians. I bet you sure as hell wouldn’t fancy a visit as much as savoring foie gras and sporting fur. Ignorance is the greatest malice, and I’m sure we can all agree on that. So take that it to mind.

I am not going to venture into a complex discourse on the matter of the greater animal industry and vegetarianism, nor the full detail of the personal impact opening my eyes to it all had on me and my outlook on everything (that’d be a book in itself), but all I will say is this: I found myself crying under a tree one late-September afternoon back in 2008, and that was the most profound moment in my life. That before and after moment in one’s life. I was profoundly upset: disturbed, sickened, and, above all, irrefutably angered. And something new began in me. By late-2009, I had come across a part in a biography of Buddha I was reading which resonated deeply with me in terms of what I had felt upon gaining awareness. The incidence is written out in a way here (where you can read the short portion in whole), though I will only share this one piece: "He felt the toil of the man who ploughed the field in the hot sun. He felt the struggle of the water buffalo chained to the plow. He felt the pain of the worms cut by the plow. It was heart wrenching to witness the worms, the insects, and the small bird losing their lives so abruptly. Siddhartha felt their fear, their pain, and the unpredictability of life itself." And then he proceeded to reflect under a tree. Go figure.

It was a hard process, but I was determined, all the while absorbing everything unbiased hard-fact based and backed about the industry since that fateful Fall 2008 afternoon. So, too, I absorbed all academic literature (a plethora of tomes and papers) I could find on the mechanics of life and existence, scientific and philosophical, and in a spectrum from antiquity to the present. I removed the lens of illusion from over my eyes and began seeing this whole world, everything and unfiltered, from the most sublime to the most abhorrent. I gained this awareness, a fine-tuned recognition and appreciation of diverse, complex organic sentience and a whole planetary interfused/connected system in ways you couldn’t possibly imagine. (I wasn’t kidding in that Mike Letter when I said a lot came into my life in my late-teens that completely reconstructed my self going into adulthood, and this is just the tip of the iceberg). It wasn't 'til finally late-May (or early-June) 2010 when I began my full strict-vegetarian diet for life. And I remember the last time I ever had a real piece of animal flesh: I had just been at Lenox Square mall in Atlanta after having bought a pair of gymshorts at A&F among other leisurely consumer excursions done at the mall that day. And you’ve no idea how it felt as it took hold. My new way of life, combined with my self-personalized research-composed strict plant-based diet and taking newfound pleasure in pure intense outdoor exercising and sport, transformed me charged, ever sharper, and confident in a way I had never felt ever before. 2010 was just a bomb-ass year for me, and I remember it so fondly: it established a new future with that and other personal ventures/plans (and at that time I could have been a freshman-turning-sophomore in college as were my peers, but there I was achieving incredible, invigorating things for myself no one my age was and laying down groundwork for my future in a plethora of ways with a greater scope of varied private work I set my mind to. My parents were proud of me. My friends were proud of me (and very inquisitive about everything). I couldn't have experienced and accomplished what I have hitherto - including the new outlook on life - with my multitudinous pursuits had I been in college from the get-go. The best years of my life so far. Although I well have been in it now (just more onto what's to get done, and I keep going at it all full-force).

Though while being strict-vegetarian for ethical, personal health, and environmental issues, my appreciation of leather craftsmanship - which actually began from RUEHL in 2007 and spiraled off - has been an internal conflict for me since. And my friends know that. I bring this up because I want to point out my flaws, a weakness, to have a relatable ground on which to reflect and to relate together with this issue with animal products. And I find it important to bring this up because it equates an appreciation for fur craftsmanship which fur aficionados have. Do I still harbor that appreciation for leather? Yes. Is it still conflicting? Hell yes. And it bothers the fuck out of me. It bothers the fuck out of me because I know better, yet I harbor a deep appreciation for the material and craftsmanship of it. It is beautiful when worked expertly. It’s an artisanal awe. (My utmost approach when it comes to fashion is a reverence for heritage and craftsmanship. I don't like nor wear anything from a label lacking both deeply layered, storied. For as much as I care about Abercrombie & Fitch, the only other labels I care for as so are Ralph Lauren, Chanel, and Dior. Storied history, heritage, craftsmanship. Craftsmanship. That's what I care for and pay attention to. I just like creating, building with utmost attention and detail; it's something instilled into me from my childhood. Architecture. With words, with- just material, for whatever field, worked in the attainment of utmost display of craftsmanship of what the human mind can realize). And when it comes to fur, since November, I’ve come to appreciate it, too, in the regard as leather. I’m not biased. I like to know each side of things and reflect upon. Animal fur as a fine-treated material and the expert craftsmanship of it is a fine artisanal work. And it is beautiful. It looks beautiful. But it all comes down to one thing: I could bring in facts from both sides of the argument, and it’s important, but that is already a hard-tried approach to getting people to make up an aware personal consensus; instead, after it all, it’s about implementing high-reason gifted to you as human – to bring your level of consciousness onto a higher plane to recognize natural rights inherent to sentient life beyond that which is hitherto stonewalled to the human condition; to have a continuation and expansion of awareness begun in the enlightenment movement of the 18th century – to recognize complex sentient life for what it is and to come to terms with the unnatural, degrading system superimposed onto these animals by human ignorance, greed, and vanity. We are the only species on the planet which kills for sport, profit, and indulgence instead of only natural necessity, taking no more than needed, and utilizing all of what has been taken for authentic practical necessity for survival. And I sure as hell believe no animal went through abhorrent, unnatural, unnecessary state of living, pain and death before human ascendancy took hold upon the planet. We’re no better than any other life out there: we all are an equally crucial piece in the puzzle. Yeah, we’re of the highest development of biologically-fostered intelligence on the planet, but that doesn’t give us any right – literally, we have none – to make of everything else on it as we will merely because of the ability to dominate: use that head of yours to continue progressively evolving in the pursuit of enhancing your life in balance, and, in effect maintaining the natural clarity of the entire planet, by being conscious, aware, a true human being.

It brought me great happiness from the heart when I got down to journalist Annabel Fenwick Elliott's inclusion of Abercrombie & Fitch (as being among the big names in the fashion industry to not use animal coats in their product assortment) in her very well-written, concise, hard-hitting article for the Daily Mail on the matter of fur (published right before the end of Paris fashion week; you need to read it yourself). A&F has used authentic shearling (though only minutely on only a single detailed product like the leather jacket my friend Dom in England shared back when he was contributor on The Sitch on Fitch) in the past, though we haven’t seen that recently. Abercrombie & Fitch is furthermore, indeed, not exactly vegan, however, as it still uses leather, wool, cashmere, etc., but the fact that it abstains from a full mass incorporation of animal coats – during the Christmas 2014 season, it even went out of its way to make sure fans, who were posting questions and remarks, were assured on social media (i.e. Instagram, @abercrombie) that it does not use real animal coats; regardless that it may not because it’s not a high-fashion luxury brand (Ralph Lauren, of which’s Polo flagship label is at around the same level of value as the A&F brand, refrains from animal coats even in its luxury Ralph Lauren Collection runway line) – places it on a good side with progress.

Prominent use of faux fur in premium A&F outerwear in marketing includes the header image for this post of A&F New Face Caitlin Wilber for A&F Christmas 2005 (my favorite campaign of all time and back when I was first getting directly acquainted with A&F), as well this leading image of Mark Carroll for A&F Christmas 2006 - a campaign I remember too fondly as having been on during my full-on fueled first shopping excursions at Abercrombie & Fitch during the mid-2000s Casual Luxury years, and my sister Anna famously in the family had a crush on him! - by our icon Bruce Weber...

Fur looks aesthetically stylish (I'll give people that), and I think the major trend looks great and is spurring all-new further creativity/works, from a style-aesthetic perspective, with the material mainstreaming and more finely developed creatively. But I just think people place the trend before the ethics and conditions attached (or just entirely do not even think of the latter as much, if at all). I just personally would not be okay with wearing the coat of an animal killed simply for it for vanity. And if you feel the same, don’t follow it. You don’t need to. It’s just a vain pleasure. And if you do want to get in on the fur trend, there are also respectable recognized labels – our Abercrombie & Fitch, which is the only one which concerns us, realizes amazing (faux) fur pieces always – which forgo animal coats (and cutting themselves off from all attached to that industry) and make admirable use of finely-worked faux furs that can even give one the pleasure of the vanity without having contributed to death (death is death, traumatizing, and it’s not a something any living sentient being takes positively to – if it’s not naturally necessary, it doesn’t need to be – and surely not something you want on your back for however nice it may be guised). And I should also note that even Karl has worked what he's called "fantasy" fur into his creations as creative director at Chanel (most noted for his Chanel Fall-Winter 2010/11 ready-to-wear which necessitated a lot of it); he hardly uses fur at Chanel anyway, and his work with animal coats is mainly tied to being creative director at fur-centric Fendi. Faux fur is not renewable material, but I’d rather ditch the real thing and all that comes with it and sponsor the need to develop advanced, clean alternatives against an industry involving 24/7 fear-during-being-“processed” and bloodspills.

I continue be resolute in fully affirming my priorities involved, and, as I near five years – a great half-a-decade – of going on to fulfilling and making a difference, what a better way to kick off the next five years, and complete a full decade, than beaming with personal triumph and contentment helping progress on.


The Sitch on Fitch Co.