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Cows Skinned Alive for Leather - Is That Blood on Your Shoes?

Undoubtedly, animals have been incorporated within the fashion world in multiple aspects, where the inspiration of animals within fashion has drastically changed over the last century. From hunting animals specifically for their fur, to using animal-inspired prints within the clothing industry, to the emergence of veganism.

For many decades, animal fur was not only a fashion trend, but a statement of your social status within society. For instance, those who could afford mink coats were perceived as rich. While animal fur was popular, hunting animals for their fur was construed a hobby for those who were wealthy.

Although, the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004, a lot of restrictions were placed on the killing of animals, including the motivation to kill for their fur or skin. One restriction ventured is hare coursing, contrary to the offences section of the Act – Part 1(5). He whom participates, attends, facilitates, or permits hare coursing of his land are committing an offence under Part 1(5)(1) of the Hunting Act 2004. The implementation of such legislation has only contributed to the decline in real fur or skin being a big fashion statement.

However, one animal product that is ubiquitous, is leather. Whilst leather is a by-product, cows are not slaughtered specifically for their skin but for other uses such as meat, this material remains widely used by manufacturers. Its hardwearing authenticity remains unmatched within the clothing market. While competitors such as vegan leather are emerging, consumers continue to pay for the quality with real leather. Therefore, this animal-based product is yet to be replaced by a product that is perhaps more ethical but is just as hardwearing.

Consumers might be moving away from buying animal-based products, but this does not exclude animal-inspired products. Particularly in the 21st century, consumers are reluctant to purchase clothes that incorporate even the smallest amount of real fur. Brands such as Primark have been known to sell items like gloves lined with real fur – something that is only microscopically noticeable.

Clothing brands have introduced ‘faux fur’ which is a huge selling point. ‘Faux’ translates to ‘false’ fur to the lining and edge of parkas and teddy coats. Teddy coats are perhaps inspired by the mink coats that were once very popular, yet clothing brands are moving away from using such animal product. Having worked at Next for three years, I recognised that leopard printed design is widely popular among both women and girls of all ages. As a company, their sales of animal print designs increase after the July mid-season sale, as such designs dominate the fall season.

Additionally, there's an increase in leopard print designs in babywear; perhaps a trend that shall continue to be reaffirmed for at least the next generation. One might argue that not only does animal print dominate clothing, but homeware such as furniture throws, rugs and towels also take such inspiration!

Many movements have had a great impact on the fashion industry; and one example is veganism. Veganism refers to abstaining from using animal products, including food, clothing, and makeup. This broadens the target audience as consumers are reluctant to purchase real leather for ethical reasons, or perhaps are wanting to make more ethical choices.

Brands such as Stackers are also now manufacturing vegan leather backpacks. Personally, I have purchased a vegan leather backpack, and this product is just as good quality as my leather bags. However, I made the choice to invest in a vegan backpack because I am consciously making decisions that can better the environment. As a consumer, I cannot be alone in having this thought process. Knowing that cows are sometimes skinned alive for the manufacturing and production of leather is shocking enough to encourage people to buy more vegan products.

The position of animals has changed in the fashion industry. Animal prints remain stylish, where animals are used as inspiration rather than literally used in the making of clothing products. Consumers are beginning to have more of an understanding of where products come from and how they are made, and this actively influences the choices made.

The ethical implications and considerations of vegan leather are widely recognised by consumers. Especially for the younger generation, who know that if purchases are beneficial to the environment and are ethical, it's likely they might have other products that pique interest, and ultimately, they'll shop with them again – boosting their sales.


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