• Zoe Huang

Reflecting on the Use of Animals in Fashion



"I'm just not that into it... plus it's not an ethical option either." A friend responded when asked about her interest in animal fashion.


Animals influence on fashion has always been and remains a big debate in the fashion industry. Along with the prestige of wearing fur, often comes the questions about ethical values, sustainable options and alternatives. From a necessity of survival to showing social class worn by royalty in history, animal fashion has sustained its importance in fashion trends. However, how has this changed the way animal fashion is viewed against the need to be conscious and ethical consumers?


Significance, Status and Steady


The origins of using animals for clothing came from a background of showing power and status. It has been built from the battlefield with beasts. Raw cavemen style. Survival of the fittest. So, this concept developed over time and animals were used as a representation of the royal authority in the Medieval Ages. For example, Ermine fur, costing $30,000 - $60,000, was significant in the art and presentation of the royal family. Its symbolism for royal moral purity gently caped over the shoulders of the most important.


The movement became even bigger during the 1960s when the fashion industry was marketed towards a new, youth market. This has led to the diversification of fashion products, hence it became the new age of wearing fur and animal prints as a mainstream fashion.


"You are what you consume". This presents the construct of relating identities with materialistic possession. However, it has developed into an ideology that you emerge into the character of the creature you wear. The aura of confidence and sophistication. Hence, the fashion business further markets this image when wearing fur. Therefore, it has further risen as a statement piece and an essential part of the wardrobe.


Fashion encourages confidence as the main part of self-identity. This has no wrong. However, killing more than 50 million animals just for the new collection of coats just does not seem to the right way to do so. People dressing in the garments are no different to people in the making of the garments, as portrayed by the infamous Disney character of Cruella de Vil.


Ego and self-satisfaction play a huge role in the maintaining trend of animal fashion. When people are removed from the advertised facade of fur coats and leather boots, the reality of slaughter can be seen. As the awareness for this issue expanded, this gladly comes the downfall of this era.


Rise in Alternatives


Although ethical values are still a second thought after design and personal liking, the fashion industry has also started to contribute more towards a healthier, ethical and sustainable movement. Doing more to impact the environment and preserve biodiversity prominently. Some luxury brands such as Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Versace have used fur in the past. However, is now slowly switching to an animal cruelty-free process and alternative. Other brands such as Stella McCartney, Kate Spade and Lacoste has concentrated on creating ethical garments. Helping consumers to make a conscious choice when buying.

“Fur is the most unnecessary thing in the world...Those animals are bred to be turned into coats.” Stella McCartney

In recent years, the vegan business industry has been going strong, satisfying the welfare of animals, the environment and people. A small niche to mass demand following the shift of focus. It proves that one's change in mindset can make all the difference.


More vegan fashion brands have been establishing over the years. The market has grown to $396.3 billion in 2019, with an exponential growth expected in the coming years. Within the UK, there has been a 41% decline in women's fur import. Therefore, change is slowly but surely being made. Animal skin and fur have become something of the past. The 21st century welcomes a new fashion era.


Reflection and Change

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarian.” Paul McCartney

Animal fashion has appeared in the most significant eras, hence added to its value as a trend, carrying its importance throughout history. In its phases, it has taught people empowerment and using clothing as a symbolic show to present an individual's aura. However, with the social values turning to the climate crisis and environmental protection, the use of animal for clothing has decreased. Yet, the ethical and social lessons it has taught remains. Enabling a change in lifestyle for the better and educating people on their power as conscious consumers. A completely new perspective is given to ways of approaching materials and the process of clothes in the making.