Anti-fur protests set to fly as activists target London fashion week | Fashion

Animal rights campaigners plan largest demonstrations in decade as designers move away from fur

anti fur protests set to fly as activists target london fashion week fashion - Anti-fur protests set to fly as activists target London fashion week | Fashion






A group of topless anti-fur protesters demonstrate outside Store Studios at the start of London fashion week.
Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Boosted by the vogue for veganism, animal rights activists plan to target London fashion week this weekend with the largest fur protests seen at the event in a decade. Ed Winters, the co-director of Surge, which orchestrated anti-fur demonstrations that attractedmore than 250 people in September, a rise from 120 the previous catwalk season and 25 in September 2016, said “we expect those numbers to continually rise” .

There is, however, unlikely to be much fur on the catwalks. Over 90% of designers taking part in LFW have confirmed to the British Fashion Council (BFC) that they will not be using fur. But research by the University of Copenhagen reports retail sales of fur in the UK in 2016 were £162m, up 350% from 2011, as inexpensive real fur has become commonplace in fast fashion.

“Fur has crept into the mainstream,” Winters said. “The reality is parkas with real fur trim are sold on market stalls. But we target London fashion week to raise awareness, and because designer fashion has a huge impact on what is desirable.”

Gucci, Giorgio Armani and Michael Kors have made high-profile moves to a fur-free policy in the last two years, but the BFC “does not intervene in the creative process … does not dictate the materials designers should use”, says its chief executive, Caroline Rush. “That said, we believe in the rights of humans and animals and would encourage any designer who is using the platform of London fashion week to make ethical choices.”

An analysis of social media did not rate it as a hot topic for most of the LFW audience. In the week leading up to Friday’s launch, analysis of social media metrics by Meltwater consultants found fewer than 200 mentions for fur in fashion week posts, compared with more than 1,000 for Burberry’s LGBT-focused “rainbow” check and 4,893 retweets for a post about a surgeon wearing heels during surgery.

Kors, who featured only fake fur on his New York catwalk this week, linked his move to “the casualisation of fashion. On the Upper East Side women are in gym clothes now. Who’s going to wear a big old-fashioned fur?”

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The model Adwoa Aboah speaks about the issue of models’ rights at the start of London fashion week. Photograph: Jeff Spicer/BFC/Getty Images

Tom Ford, whose colourful fox furs were once a trademark look, has used only fur that is a byproduct of food since becoming vegan but said recently that he was “torn because fake fur is highly toxic, it’s terrible for the environment”.

The issue of models’ rights, highlighted by recent sexual harassment allegations against photographers, was raised by the model and activist Adwoa Aboah at the catwalk launch, who said: “Fear has run rampant in our community, and has put too many young women and men at risk.” Private changing rooms are being installed to protect models’ dignity.

Meanwhile London, currently the second most diverse fashion week, aims to overtake New York for the title this season. Last season 31.7% of models at LFW were non-white, compared with 36.9% at New York fashion week. “We would like to bring that figure closer to reflecting London’s population at 40%,” said Aboah.

The first powerhouse brand to show was Mulberry, rejoining the schedule after last season’s absence with a more consumer-focused event. Of 498 seats at yesterday’s show, 170 were reserved for the brand’s best customers. Skipping a season at LFW had “no impact at all” on the bottom line, said the chief executive, Thierry Andretta, but the designer Johnny Coca said he still valued “seeing the reaction of an audience in real time” at a catwalk show.

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Alison Goldfrapp sings as models circle the catwalk at Mulberry’s London fashion week show. Photograph: WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

A performance by Goldfrapp in a marquee at Spencer House in St James’, surrounded by models in picture hats, played on the quintessentially English “garden party traditions” such as “tea in fine bone china” on which the Mulberry brand trades all over the world.

“The way we communicate now is immediate,” said Anya Hindmarch on Friday of her decision to terminate catwalk shows six months ahead in favour of consumer-focused events. Her brand will be represented at LFW by giant heart-shaped helium balloons.

“The original idea, which I had after terrorist attacks on this city, was to tie a balloon to every bridge,” said Hindmarch. That proved untenable – each bridge has a different owner – but the concept of a “love letter to London” as a visual installation in lieu of a fashion show has brought 29 “chubby hearts” to city landmarks.