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Fashion finally goes fur-free: What else should it do beyond making the world beautiful?

Fashion finally goes fur-free: What else should it do beyond making the world beautiful?

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Text: Jolene Khor


One by one, fashion houses are denouncing fur much to the delight of animal rights groups. Still, it's a long road towards a truly cruelty-free industry

Versace, Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Michael Kors. Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. Ralph Lauren. Armani. Furla. In the last six months, the aforementioned labels have pledged to go fur-free, with Versace being the latest major house to reconsider its animal instincts; about which, Donatella Versace released in a statement saying, "Fur? I am out of that. I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion."

While we join PETA in rejoicing the latest positive development in the often-problematic world of fashion, the industry is light years from the wonderland glossy magazine pages attempt to portray it to be. Shedding light to the issues that have made headlines but not necessarily headways in equal measure, we round up the social, environmental and legislative muddles worthy of the good fight.

Garment workers sewing in a factory in Bangladesh, the second largest apparel exporter in the world after China.

1. Paying garment workers a fair and living wage
It seems almost impossible that the concept of a sweatshop is a thing in 2018, but reality hasn't changed very much for garment workers in developing nations such as Bangladesh and Cambodia in the last few decades. Compliance on unenforced foreign governmental standards — especially in countries where human rights violation runs rampant — isn't enough; fashion conglomerates need to be more proactive in shaping healthy economies and lives of the people they employ, even those half a world away. Understand the trials of living wages and labour rights here.

2. Using (more) organic fabrics
Fashion is the second largest polluter in the world, just behind oil. Part of the problem, besides the millions of tonnes of clothing it sends to landfills per year, is the cocktails of chemicals it relies on to feed the fast fashion cycle. Regular cotton production alone accounts for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use. The high-intensity agriculture of cotton, responsible for about nine out of 10 of men's clothing and six out of 10 of women's clothing, not only permanently pollutes air, water and soil in farmlands, it causes major and irreversible health effects on farming families. In contrast, organic cotton farming uses 70% less water and zero toxic chemicals and Genetically Modified Organisms. Learn more about it here

Graffiti artists Revok and Toomer work on a mural in promotion of action film 'Fast and Furious 4' in 2009.

3. Respecting copyright infringements, even if laws don't 
Let the recent H&M debacle be a lesson learnt for high street and luxury names. For those out of the loop, the Swedish giant was caught in a firestorm when it filed a lawsuit in response to a cease and desist letter sent by street artist, Jason "Revok" Williams, who did not authorise H&M's use of his graffiti in its latest promotional campaign. The public came to Williams' defence, calling H&M's move advantageous and corporate bullying, as the legality of graffiti is in itself, in limbo. Moschino, Coach, and American Eagle Outfitters Inc. among others have too been the subject of this predicament in the past. Our take? It's only courteous to ask permission and give credit where credit is due. Better yet, brands should support the arts whenever they can by commissioning works unique to their branding.

4. Striving for authenticity
Plagiarism is the biggest crime one can commit in journalism. Correction: plagiarism is the biggest crime one can commit in any creative field. Fashion is no exception to this rule. While some argued that the Singapore brand Honeycombers called out for pushing the boundaries of creative license during Singapore Fashion Week 2017 will hardly test the business of the high fashion label it ripped off, copying is copying. It's a beautiful thing when art inspires itself many times over to create a domino effect laymen identify as 'trends', but there is a subtle but crucial difference in design derivation (even dilution) and a Command+C, Command+V action. The perimeter that separates both is called artistic integrity.

Ashley Graham walking the Prabal Gurung FW18 show.

5. Promoting inclusion and realistic beauty standards
We hollered and did a little victory dance in our heads whenever Adut Akech or Adwoa Aboah took the runway at Milan and Paris fashion weeks, a celebration of diversity we wish we had more chance of not just in Februarys and Septembers but every day of the year. If fashion is a mirror of our times, shouldn't the women and men wearing it on its biggest stage be representative of the people we see in the mirror? The invitation to that party should go out to models of colour, models of all heights, weights, religious beliefs and body shapes — regardless of physical ability or disability. 

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