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John has to use artificial fur because
1) it makes clothes look better.
2) It is less expensive than the real one.
3) his clients want to wear it.
Presenter: John, you’re one of very few major designers who are publicly committed to being fur-free.
John: I haven’t used fur in my collections for over 16 years. I haven’t used leather for probably almost as long.
Presenter: What’s your opinion about using artificial animal products, like fur and leather, for example? They look so much like real fur that people might get the wrong idea.
John: You’re absolutely right. The technology has advanced so much that you’re able to get the look and feel of real fur. And also leather — with leather, even more than with fur, the technological alternative is so obvious that there is no argument about it. It’s more durable and the price..., well, it varies a lot, sometimes it can cost as much as real leather. But the problem is that you’re propagating the idea that fur is acceptable by wearing it, because a lot of people can’t tell what is real and what is not real. You know, I’d refuse to use even artificial fur, but I can’t because of my clients, for whom fur is a status symbol.
Presenter: Is fur still a big deal in fashion? It seemed to go out of fashion for a while.
John: I know. I just got back from an appointment uptown. The weather was so nice I decided to walk down Fifth Avenue. The amount of furs that I saw on people and the amount of fur trim — whether on men’s jackets or baubles hanging from hats to full length coats — is surprising. And as an expert in this field, I can tell what is fake and what’s not, and the amount of real fur out there is shocking.
Presenter: I think your fight for cruelty-free fashion is really tough. What about your opponents?
John: There are a lot of them. For example, the Scandinavian fur industry is one of many. It keeps trying to bring furs back into fashion. They educate young designers about the different animal furs available, giving them furs free, and helping them integrate fur into their designs. I’m actively engaging with young designers as well but in a different manner. In addition to my own participation in the ‘Cool vs. Cruel’ design contests, I’m a guest lecturer at some very prestigious city design schools. This semester I’m challenging students to create a collection ‘without any animal products’ at all.
Presenter: So are only industries like the Scandinavian fur one responsible for fur in fashion or are there any other reasons?
John: Of course, there’s a financial aspect to it. You know, I could have got millions of dollars in fur licensing by now. I could be rich. I would be able to live a much better lifestyle than I’m living right now if I had taken these offers. But I sleep in peace at night knowing that I'm not part of that. Then there's also this, you know, ‘well why should I worry about animals’ attitude with a lot of people who are in fashion. I think this is a major problem here. They only think about themselves, and their reputations. They are self-obsessed. They are the worst!
Presenter: What do you think are some ways we can get the fashion-wearing public and designers to care?
John: I think just constantly making them aware of the cruelty involved. Just a continuous bombardment with information. I believe in protesting without violence, of course, that’s exactly what we’re trying to fight against — violence against animals. It’s a slow process which could be compared, maybe to..., for example, to the long-lasting fight of black people for their rights. A hundred years ago people also thought that black people shouldn’t have the rights of white people. And 30 years ago people thought that smoking was okay for you. It’s all a matter of becoming a more advanced society and more caring individuals.
Presenter: John, are you a vegetarian?
John: You know, I’m trying to become a vegetarian. But having been brought up in a traditional way, it’s always a battle. I eat red meat once in a while. Now and then I also have chicken. I think today vegetarian food is available not only for well-to-do people but for everybody. The problem is dietary habits you have had since your early childhood. They are difficult to change. I know it’s a slow process, but I hope by the end of this year I’ll have completely cut meat out.
Presenter: John, what first made you aware of the cruelty involved in fur?
John: I think any intelligent person, no matter how old he or she is, realizes there’s death involved with this type of fashion. And you read about it and just become aware of how savage this industry is. When I was a young designer, I had a bunch of fur, which I used in one of my collections. And I thought, ‘Oh how beautiful, how fabulous!’ My clients also admired the collection. But then I became aware of what goes on, and I guess, more mature as an individual and a more of a caring person about the environment and the lives of helpless animals. It’s really depressing to realize that we aren’t doing enough to protect the environment. Maybe I even shouldn’t be showing fake fur. With the technology today artificial fur looks so real that by wearing it you are advertising it. I would like to help as much as I can with any of the organizations that want to help protect animals, including vocal protests as well as financially.
- I’d refuse to use even artificial fur, but I can’t because of my clients, for whom fur is a status symbol.