Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wildlife Friendly Fashion

Animal Kingdom inspired clothing is a hot fashion trend this Fall, from jungle prowling panthers on satin and helmets adorn with ears in Givenchy’s runway show in Paris, to sleek red foxes and barn owls on sleek and chic dresses at Jill Stuart and stampeding impala patterned skirts a al Marc by Marc Jacobs. 
Depictions of wildlife imagery may appeal to fashion lovers out of their love for animals; sadly the same cannot always be said for the designers who make the clothes. For example, all of the designers mentioned above use real fur in their fashion lines.  So while animal lovers may be attracted to the fox image on Jill Stuart’s dress, this designer has yet to extend that compassion and respect to wildlife by eliminating real fur in her collection.

With this in mind, here are a few tips for Wildlife Friendly Fashion choices.

·         Go Fur Free. Real fur damages the environment, hurts individual animals, and can endanger wildlife.  Manure run-off from fur farms pollutes streams and harmful chemicals including chromium and formaldehyde are use in the processing and tanning of real fur garments. In addition, traps set to catch wild furbearing animals are notoriously indiscriminate often catching “non-target” animals including threatened and endangered species.

·         Go Organic. Look for organic cotton. Cotton is one of the world’s most chemically-dependent crops and the pesticides used on cotton are classified as among the most toxic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

·         Go Eco. Try out some “eco-fabrics.” In general “eco-fabrics” are fibers that have less of a negative environmental impact in the production process than a conventional alternative.  Bamboo, soy, and hemp fibers are a good choice because their production requires less herbicides and pesticides than non-organic cotton and they bio-degrade faster than petroleum-based fibers.

·         Avoid Wool. The raising of sheep also has significant impacts on the environment. Sheep often destroy             wildlife habitat by overgrazing, domestic sheep transmit disease to wild big horn sheep threatening their survival some areas. In addition, ranchers kill thousands of wild animals every year in an attempt to protect sheep from native carnivores such as coyotes and wolves despite the availability of nonlethal ways to protect flocks.  

·         Reduce. Buying (and therefor producing) less clothing both reduces resource use and waste.   Focus on quality over quantity by select clothing that is well made and will last longer, rather that disposable clothing that wears out quickly. A small reduction can make a big difference. Consumers in the Unites States spend approximately 4% more of their annual income on apparel than Europeans.  

·         Reuse. Washing clothes requires huge amounts of water and energy. Before throwing your clothes in the laundry consider whether they really need to be washed or if they can be worn again. When you do was use low temperature water. Approximately 50% of all energy used in a wash cycle is for water heating. When possible air dry your clothes, and always use a biodegradable and cruelty-free (not tested on animals) laundry detergent. Visit www.leapingbunny.org for lists of cruelty-free companies.

·         Recycle. Donating unwanted clothing to charities and purchasing clothes from charity thrift stores or other re-sale stores allows us to get the greatest amount of value out of our resources whether the garments are made of conventional cotton, polyester or nylon.  The one exception is fur. It is difficult, if not impossible, for the average consumer to obtain a credible assurance that fur used on a garment is indeed “vintage” or “recycled.” Due to the vagueness of these terms, it is possible that fur from an animal killed less than one year ago could be considered “recycled,” if it has previously debuted on an earlier fashion. Creating a secondary market for fur — no matter how old — helps to maintain the commercial viability of fur and other wildlife products, and thus helps perpetuate the cruel trade.  

·         Vote. Vote with your dollars by supporting fur free retailers and designers. Don’t purchase clothing from designers and retailers who sell our use real fur. Better yet show support to retailers and designers who have signed on to the international fur free retailer program and put their fur free commitment in writing, such Dalia MacPhee, Sherri Hill, Esprit, H&M, Top Shop, and American Apparel  (U.S. retailers www.furfreeshopping.com and International retailers www.furfreeretailers.com

 With a little effort fashion lovers can make choices that protect and respect wildlife and help ensure that compassion is the future of fashion. 

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