Fashion Season has had a few close verbal encounters with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) over the years, on the occasion of some fur flare-up or other. We have however never previously witnessed any full-scale PETA assaults. Until now.
Having already been a PETA target, Julien MacDonald obviously wasn't taking any chances on Friday in London. The security seemed far stricter than usual, policing the entree to the Hilton's ballroom. In fact, I almost did not make it in.
Although having been invited by phone by the head publicist and assured I would be on the guest list, I arrived to discover a door PR who could not locate my name on her list and who was not about to give me the benefit of the doubt by letting me in, no
siree – or check with anybody else.
"I'm sorry, you're not on the list" she said, blankly.
"Oh come through, yes of course, you're on the seating list!" said the head PR, who suddenly arrived on the scene.
There seemed to be quite a few people in a similar situation, because a bottleneck swiftly developed at the entrance.
While waiting, I noticed a large table against one wall, behind which dozens of water bottles had been tossed. It looked like the recently beefed-up security checkpoints in the departure lounges of all flights heading to the US or UK, in the wake of the recent arrests in London. The temperature was sweltering, and the ballroom, packed.
Apparently MacDonald's security retinue had similar fears to the airport personnel: that the bottles could be used as missiles. I'm not sure they assumed liquid explosive could also be engineered, but look I could be wrong.
At the end of show, MacDonald walked to take his bow. But while John Galliano traditionally walks to take his show bows flanked by four beefy male security guards – anti-PETA protection, apparently – MacDonald walked to the end of his flanked by four models. Hiding behind them, it almost seemed. I guess if one of them cops it with a water bottle, that's OK by MacDonald.
Then the sound of a very loud bang ricocheted across the ballroom.
In all seriousness, I thought, "Holy shit, they were closely monitoring the Evian situation, but forgot to check for Glocks. Some nutter's snuck one in".
When gold and silver confetti started to rain down it became abundantly clear that the sound had been merely a glitter cannon. I breathed a sigh of relief.
But that relief momentarily turned to angst again at yesterday's Burberry show in Milan.
Just metres in front of me, three PETA protestors emerged from nowhere to leap on to the runway and hold up "Burberry: fur shame" banners. The models barely flinched (I guess they're used to it by now). I didn't clock the look on the faces of fur-loving Vogue editrixes Anna Wintour and Carine Roitfeld, who were just on the other side of the runway, but in any event it would have been hard to read Wintour as she was sporting ginormous sunnies.
Security guards sprang into action, grabbed the anti-fur troika and hauled them off into the aisle directly next to where I was sitting.
I watched as one blonde protestor lay there completely immobile, as if in a catatonic state, with hands crossed across her chest. She was looking directly up towards the ceiling, as if praying to the God of mink: "Please get me out of here in one piece."
Whatever your stance on fur, you have to admit, it's still a pretty gutsy thing to do. You attempt to get into a show without a ticket, let alone launching yourself directly in front of Lily Donaldson et al's money shots at the end of the runway.
I offered MacDonald the opportunity to talk about PETA but he declined. Fair enough.
I offered the same to the Burberry designer Christopher Bailey, but all he would say, before shutting me down was the following, in response to the question, "How do you like being called 'fur scum'"?
"It's not very nice," said Bailey.
The only person who would talk to me about it was someone claiming to be a PETA representative, outside the Hilton hotel on Friday night. So here's the Q&A for what it's worth.
SO PETA SUCCESSFULLY MANAGED TO INFILTRATE A JULIEN MACDONALD SHOW LAST YEAR?
Anita Singh, PETA campaign coordinator: Those were PETA activists who were just appalled at Julien MacDonald's disgraceful, continuous use of fur, despite the many times that we have sent him information about animals actually being skinned alive for their pelts. The North American fur farms and the European fur farms, basically the best way that they kill animals is through anal electrocution. That's no better than swinging a dog through the air.
YES BUT JUST TO PLAY DEVIL'S ADVOCATE HERE, IF YOU EAT MEAT, THOSE ANIMALS ARE OFTEN ELECTROCUTED AS WELL.
I think that a lot of the animals that are raised for fur, are certainly not being eaten.
YES I UNDERSTAND, BUT WHAT I AM SAYING IS, THAT FOR PEOPLE WHO DO EAT MEAT, THEY WOULD – ONE WOULD ASSUME – ACCEPT THAT THE ANIMALS THEY ARE EATING HAVE BEEN KILLED IN ABATTOIRS. IF YOU DON'T EAT MEAT AND DON'T BELIEVE THAT ANIMALS SHOULD BE KILLED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, I CAN UNDERSTAND HOW THE FACT THAT THEY ARE ELECTROCUTED SEEMS SHOCKING. KILLING AN ANIMAL IS STILL KILLING AN ANIMAL. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE HERE, CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG, IS THAT KILLING AN ANIMAL FOR FUR IS SIMPLY IN ORDER TO CREATE A LUXURY PRODUCT?
PETA advocate for vegetarianism. We advocate for a compassionate diet that extends tO ...
YOU DON'T THINK THAT WE SHOULD BE RAISING SHEEP EITHER DO YOU?
Well I think that the way people look at these things these days, it's a little bit different. Sheep aren't raised in a backyard where they're happy and they're allowed to live within their families and they interact with humans. They're raised in factory farming conditions.
REALLY? HAVE YOU BEEN TO AUSTRALIA OR NEW ZEALAND LATELY?
Well it depends on exactly where you are. But in Australia one of the worst abuses is mulesing.
YES BUT AREN'T THEY WORKING THAT OUT?
Exactly, we're working with them to sort that out and the other thing that they do is live exports. So once the wool production of these sheep wanes, they're then put on these death ships where they're carted off thousands of miles without food or water so obviously that is animal cruelty and that's why we will continue to advocate vegetarianism ...
SO HAS THE SECURITY STEPPED UP AT SHOWS LIKE THESE VIS-A-VIS PETA?
Well no we've been out here for the last two hours and all the security guards have taken leaflets. They've been reading about it.
YES BUT THIS IS A PUBLIC SPACE, THEY CAN'T DO ANYTHING TO YOU HERE.
No of course they can't. We're here to inform people who are going into the show about what they're about to see. If there is no fur in this collection we want to inform them that while Julien is showing his summer collection, there are animals being raised on fur farms right now that will be part of his winter collection.
IS HE THE ONLY BRITISH DESIGNER WHO USES A LOT OF FUR?
He's one of the most notorious and he likes to flaunt it and he's very proud of the fact that he advocates anal electrocution, gassing, strangling small tiny ...
DOES HE ACTUALLY SAY THAT IN HIS ADVERTISING MATERIAL?
Well we constantly send him material to let him know what he is perpetuating and that is, cruelty to animals. And he is completely defending it through and through. Most people don't like strangling and torturing small defenceless animals but Julien MacDonald seems to take pleasure in it.
WHAT ABOUT THE ALLEGED LINKS BETWEEN PETA AND SOME RATHER MORE EXTREME FACTIONS OF THE ANIMAL RIGHTS MOVEMENT?
I think that in every social movement, you're going to have groups that take things to another extreme because they're so frustrated.
THEY'VE BEEN CALLED "ECO-TERRORISTS".
Well PETA, we don't employ those tactics. PETA work on a completely different level. We work through legislation, we work through brilliant, theatre-style demonstrations, as you can see we're out here today ... informing people.
THERE WAS ONE VERY FAMOUS CASE OF AN EXECUTIVE WHO WORKED AT A UK LABORATORY WHICH CONDUCTED ANIMAL-TESTING. HE WAS SEVERELY BEATEN BY ONE GROUP.
I've never actually heard of that. I've certainly not heard of anyone in the animal liberation movement harming another animal. I think that the main point of the animal rights movement is protection of all animals, whether they stand on two legs or on four. And we certainly, whether it be PETA or whether it be the ... or whether it be any group that is protecting animals, they certainly don't want to see any human harmed and that's certainly not the point of this movement. It's a compassionate movement and it's compassionate towards all animals. You and I are also included whether we have a tail or not.
ARE YOU WEARING ANY LEATHER?
No definitely not.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T WEAR FUR BUT WEARS LEATHER SHOES? AREN'T THEY STILL A PARTY TO KILLING ANIMALS FOR A LUXURY PRODUCT?
Do you know what, the more I found out about it, before I knew what was involved in the leather production and the meat industry, I myself years and years ago would wear leather shoes without knowing and I think that's the thing. We really need to inform people that there's no difference between wearing leather and wearing fur. It's still the skin of an animal and there's no kind way to rip the skin off any animal's back, whether it be a cow or whether it be a fox.
HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED THAT THE THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN WHO DIE EVERY DAY FROM STARVATION MIGHT BE A BIGGER CAUSE?
I think that there are so many worthy causes. I think that there are so many children and animals suffering that we shouldn't forgo saving the lives of animals ...
THE ANIMAL RIGHTS MOVEMENT SEEMS AT TIMES TO BE MORE VISIBLE THAN THE HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT.
I think that all life is precious and all life should be protected and we should not turn a blind eye to suffering, whether it be for children or whether it be for animals. So there are a lot of people who advocate for children and those people are compassionate on both sides.
WHAT FLAVOUR CREAM PIE DOES PETA LIKE TO THROW AT ANNA WINTOUR?
A tofu cream pie.
SO NO ANIMAL INGREDIENTS?
There's no animal ingredients in anything that PETA uses.
WHAT ABOUT FRUITARIANS THOUGH – THE PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES HAVE BEEN MURDERED UNLESS THEY HAVE FALLEN OFF THE TREE?
Certainly PETA doesn't ... we're not fruitarians. Plants don't have a central nervous system.
REALLY? I'M SURE SOME PEOPLE WOULD ARGUE WITH YOU ON THAT POINT. DEFINITELY THE FRUITARIANS WOULD HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT.
Some people might. But that is not what we are about. We are about alleviating cruelty to animals and any way that we can do that and the higher the profile that we can raise for them, that is exactly what we are trying to do.
WHAT ABOUT CRUELTY TO ANNA WINTOUR?
Well cruelty to Anna Wintour ... Again, we've advised her many, many times about the pages in Vogue. I mean, we have offered to pay the same price as the fur industry for pages in her magazine and she has turned us down. That can only mean that she blatantly wants to ...
BUT THAT'S HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN ADVERTISING.
We have offered Anna Wintour. We have said, "Would you even consider this?" And she said, "No." Because she doesn't want to have anything to do with anti-fur.
YES BUT PROBABLY THE REAL REASON WHY SHE SAID NO IS BECAUSE SHE KNOWS THAT ONCE SHE LETS YOU ADVERTISE, THEN SHE'LL BE OBLIGED TO PLUG YOUR PRODUCTS ON HER EDITORIAL PAGES. THAT'S HOW IT WORKS IN THE GLOSSIES.
Well we have tried to inform her many, many times but she continues to allow an industry that has blood on its hands, that basically makes its money from torturing small animals ...
REPORTEDLY SHE TORTURES HER ASSISTANTS. SO I DON'T THINK SHE'S MAKING MUCH OF AN EXCEPTION WITH ANIMALS.
Well apparently. I can't comment on that. I don't know the woman. But I have flipped through the pages of Vogue and it's shocking to see the blood on every single page. It takes tens of animals, sometimes up to 60 or 80 mink to make one fur coat. That's 80 lives. Each one representing an animal that didn't want to die any more that you and I would want to. And so Anna Wintour is definitely somebody in her position in fashion, she should be setting a better example than the one she is. And in this day and age, I think the point is, this is the 20th century, we're not cavemen. We don't need animals skins.
THE CAVEMAN LOOK WAS ALL OVER THE WINTER RUNWAYS. PRADA'S 'SAUVAGE' FUR COATS ETC ...
Well I think designers are constantly trying to be outrageous. But if they were true visionaries they would come up with creative designs, like Stella McCartney, who is extremely popular and extremely successful. They would come up with designs that don't harm a hair on any animal. Some of her best friends ... Sadie Frost, she wears all of Stella's stuff. In fact she just did an anti-fur campaign for us just the other day. She launched one and she was wearing Stella McCartney's clothes and she looked brilliant. Most celebrities these days love Stella McCartney's clothes and again, Stella McCartney is a compassionate person, she wouldn't use leather and she certainly doesn't use fur. And she certainly hasn't made a name off any animal's back. She's done it off her own skin.
SO SHE'S NOT FUR SCUM?
She's definitely not fur scum.
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