Friday, February 23, 2007

Thandie Newton: Fendi fur subversive?

OK so it's not been the best couple of days for the anti-fur lobby.

First you have Peter Costello - hell, who's not even at the Milan shows - proposing to pave the way for prosecuting groups who organise consumer boycotts for moral or ethical reasons.

Then, after that promising debut of Prada's alpaca wool "fur" and Armani's "eco" rabbit fur - the latter presumably a pelt that some exotic breed of rabbit is somehow able to shed and then instantly regenerate, without being subjected to the minor inconvenience of being terminated - you have an absolute orgy of fur on the Milanese runways. From Marni to Gucci to Pucci to Dolce e Gabbana to Fendi.

This afternoon Roman luxury house Fendi was naturally awash with all manner of pelts in a collection that creative director Karl Lagerfeld told me backstage had been inspired by a "geometric pattern... like a Brancusi bird".

Funny Lagerfeld should mention the word bird because feathers, as with a plethora of other autumn collections here, factored heavily into his Fendi designs. They were either layered on top of more traditional pelts in coats, many of them with cape details, or stuck to giant clutch purses, along with faggots of dyed raw wool, that looked very much like dreadlocks.

Fur, it should be noted, is something of a religion in Italy. And although they have made it onto one or two runways here, should animal rights activists ever be foolish enough to attempt to target fur-swathed Italian consumers on the streets here, I dare say they would probably be lynched.

I'm not sure just how many Fendi furs make it to Australian shores, but Australian consumers certainly don't seem to have a problem with Fendi's fur heritage. They're buying so many of the company's handbags and shoes, Fendi has recently experienced triple digit growth in Australia.

If they can manage to walk in them, Australian consumers are no doubt going to love Fendi's new strappy winter sandals in turquoise python with puffed-out platforms and 30cm heels, the new boxy timber-plated python bags and the bullet cartridge-look belts with massive bevelled glass buckles.

Added to PETA's problems of course is the recent swag of pro animal rights celebs who have either fallen off the perch due to heavy drug use [Anna Nicole Smith] or who blow hot-and-cold on pressing animal rights issues pending their upcoming ticket sales in Australia [Pink] or modelling contracts [Elle MacPherson, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss etc...].

I mean hate as they do apparently hate Anna Wintour, correct me if I'm wrong here, but at least Wintour never signed any Editors of Compassion petition claiming she wouldn't be seen dead in fur again - only to turn up in a different pelt every day as she has done throughout the AW0708 season. At least Wintour is consistent.

With animal rights celebs dropping like flies from an unmulesed sheep's bum, thank heavens then for Thandie Newton, the diminutive British/Zimbabwean star of such films as Flirting, Mission Impossible II and The Pursuit of Happyness into whom I bumped backstage at Fendi this afternoon.

Could Newton perhaps be at the cutting edge of a new breed of animal rights activist who doesn't throw tofu pies, but rather, eats them with their targets?

Here's what she told me:

What did you think about the show?
Thandie Newton: Loved it. Very animal. I wanted to leap up on stage like a little bobcat and just rip a mouthful out. And it wasn't because of all the fur. There was just something very sensual about it. It felt quite primal as well.

Do you wear a lot of Fendi?
I do at the moment. Not the furry stuff. I didn't have a long enough conversation with him then [Lagerfeld - ie backstage], but I'm going to try and tackle it with him at dinner.

So fur bothers you? I'm not sure I understand then why you would come and support the show of a brand like Fendi?
Well I feel that... I don't feel compromised in my appreciation of it because of the fur. But it's not something that I... And also I don't know what's going to be on the stage. And each kind of season I hope that the whole vogue for fur will go, as it did ten years ago.

The whole what?
The vogue for fur.

So hang on, you want it to go?
Oh yes, absolutely.

But fur is Fendi's leitmotiv.
I know, but I think it has been for a lot of designers and they occasionally decide to change things.

So you would like to see no fur at Fendi?
Or fake fur.

Couldn't it be perceived to be well, hypocritical of you to turn up to support such a fur-heavy brand?
Yes I think it is hypocritical. But at the same time I really appreciate his design, the elements to his design and I really wanted to meet him. And I think it's probably better for me to sit down with him and have a chat and ask him why he supports it still, than for me to not be here and to not have an opportunity to have a conversation with him.

So your plan is to twist his arm?
Yeah - tonight, I'll just talk to him about it. I think it's very reasonable to have a conversation about it.

And here's a preview of what Lagerfeld might ostensibly say to Newton over dinner, based on what he said to me on the subject, after this afternoon's show:

What were those shaggy faggots on the bags, coats and one gilet?
Karl Lagerfeld: Chunky wool - wool that looks like fur. All the things that look like fur, are not fur. That's the good thing about it.

You say that's 'the good thing', but there was also plenty of fur.
Yes there is tonnes of fur. But you know as long as we eat meat and wear leather, we can have fur too.

What about the anti-fur lobby. Have you ever been attacked?
They tried, but it fell on others and not on me.

Who did it fall on? Anna Wintour?
No... But Anna... she never even reacts and she told me, don't react. Because you know, fur is an industry. People make a living with it. And some of the hunters live in areas where no other jobs are there. So if the people from PETA are ready to make a rent for all those people and pay their living, it's OK. But as long as we eat meet, and as long as we have leather things, I don't see the difference.

The animal rights lobby uses very emotionally-charged arguments. Claims for example about animals who are farmed for fur, only ever being anally electrocuted [as opposed to more humane methods such as gassing. Certified fur farms in Europe and the US refute these claims]. What do you think about the concept of animals being anally electrocuted?.

This I don't know. I hope they should work that out that nobody suffers. But humans are cruel, we know that. They are cruel with humans too. Look at the newspapers.

Originally published on


Blog Archive