In recent years, a considerable shift has taken place within the fashion industry towards a more sustainable production. A rapid number of fashion companies are trying to make changes within their brand to make an ethical and more sustainable approach to their products. It is only recently that animal ethics and welfare issues have been brought into focus in the fashion industry. As a society, humans face many issues and challenges, for this reason, many individuals believe that the well-being of animals is not as relevant. Even though technologies and innovations have progressed in the fashion industry, it is still using and selling animal products today. Even though animal product substitutes exist as alternatives for many products, eating meat, wearing and using fur, wool and leather are ubiquitous in today’s society. Animal welfare is one of the main reasons why consumers and companies in the fashion industry are decreasing or abolishing their use of animal products such as fur. On the other hand, not only is animal welfare an issue, but also the environmental impacts related to the production of animal products in the fashion industry. First of all, animals such as cows require very big amounts of resources to grow, wool also has negative effects on the environment, forests are often cut down in order to provide enough land where sheep can be raised for their wool, the intensive use of chemicals in the fur and leather industry is highly polluting, great amounts of hazardous chemicals are utilised to preserve and dye the products, the tanning of leather is mostly done with the use of chromates, which are highly toxic substances. Moreover, a regular tanning facility wastes about 15,000 gallons of water and creates massive amounts of other types of polluting wastes. Taking everything into consideration, the use of animals in the fashion industry can have severe impacts on the environment.

The use of animal products as clothing is embedded in the history of society, and humanity has grown with the natural notion of using animal products as clothing for years. Ever since early history, animal products have been used and perceived as special items with a high level of significance and wealth.

I believe that a combination of accessibility, luxury, quality & durability, and education might be the reason for the widespread use of animal by-products in the fashion industry. I will expand on these four topics and hopefully provide a clearer understanding of how these factors have and continue to influence the endurance of animal products in the fashion industry.


Accessibility

It is true that accessibility influences the number of products purchased by consumers in many cases. In the case of non-animal fashion products, it may be the case that the unavailability of vegan products in luxury stores or any other type of fashion store affects the demand for the product. In many cases, shoppers claim that if they could buy a cruelty-free product identical to leather, fur, or other animal product clothing item or accessories, they would buy the “animal free” option. With the rise of vegan and vegetarian diets, more people around the world are switching to what they consider humane and sustainable practices, which include buying non-animal clothing items. The accessibility to non-animal products has been noticeably increasing, luxury designers such as Stella McCartney, have shown that it is possible to achieve success by selling only vegan clothing products and has increased the accessibility to vegan luxury products to an increasing amount of people. Regardless of the number of emerging clothing companies who endorse a cruelty-free and vegan vision, the accessibility of non-animal products is still not as high as the accessibility of animal products and this might have an effect on why many people often opt for buying animal products.


Luxury

The human desire for decorative and luxury goods never seems to change, which affects many different aspects including animal welfare. To decorate and communicate through ways of dressing while expressing the essential basis of understanding who human beings are and where they belong in the community. Both fur and jewellery have been the status quo for royalty and celebrities for many centuries which creates a trickle-down effect on the “average” person. Furthermore, animal products such as leather are expensive to produce and for these reasons, animal products such as leather can be more expensive than synthetic products and regarded as luxurious. Nonetheless, other non-animal fabrics can be just as expensive to manufacture. It is easy to assume the reason why people still regard animal products as luxurious is due to the “ancient” mentality that animal products such as fur provide the highest luxury, glamour, sensuality, and is usually the most expensive option. This perception of using animal products has substantial historical meaning but that does not apply to the current world today, the luxurious perception of animal products is outdated and does not match the current global trends as well as the movement towards sustainability. This reasoning can be proven by the number of luxury brands that are starting to move away from animal products, luxury brands such as Armani, Calvin Klein, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, among others, have all stated an end to their use of fur. In an interview with the CEO of Kering and owner of Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, and more when asked about sustainability, Francois replied saying that luxury is about dreams, and that “You cannot make people dream if you’re cheating by offering a product that is a nightmare behind the scenes.”Following this question, he was asked about the use of leather in the industry, which he replied explaining how new findings such as biotech, which will enable creating fake leather and making leather out of mushrooms, are things that they are considering and working with as alternatives. Moreover, leather has become more accessible in the market and a great amount of the leather sold in stores is cheap and low quality, for this reason, the perception of leather being durable and luxurious may be less than it used to be. There has been a strong correlation between luxury and animal products for thousands of years, but even though this perception is still strong for many people, this idea is outdated and sustainability is beginning to outweigh the use of animal products in the luxury fashion industry


Quality & Durability

One main reason why animal products are still widely used in the fashion industry today is that they are regarded as to having higher quality and durability. Many people believe that animal products such as leather and fur are everlasting and deteriorate less than non-animal products. To begin with, the quality of the leather is not always the same, it can vary depending on the animal, age, chemicals used, and machinery. Most importantly, these parameters most often fluctuate varying on the target market the product will be sold in. On the other hand, fur has been popular due to its ability to provide warmth and durability. Even though technological advances resulted in the ability to produce insulating synthetic textiles, which provide the same warmth, fur is still used highly in the fashion industry. Fur can last for a long period of time but the production of fur requires high amounts of toxic substances, which are hazardous to health and the environment. These substances are needed in the production of fur in order to get rid of the naturally biodegradable materials in the fur, which would allow it to decompose. This leads to the question of if people want to wear a product that uses intensive chemicals that are harmful to animals, health, and the environment. Perhaps leather, fur, and other animal products were the only option a few decades ago, but today new technologies provide alternatives to these products, providing the same desired look without the killing of any animals.


Education

Education is important since it provides the knowledge to take necessary decisions in life, without education problems faced by society would be more difficult to solve. In that sense, education is a useful tool to facilitate problems and make the world a more prosperous place. Sustainability has been increasing dramatically in the business and governmental sector, but a reason why many people have grown up without any desire or awareness of helping the environment or animal welfare may be because no education was provided to them. Even though the internet has allowed millions of people to have access to education, in elementary and secondary schools, subjects such as ecology, environmental studies and other topics involving animal welfare are ignored. New information and research regarding new technologies and alternatives for animal products are emerging continuously, so it is important that everyone is kept informed. Around the world, information and educational courses regarding animal welfare and sustainability are limited. Even though courses devoted to these topics are available in certain universities, information and education are not available to most of the world’s population. If education was provided regarding animal welfare and environmental issues, then a larger amount of people would abstain themselves from purchasing and wearing animal products.


There are many reasons we could think of why the fashion industry is still using animal by-products but seeing the changes fashion companies are taking there is a certain hope we could discover alternative ways for animal products. It is important to be informed on these matters and educating yourself on the products you are buying. There are many small changes one can do to help with animal welfare issues such as taking conscious decisions.