LANVIN’s Spring 2012 video features models with snakes. The curious part is that in some of the shots, the living snakes are crawling around on dead-snake bags. But how does a living snake become a fashion object? As is typical of the fashion industry, the disconnect here is lamentable. The exotic skins trade is nothing sexy, nor are the methods of killing crocodiles, lizards and snakes for their beautifully-patterned skins. That’s why the industry never, ever showcases imagery or documentation from the process of turning living animals into fashion objects as a means to sell these objects. This aspect of the production model is always hidden, and maintaining that opaque veil is a golden rule of fashion marketing.

Instead, the mythology of exotic leathers, which relies on superstitious, two-dimensional beliefs about animals like snakes, prevails. Folkloric and biblical, these animals are not to be depicted as individuals with inner lives and interests. They are symbolic accessories as interchangeably as the bags made up of their bodies are accessories. They are empty vessels to be filled with human meaning as interchangeably as the snakeskin bags are empty vessels to be filled with human stuff.

If snakes represent evil, temptation, phallus, and demonic power, the prospect of being in control of them is tantalizing to many. Perhaps even the duplicity of worshiping the fictitious power they represent while industrializing their demise is appealing in itself.

However, we can not ever hope to have a sustainable fashion industry while ignorant attitudes towards animals continue to inform and inspire stylists and designers, or be the driving force for sales. A truly sustainable fashion industry requires that we respect the biological and evolutionary reality of our fellow earthlings, their interests and their habitats as well as acknowledge that they have long been misunderstood and undervalued.

Can we not simply be inspired to stitch, print, and form in honor of their textures, colors, patterns and shapes? Must we actually tear it from their very bodies in a drastic attempt to call it our own? It is a dangerous dichotomy to be inspired by these animals so passionately only to betray them fatally.

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