I gave my presentation, Fashion & Animals: Decoding and Harnessing the Dialect of Fashion Culture to Help Animals to foundation students at Parsons, The New School For Design in New York City on Thursday. I’d previously given the talk in Paris, Boston, and in NYC with John Bartlett at Jivamukti. The lecture was about 2 hrs long, and many of the students had not been exposed to information, materials or documentation concerning the many ways animals are used in the fashion world, both symbolically and literally. When shown documentation of the plight most animals face when used for their skins and hairs in the fashion industry, many students even shed a few tears, or hid their eyes.
I was accompanied during Q&A by Elle cover-girl, and PINNACLE: Reinvent The Icon spokesmodel Emily Wilson who took questions about working in the fashion industry and maintaining ethics concerning animals. Emily, like a growing number of models, is vegan and refuses any job with fur. In addition, as a Native American, Emily had a lot to say about the offensive appropriation of and popularization of fur through indigenous, traditional cultures’ aesthetics because, while the product may look the same, the process and relationship to animals is completely different.
When we emerged from the darkness into the “Solutions” section, the students were excited to hear about the developments in textiles, and the possibilities that lie ahead – from growing cellulose-based leather in kombucha cultures, to recycling plastics into ultrasuedes, and using agricultural waste like soy-bean husks to make lux knitting yarn, and I even passed around the most cutting edge faux-fur from Imposter.
Many thanks to the professors at Parsons who made this happen, as well as all the open-minded and eager students who attended and brought so many insightful questions and comments.