At 81, Giorgio Armani is at the forefront of a fashion revolution, proving that the Italian brand is still very much in the lead when it comes to the progress and evolution of the industry. In an agreement with the Humane Society and the Fur Free Alliance, the Italian designer has pledged to stop using animal fur in his brand’s collections. Technological advances, says Armani, provide us with perfectly viable alternatives, thus making the continued usage of fur, feathers and leather an unacceptable and unnecessary cruelty. It is not the first time that the issues of animal rights and environmental protection have been raised within the luxury market, but so far few of the leading brands in the field have taken such a clear stand on the matter. The decision comes after years of lobbying by animal rights activists and it has been hailed by environmentalists and fashion magazines alike. Many have expressed hopes that Armani’s choice may prompt other brands to go down the same path, snowballnig into a generalised fur-free trend and making animal fur in fashion a thing of the past.
Leading by example
The fall-winter season of 2016 will be the first of Armani’s new fur-free course. The decision will affect all of the group’s labels, including Armani Jeans, Armani Casa and Emporio Armani. Among the brands that have long been promoting cruelty-free fashion, Stella McCartney is probably the best known. Other fur-free brands include Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss, where others, such as Fendi and Moschino, still seem reluctant to embrace faux materials instead of real animal-derived ones. In the context of an industry which lives off trends and worships its leading brands, Armani’s example might make a huge difference. We can’t help but be reminded of the way in which a nod or a pout of the fearsome Miranda Priestly, in The Devil Wears Prada, dictated the following season’s trends and could determine the success or the downfall of a whole collection. In a non dissimilar way, it may be argued that the fashion industry was waiting for one of its all-time gurus to lead it into a new era of compassion and environmental awareness. In other words, Armani just made animal rights cool and, more importantly, he has made cruelty unfashionable.
Luxury = fur?
It has long been a shared assumption that luxury is inextricably linked with products and materials whose ethical implications are troublesome to say the least. While environmental awareness has long been the province of a certain, neatly defined set of brands, appealing to market segments that could not have been farther from the concepts of fashion and luxury. The new trend, spearheaded by Armani, is reconnecting such concepts to universal and abstract values such as class and style, which are not necessarily to be found in expensive materials or in an affected lack of interest for their origin. If style is a goal in and of itself, it is clear by now that the end most definitely does not justify the means. Luxury will be found in the elegance of a collection’s design, in the inspired innovations of its colour scheme or in its revolutionary take on gender roles, rather than it the selection of scarce, hard to obtain materials that cost thousands of animals unspeakable suffering.
Giorgio Armani was born in Piacenza and his first contact with the fashion industry was as a menswear seller for a department store in Milan. In the 60s he went on to design menswear for the Nino Cerruti company and he eventually started his own brand in 1975. He is universally considered the most successful Italian designer in fashion history, celebrated for the clean elegance of his style and the timeless quality of his collections. From haute couture to pret-a-porter, from house-ware to accessories, Armani is synonym with style, attention to details and high production value.