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Anti-fur activists target Max Mara, Fendi at Milan Fashion Week



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Fendi Fall Winter 2024, Ready to Wear Credits: ©Launchmetrics/spotlight

Milan - Animal activists have fashion brands squarely in their sights this Milan Fashion Week, hoping to pressure Italian brands Max Mara and Fendi to give up fur in future collections.

An activist from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) stormed the Fendi runway on Wednesday brandishing a sign saying "Animals are NOT clothing".

And a coalition of pro-animal groups stepped up their campaign on Thursday against Max Mara.

Over 1,500 international fashion brands, including some of the most prestigious, have renounced fur in recent years, due to concerns about animal cruelty, changing trends and new synthetic alternatives.

On Thursday, a hot-air balloon with the message "Max Mara Go Fur-Free" floated above the company's headquarters in Emilia Romagna for the second day running.

The stunt was backed by the Fur Free Alliance -- a coalition of over 50 global animal protection associations, including the Humane Society International and Italy's LAV (Anti-Vivisection League) -- which has been targeting Max Mara since earlier this month.

The campaign, involving protests, social media posts, telephone calls and emails, corresponds to the season of fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris running until March 5.

Max Mara -- whose runway show on Thursday did not feature fur -- did not respond to requests for comment from AFP.

Unlike Fendi, which began as a fur line, Max Mara is best known for its luxurious wool and camel hair coats, using fur occasionally as trim on hoods and cuffs.

That means the company could easily stop using fur without affecting its core business, said LAV's Simone Pavesi.

"It's really a question of total indifference. They could resolve it from one season to another," he told AFP.

He added that the fashion house had refused to sit down with animal welfare groups, as many other brands have done.

'Smell of death'

Outside the Max Mara show, Anna Kirichenko, 32, sported a black ski hat prominently decorated with the company's logo, combined with an oversized black faux fur jacket.

"There are so many alternatives, so many young designers who can give us cheaper and better alternatives (to real fur)," Kirichenko said. "I want to be an example... I don't like the smell of death."

At Fendi, fashion student Elke Orth, 21, said top brands still using fur have oversized influence, even though attitudes among young people have changed.

"They have all the power because everyone wants to be inside that world," she said.

"But if a famous actor or singer says 'I won't go to that show', that would make a big change," she said.

Armani, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, Prada, Valentino and Versace, are among several prestigious fashion houses who have renounced fur.

"All these companies have seen how unethical and unsustainable fur is," Pavesi said.

Major recalcitrants include France's Louis Vuitton and Hermes.

Activists cite the cruelty inherent in fur farming, in which foxes, minks, chinchillas, rabbits and raccoon dogs are crammed into tiny wire battery cages before being gassed or electrocuted.

Undercover operations have brought to light deplorable conditions in fur farms, sick and stressed animals, and episodes of self-mutilation and infections.

An outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in Dutch mink fur farms in 2020 hastened the scheduled closure of the farms by three years to 2021.

Ethics and 'sustainability'

The fur industry markets its products as environmentally friendly renewable resources -- claims that anti-fur activists refute, citing higher carbon footprints.

Within the European Union, there is no ban on sales of fur, nor any specific animal welfare legislation covering these animals.

California, Israel and certain US cities have banned fur sales.

As of December, 17 of the EU's 27 member countries had adopted full or partial bans on fur farming, with others in the works.

There are currently more than 1,000 fur farms in the EU -- most of them in Finland, Greece and Poland -- which amounts to about 7.7 million animals.

Fur Free Europe collected 1.7 million signatures last year to petition the European Commission to ban fur farming.

In response, the EU's executive asked its food safety agency to conduct an independent review on the protection of fur production animals by March 2025.

By March 2026, the Commission will rule on a potential ban on fur farming and the sale of farmed animal fur products within the EU.

Alternatively, it could adopt "appropriate standards" for better animal welfare practices.

LAV's Pavesi said that as of Wednesday, Max Mara had begun to block critical comments about its use of fur from its Instagram page.

"We have no interest in a pressure campaign," he said.

"We'd prefer to talk with the company, explain our reasons... and convince them to stop using fur."(AFP)

Milan Fashion Week