Looking to crack down on showgoers wearing animal skins, the animal rights group recruited two supporters to pose as “fashion police” writing tickets for unsuspecting passersby. A delayed noontime start wasn’t the only glitch. Most of the runway shows were finished throughout the city, never mind at the corner of West Houston and Washington Street where their patrol began. (A utility worker off to work did look very Calvin Klein-esque in a reflective jacket though.)
While handling some last-minute adjustments to her fellow officer-for-an-hour’s costume, Mary Ann Persad said her real job is in finance. She had taken the day off to support PETA. Todd Elkins, a model represented by Major and a bartender for catered events, had a more flexible schedule to work with. Practicing her lines for a PETA photographer, Persad said, “It’s New York Fashion Week and the fashion police are out. If you’re wearing any kind of animal garment — fur, wool, leather, down — you might get a ticket.”
Aside from a few why-are-you-here type questions, most of the passersby waved off the “tickets” as if they were being handed fliers from a street vendor. And the cluster of people huddled near the Yankee Doodle Dandy food truck on Hudson Street barely even noticed the two patrol officers. Ditto for Valentine’s Day shoppers en route to Jacques Torres. Five construction workers walking north on Washington Street did give Persad a long look as they passed, though presumably for her polyester minidress in the 43-degree weather since her “Wearing Animal Skins Is A Fashion Felony” sign was out of view.
To try to scare up some attention, the PETA supporters had to walk a few blocks to West Houston Street. Given the range of fake fur and leather seen on city sidewalks, it’s not surprising that even Persad had to ask PETA’s associate director of campaign Ashley Byrne, “Wait, is that real?” referring to a woman in a gray fur coat and knit hat with what appeared to be a fur pompom. Promptly handed a ticket, the woman looked unfazed and continued talking on her phone while a male companion smiled politely. All in all, her enforcement was borderline apologetic. “Sorry, I have to ticket you — your sneakers,” she told a Patagonia-clad pedestrian, referring to the leather Adidas kicks on his feet. Camped out near the King Street subway entrance, PETA’s fashion police leaned against a SUV seemingly oblivious that it belonged to U.S. Homeland Security.
A copywriter and voiceover actor named Sarah, who declined to give her last name, was one of the few pedestrians who seemed to take PETA’s efforts to heart. Stopping to shoot a smartphone photo of the pair, she said, “It’s definitely eye-catching. You immediately think fashion week, then you are taken aback and it’s a good thing. I absolutely do not wear fur or leather.”
Byrne was undeterred. “Obviously, PETA does a cross-section of things and some are just fun and tongue-in-cheek like this. But there is a huge antifur movement in New York right now. We’ve had hundreds of people showing up at some of the protests.”