ARMANI GOING FUR-FREE: The Armani Group has agreed to go entirely fur-free starting with its fall 2016 collections, following years of off-and-on appeals by animal rights activists.

In an agreement with The Humane Society of the U.S. and the Fur Free Alliance, the company said Tuesday morning that it plans to stop using animal fur in all of its products. The Fur Free Alliance is a coalition of 40 animal protection organizations in 28 countries that are trying to end the fur trade.

Giorgio Armani said in a statement released by the HSUS, “I am pleased to announce that the Armani Group has made a firm commitment to abolish the use of animal fur in its collections. Technological progress made over the years allows us to have valid alternatives at our disposition that render the use of cruel practices unnecessary as regards animals. Pursuing the positive process undertaken long ago, my company is now taking a major step ahead, reflecting our attention to the critical issues of protecting and caring for the environment and animals.”

Seventy percent of the designers who showed their fall 2016 collections on runways in New York, London, Milan and Paris featured some element of fur, according to the Fur Information Council of America’s director of communications Keith Kaplan. Citing a recent survey by the International Fur Federation, he said more than 400 designers internationally use fur.

From Kaplan’s point of view, a number of designers including Armani have “sort of been given a pass” by HSUS and other animal rights groups. Although he admittedly had no firsthand knowledge, he alleged that animal rights groups made “hands-off deals” with some designers that allowed them to use lamb and rabbit fur in their collections yet to publicly claim they were fur-free. Kaplan also claimed that the designers could do so without the threat of store protests or other repercussions from animal rights groups.

Reminded that Armani has said all his collections will now be totally fur free, Kaplan chalked up the change in direction to ailing fur sales in select countries. “What’s changed in the equation is that Russia and China had become large markets for their fur products. But as Russia and China have lost their buying power as a result of their own economic issues, they are somewhat removed from the equation,” Kaplan said. “When HSUS continues to hound these designers, I think they consider whether it is worth the threat of store protests and disruption of business and so forth. Right now, because of the economic conditions in Russia and China, I think designers are evaluating and saying, ‘Perhaps at this juncture, it might not be. We’ll given in at this point to make this problem go away.’”

Kaplan added, “Presumably when conditions pick back up in these countries, it will be a new ballgame.”

Over the years, the Italian fashion house has been criticized by animal rights activists at times for its use of rabbit fur. In 2009, PETA supporters placed mannequins in coffinlike structures imprinted with “Armani: Fur is Dead” on the sidewalk outside of the Armani store in Taipei.

HSUS president and chief executive officer Wayne Pacelle first met the designer that same year to discuss the company’s use of fur. “It was obvious then that the presence of fur in some of his lines weighed heavily on his conscience. I knew then that Mr. Armani cared deeply about animals and it would be just a matter of time before he directed the switch to fur-free alternatives,” Pacelle said.

“He was dealing with the industry-wide assumption within the fashion industry that fur equates to luxury. That was always a questionable assumption, since you can buy strips of raccoon dog or fox fur for as little as $5 apiece or less. In fact, top quality faux fur can cost more,” Pacelle said. “The quality of faux fur these days is exceptional and comes with no moral problems.”

Armani’s decision follows in the footsteps of Hugo Boss, which announced in July that it would no longer use fur in any of its products. With Tuesday’s announcement of Armani’s fur-free policy, the HSUS hopes that other fur-using designers will follow the lead of the Italian designer. Pacelle pointed out that brands and designers like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Stella McCartney and Ralph Lauren are “disassociating themselves from animal cruelty and switching to cruelty-free alternatives that are indistinguishable from the real thing. Mr. Armani’s leadership makes it clear that designers can achieve luxury and creative freedom without real animal fur.”

This has been a notable month for the designer, who launched a digital platform for the “Si Women’s Circle,” highlighting women who have said “Si” to their aspirations and passions, such as Cate Blanchett. On another front, Rihanna recently kicked off her “Anti” world concert tour with a dramatic closing customized look by Armani.

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