Imagine that. The gorgeous Gisele Bündchen fully covered in what seems to be bear fur, a fist on her hip looking prouder than ever, holding a baby kangaroo.
This stunning picture, taken by fashion photographers Inez and Vinoodh is the cover of the August issue of Vogue Paris and has already roused a lot of interest in the fashion industry and it’s not because of Miss Bündchen’s beauty either. In fact, it’s the subject matter that Vogue Paris’s Editor-in-chief, Emmanuelle Alt, decided on for the issue: cruelty-free and eco fashion.
Trendy topics right? For animal lovers and environmentalists, maybe. For the most influential fashion outlet on Earth? Not so much. Until now.
Since its creation in 1892, Vogue magazine has continuously praised fur and other animal-based products such as leather, in luxury goods with far reaching consequences – enabling women wearing them to rise in the eyes of peers and the wider society. According to a 1929 Vogue feature titled The Fur Story of 1929 ,
“the fur you wear will reveal to everyone the kind of woman you are and the kind of life you lead.”
This attitude toward fur may have been normal in 1929 (where clothing necessities and lack of knowledge about production methods were commonplace) but it remained part of the Vogue fashion philosophy throughout decades of fashion journalism, until only very recently.
Even in the 80s and 90s, when animal rights groups such as PETA and activists were increasingly vocal and launched campaigns such as “I’d rather go naked than wear fur”, winter editorials in Vogue editions were constantly filled with mink, buffalo and fox fur coats. Animal fur showcased as “must have” products for the elegant fashionista.
But Vogue wasn’t the only culprit. Other magazine editors began showing off the trendiest designs from well-regarded fashion designers – including the glamorous Italian squad including Versace, Gucci, Prada – and unfortunately they had a taste for real fur.
This trend continued at Vogue Paris when Carine Roitfeld, known at the time for her “porn-chic” style was named Editor-in-chief in 2001. Roitfeld’s style was a mix of studded leather, real fur and young looking models in sensual poses which made flipping through an issue of Vogue Paris at the time an activity prone to making PETA activists choke to death every two pages.
Yet, as campaigns got louder and industry insiders began turning their backs on fur and promoting more sustainable materials, Vogue began incorporating cruelty-free fashion products in its editorials.
In recent years, articles such as the “Best faux fur coats for the winter season” or “Vegan leather bags that are actually chicer than the real thing” could be seen amongst its pages. Yet, the majority of products used in photo shoots or advertised in editorials are still animal-based and fur makes regular appearances in winter editions.
Hence the ground-breaking nature of the Vogue Paris August issue. No editions in the Conde Nast group (the company that owns Vogue), had ever dared to dedicate an entire issue to cruelty-free and eco fashion… until this one. Emmanuelle Alt, Vogue Paris’ editor in chief explains that “since its very first days, it has been in the DNA of Vogue Paris to set or capture and enhance the most significant trends of the time”. But when you consider that more than 50 percent of the French population owns a pet, its about time their love of animals has caught up with their love of fashion.
And while a single issue of a Vogue magazine may not sound like much, the lasting impacts may actually be significant.
Indeed, for regular readers, Vogue is an important source of inspiration and even though the majority of the luxury products advertised are out of reach for most people; the magazine has been setting trends for what’s in and what’s out for decades, influencing purchasing habits of many fashionistas and inspiring stylists the world over.
Moreover, by choosing Gisele Bundchen – who some consider the greatest supermodel of all time and who is notably known for her commitment to the environment, animal rights and plant-based eating – the issues covered in the August issue is bound to reach millions of people (her sharing of the cover has garnered 225,500 likes on that one image alone).
By showcasing responsible fashion, Vogue Paris is sending an important message to the rest of the industry: cruelty-free and vegan fashion is as desirable as any luxury good. Cruelty is out. Cruelty-free is in.
Let’s hope that by proving itself to be a vegan fashion pioneer in media, Vogue will have filled its role as a trendsetter and helped the industry to be more responsible to the planet and respectful to animals.
Doubt that people, brands and magazines can change? Well Giselle and Vogue Paris shows that it’s possible.