Fashion Week: All Fur Naught

by Catherine Curan, 09/08/2008

Anti-fur protestors leaped onto the runway at the end of Donna Karan's 20th anniversary DKNY show yesterday, brandishing signs that read, "Donna Dump Fur." (There was not a swatch of fur to be seen, though Karan appeared to have skinned a taxi to cover the runway.) They trained their sights Monday on the day's first major show, Carolina Herrera.

Toting placards with grisly scenes of lamb fetuses, and the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award winner's face splotched with fake blood, a clutch of protestors stood outside the Bryant Park tents. They didn't make it inside, where Renee Zellweger joined top brass from Saks and Neiman Marcus to watch newly-minted supermodel Agyness Deyn strut in a bright persimmon silk organza jacket, camisole and cigarette pants.

But the protest highlighted the enduring tension between the fantasy of fashion, where fur epitomizes luxury, and real-world issues of how designers obtain the materials they use.

After the show, the grim-faced protestors contrasted sharply with the Vuitton toting fashion flock exiting onto 6th Avenue. One protestor, dressed all in black, wore an animal mask, high heels splotched with red, and a fake-blood-spattered white apron.

Carolyn Spigel, who described herself as a citizen activist, said the protestors were affiliated with PETA and local group NYC Animal Rights. Spigel carried a placard that read, "Carolina Herrera stole my baby," to call attention to broadtail fur, taken from lamb fetuses. She claimed Herrera and other designers use this fur because it is tight and circular.

Most fashionistas searching for taxis seemed eager to escape the activists, who were not only raising unpleasant questions but committing an egregious faux pas: showing up to the tents poorly dressed. One man in a natty suit--the designer's husband, Reinaldo Herrera--sparred with them a bit. (Herrera is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, also owned by Condé Nast.) His reaction to the protest: "Who cares? It's so stupid. This is a summer collection. It's ridiculous to do this now. At least do it when it has a point."

Herrera sped away in a taxi. The protestors posed for pictures for The New York Times and spoke to whoever was willing to listen.

Despite their words falling on mostly deaf fashion in crowd ears, they planned to keep talking. A calendar on the New York City Animal Rights Meetup group web page revealed that activists were gearing up to target three more shows this afternoon: Dennis Basso, Custo Barcelona, and Zac Posen.