During the fourth edition of the Kering Talk at the London College of Fashion on Wednesday, Gucci chief executive officer Marco Bizzarri revealed the Italian luxury brand will go fur-free, eliciting warm applause from students and industry figures in the audience.
“I knew that once Gucci decides to go fur-free, it will be a real game changer for the industry. So bravo,” said Livia Firth, founder and creative director of Eco-Age, who interviewed Bizzarri on stage.
The decision marks a major move by Gucci and its creative director, Alessandro Michele, and brings the Italian brand in line with the practices of its Kering stablemate Stella McCartney, who has long eschewed the use of fur and leather.
The decision was a long time in the making, according to Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S. In a post Wednesday, he recalled how in 2009, Gucci hosted him for a meeting with its senior leadership in Florence to discuss the use of fur in its products. “At the time, I was greatly impressed by the company’s record of concern for social and ecological issues and its commitment to corporate social responsibility. To its credit, Gucci kept up the dialogue with us for eight years, and today, patience paid off,” he said.
In addition, the Humane Society International issued a joint statement with the Fur Free Alliance commending Gucci’s decision. Kitty Block, president of Humane Society International, said: “Gucci going fur-free is a huge game changer. For this powerhouse to end the use of fur because of the cruelty involved will have a huge ripple effect throughout the world of fashion. A staggering 100 million animals a year still suffer for the fur industry, but that can only be sustained for as long as designers continue to use fur and consumers purchase it. So we commend Gucci’s compassionate decision and for helping to ensure that the future of fashion is fur-free.”
PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said, “After more than 20 years of PETA protests against Gucci’s kangaroo-fur loafers and seal-fur boots, Gucci has finally pledged to join Armani, Ralph Lauren and Stella McCartney in the ranks of fur-free fashion houses. The writing was on the wall: Today’s shoppers don’t want to wear the skins of animals who were caged, then electrocuted or bludgeoned to death. Until all animal skins and coats are finally off the racks of clothing stores worldwide, PETA will keep up the pressure on the clothing and fashion industry.”
Bizzarri’s talk was part of an ongoing partnership between the London College of Fashion and Kering to promote sustainability.
In addition to its new fur-free policy, Bizzarri highlighted a number of the brand’s continuing efforts to operate in a more sustainable manner, including investing in startups that are looking at new ways of producing textiles.
“New technology presents unlimited possibilities in terms of textiles, and it would be a mistake for us not to be at the forefront of this,” the executive said. “We need to invest in these startups because they can disrupt the sector in terms of sustainability, achieving the same quality of leather production for instance, without any water or chemical waste.”
He also stressed that a sustainable approach has social connotations and is not only linked to environmental issues.
“People’s well-being is key; without it you cannot maintain the creativity that is at the center of our industry and business won’t foster,” he said, adding that ensuring that all of Gucci’s 60,000 employees will be receiving their salaries in the next 20 years is also a key part of building a sustainable company for him.
When asked how the company is addressing the issue of overconsumption, Bizzarri explained that although this has been “a good problem to have,” the company is looking at alternative business models to ensure that it maintains a luxury position and its product is not oversaturated in the market.
During the event, the winners of the annual Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion were also revealed. As part of the competition, students were invited to work on a project that embraces sustainability and innovation for Kering-owned brands including Gucci and Stella McCartney.
Laure Fernandez and Charlie Wilkinson received the award for Gucci, and Dianjen Lin and Jennifer Kusowski for Stella McCartney. Next year the brands participating in the competition will be Pomellato and Alexander McQueen.