Ann Taylor Parent Bans Alpaca Wool — Why These Industry Groups Are Opposing the Move

Ascena Retail Group Inc. is soon banning alpaca wool — and some industry groups aren’t happy about it.

The parent company of the Ann Taylor and Loft brands announced that it will no longer sell products made with the natural fiber following the winter ’20 season. According to the nonprofit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the ban would apply to all of the retailer’s brands, including Lou & Grey, Lane Bryant and Cacique.

However, two industry groups have spoken out in opposition of Ascena’s move. The Accessories Council, which counts roughly 330 company-members in the accessories, eyewear and footwear industries, questioned the decision as Ascena continues to sell cashmere wool — a material that is harvested in a similar fashion to alpaca wool. Both are obtained through shearing the animal. (Cashmere can also be collected by combing cashmere goats.)

“Alpaca is not endangered; it’s mainly farm-raised and acquired in a humane fashion,” Accessories Council president Karen Giberson said in a statement. “It’s disappointing to hear of this decision, and I worry about the network of small farms and business owners whose livelihoods will be impacted.”

The Natural Fibers Alliance echoed the sentiment. The newly formed coalition, which is based in Washington, D.C., added that the decision could “harm fashion sustainability,” considering that natural fibers like alpaca wool are renewable — versus synthetic materials, which can take anywhere from tens to hundreds of years to decompose in landfills.

Following its successful appeal to Ascena, PETA shared in a statement that it plans to call on high-low specialty retailer Anthropologie to follow suit. Currently, luxury fashion house Valentino, fast-fashion giant Uniqlo, apparel and accessories chain ESPRIT and athletic-outdoor firm Columbia Sportswear are some of the businesses that have prohibited the use of alpaca wool in their collections.

Separately, a number of big-name brands and retailers have announced their own bans on animal-obtained fabrics as the use of materials like real fur in fashion continues to drop in popularity and favor among consumers: Just this past September, Nordstrom pledged to stop selling products that are made with animal fur or exotic animal skins, effective at 2021’s end. What’s more, starting in February, United Kingdom-based department store Selfridges prohibited the sale of exotic animal skins, while Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s will ditch fur by the end of this year. High-end designer labels like Karl Lagerfeld, Versace, Gucci, Coach and Diane von Furstenberg have also promised to cease the production of fur in their collections.

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