Animal ethics in fashion

I have never hidden the fact that I take a very dim view of the use of animal products for fashion. I would never buy fur, feather or skin that had been slaughtered purposefully for apparel either as a finished product or as materials for my own work. In our modern age it isn’t necessary. But that’s just my stand point.

A Rogue Milliner creation 
(original link for credits here)

As a vegetarian of 22 years I also reined back from using any animal based product in my work (well it would be a bit hypocritical wouldn’t it?) but I’ve knocked the vegetarian thing on the head now, partly because I got back into millinery.

I’ve been using vintage and antique cast offs and reclaimed fur from old coats for years now but everything tended to come from car boots, ebay and junk shops. Car boots are sadly out of my reach these days in the absence of the key element – a car – and everyone has now cottoned on to vintage so it’s harder to pick up a bargain in the usual places.

My millinery specialty is feathered headwear predominantly open wings for hats, fascinators and statement pieces much along the lines of Philip Treacy’s work for Alexander McQueen.

I was inspired in 2010 by ‘JRF Rogue Milliner’ aka James Faulkner (website to follow) who makes his amazing creations from recycled and ‘reclaimed’ material and does not promote the slaughter of animals for fashion.

Adam Morrigan:Road Kill (Mappe Mundi)

I’ve also been blown away by the bizarre creations of Gloucestershire based artist Adam Morrigan who uses roadkill and industry bi-product to produce some really strange but thought provoking pieces. It’s not the sort of thing I’d hang on my wall but I applaud his ingenuity in using something that would have ended up in the dustbin or incinerator.

And then there are of course sites like EatonNott who’s Roadkill Couture really is in a league of its own. Again, nothing has been killed for fashion.

My new direction in fashion and concept / statement wear has renewed my enthusiasm for my millinery creations. It was additionally fuelled by several donations of road-kill pheasant which had been passed my way. Sometimes it was just the wings and tails, sometimes I had to do my own dirty work and prepare the bird. Hence the end of my vegetarian lifestyle.

Stunning creations from EatonNott

Following my recent work with John Farrar and Evie Wolfe I have started producing a limited edition millinery collection for 2012 which will use my open bird wing design throughout.

Finding suppliers has not been as difficult as I thought and I now have someone who will supply almost anything up to goose and turkey. This of course gives me a lot of scope for creative design.

I also now use a company called GH Leathers whose skins and furs are all bi-product from the food industry. My particular favourite at the moment is their eel skin leather which is the most incredible fabric I’ve ever used. Something between latex and kid leather it is the softest and most pliable of skin fabrics and it’s great to work with even for edgings. It isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it.

Preparation of any raw product is key. Wings come straight off the bird and have to be dealt with without damaging or weakening the structure. There’s no doubt you can’t be squeamish or have any reservations about where meat comes from when you’re doing this sort of work.

I don’t like to fuss and using long drawn out processes bores me. On the internet I found a traditional Red Indian method of ‘curing’ skins and wings and although it does take about a month to do it’s simple, effective and costs next to nothing.

Once I start work on these projects in February, I will do some updates on progress. Hopefully there will be shoots in February for the earliest completions and then I’ll arrange more in March and April. The schedule is looking quite busy but there’s always time for new creative work! These pieces will be for sale once they’ve been professionally photographed so if you’re interested in owning one please let me know.

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