Green Fur? Green Wash!

February 16, 2009
Fur is Greed

Fur is Green? More like Fur is Greed. The fur industry is jealous of the environmental movement. Green with envy, in fact. This has resulted in the Greenwashing award of the decade going to the Canada Fur Council’s “Fur is Green” campaign, which includes a spiffy website, a Facebook group, and amazing rationalizations that make historical comparisons impossible to ignore!

There are so many ways to expose the ridiculousness behind their hairy agenda that I don’t know which one to start with! Ok, ok, I’ll start with the one where they call people wearing fur “Environmental Activists“. So Let me get this straight – according to the Fur Is Green Facebook group,  if you are a compassionate person who wants animals to be able to live out their lives in protected habitats and doesn’t want them to be bludgeoned, trapped, or drowned in the wild, or vaginally electrocuted, gassed, or to spend their entire lives in small cages, you are a “fanatic”. But if you rationalize those things under the guise of “supporting thousands of jobs”, while avoiding looking at or openly addressing the actual acts and images associated with fur production, and indulging in toxically peserved luxury products, you are an “environmentalist”? Therefore, according to the CFC, compassion and empathy is fanatical.

Fur Is Toxic.
Producing a fur coat from ranch-raised animals takes more than 15 times as much energy as it does to produce a faux-fur coat! In addition, runoff waste from fur farms destroys waterways, and the toxic chemicals used (ammonia, chromates, bleaching agents, coal tar derivatives, hydrogen peroxide, formaldehyde, sulphides) to preserve the skins are also harming the environment. The fur industry has even lobbied governments in the Great Lakes area to maintain low water-quality standards—so that fur farms won’t be identified as major polluters. Wild trapping is no better,  indiscriminately catching whatever wanders into the trap – cats, dogs, endangered species – who are all thrown away after a miserable death.


I will be breaking a sacred rule of abuser-denial by making a historical comparison here (and they will be outraged at the audacity of my comparison): It was only 60 years ago that Ford Motor Company rationalized using Holocaust slave labor (my relatives) for car production. Yes, I know beavers are not Jews, and yes, I know that the Holocaust is not the fur industry – but the rationalizations used are the same. How could something so clearly terrible happen under our grandparents watch? Social atrocities don’t happen magically. They happen when people making money justify horrifying circumstances thoroughly enough to make them seem like “business as usual”.  The rationalizers avoid being compared to their predecessors at any cost. And they will continue to avoid these comparisons.

It seems there are always people who find ways to rationalize cruelty if there is money to be made – but to claim that your cruel and toxic industry is a workers’ advocacy, environmental, and “humane” industry is total doublethink!

The “FUR It’s MY CHOICE” poster from showcases the crux of the disconnect. Anyone who has a dog or a cat knows that animals are more than fiber-production-units. What about the individual animal’s choice to avoid sources of pain and torment? To roam free and raise their young? Clearly, that point can never be  addressed.

It’s pretty obvious that the purpose of this campaign is a desperate attempt from a dying industry to quell the doubts of inquisitive potential customers. The problem? The truth is hard to cover up.

Thankfully there are brilliant designers like Calvin Klein, Charlotte Ronson, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Benjamin Cho, Duckie Brown, Eddie Bauer, Guess?, H&M, Tommy Hillfiger, John Varvatos, Levi’s, Paul Frank, and people like Tim Gunn , Todd Oldham, Martha Stewart, Ellen Degeners and scores of other indistry professionals who are outspokenly anti-fur.

Fresh Friday Finds

November 7, 2008

1. History has been made as Proposition 2 passed in California. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of animal advocates around the country, 20 million farm animals’ lives will improve with the removal of veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages. The news, Wayne Pacelle’s Blog: What it means for animals. Beef jerky is consumed by real men. At least that’s what Umberto’s new campaign ‘Eat Like An Alpha‘ wants you to think. The website is so full of insulting, stereotypical, and gender-defining crap that I almost didn’t notice how gross the shriveled-up-flesh product is.

3. Custom Vegan Shoes! All you have to do is send in an image of the shoe or boot you want to Vegan Wares, and they’ll make it vegan! Holy Cow-less! CLICK HERE!

4. Fur-Free Fashion Week!

There are so many fashion events to go to this week! Start out at HSUS’ Cool Vs. Cruel on November 12th in NYC, celebrating Calvin Klein. But first vote on the people’s choice award for the CvC design contest! Then go to Friends of Animals’ ‘Reception Beyond Fur‘ on November 24th in NYC! See you there! Lastly, don’t forget the classic Fur Free Friday on November 28th targeting ShopNBC and Nordstrom.

anti-fur poster

Dirt Candy Logo5. New vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy has already won me over with their tag-line “Anyone can cook a hamburger, but leave the vegetables to the professionals“.

Dirt Candy Header Image


I got this letter from a reader the other day:

Dear Discerning Brute,
I've been talking with this guy lately, and we've gone out a few
times. Problem is, he's not even vegetarian (I'm a vegan). I honestly
just can't let myself "look past it"--in my opinion, it's like dating
someone of a completely different religion and neither of you want to
convert; the individual in question may be an all-around great person,
but to figure them into a relationship might not be the best idea, for
both parties.

Am I just being paranoid? I live in a small town in the South,
visit NYC often (family in Brooklyn) and plan to move there upon
graduation. Needless to say, it is VERY difficult to find vegan men
around here! 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read this!
"Vegan & the City"

Dear “Vegan & the City”
I completely know where you’re coming from! I’ve dated the vegan, vegetarian, and the omnivorous, and there is simply no rhyme or reason to evaluating the potentials of a relationship on that alone.
If you decided to come out as a vegansexual in your small town and date only the veg, you are probably cutting down your pool of available bachelors in the US by 90%, and in your hometown by 99.99%. I don’t recommend going this route, though it has its benefits: No need to explain yourself at meals, and less conflict of values. Is this enough in itself to make a relationship work? Not necessarily. I’d say that if everything else is working, the best thing you can do is be patient, compassionate, and steadfast. If he is a good guy, he will find joy in understanding you and he will become inquisitive without you having to push your values on him.
There are several things to be careful of as an equal-opportunity dater:
First, It’s important to distinguish that your veganism is not a religion. It is not faith-based. Rather, you are a voluntary spokesperson for a social justice struggle. You must make that clear so he respects it as a choice, not as a persuit of faith-driven puritanism. Second, if he decides eventually to go veg for you, or for any reason – be careful not to end up in a teacher-student dynamic. Often, when I’ve dated non-vegans who decide to go cold turkey on cold turkey, I end up being their vegan guru (whether I liked it or not) and that can totally kill the chemistry. If this happens, makes sure to have a book and a video to hand over, and step back and let them sort it out without being the babysitter or the critic.
It sounds like if you really like him, you have to stand your ground, and insist on being respected as an animal advocate. If he can deal with that, it’s a start. That means he should never, ever put you in an uncomfortable position concerning animals, even if he eats them on his own time. There is no need to accommodate his meat-eating any more than you would accommodate any other sort of disrespect. If he continuously disrespects, ridicules, or marginalizes your advocacy, it’s time to lose him and move on.

Joshua Katcher      photo © Maro

Blake Hamster

February 24, 2008
Blake Hamster

When a company views ecology and social responsibility as paramount – it gets a Discerning Brute’s attention. When that same company acts as a framework for designers, artists, marketers, journalists, authors and musicians from all over the world to collaborate, it becomes even more intriguing.


The most recent collection by Blake Hamster pragmatically entitled “001”, features menswear made from 100% organic cotton. Showcasing the cut designs of Ulla van den Heuvel & Susan Bauer and the artwork of Hamansutra, Andreas Döhring aka, Beagle, Jeroen Jongeleen aka Influenza, Catriona Shaw aka Miss le Bomb, Stephan Doesinger, and Diana Keller & Damir Doma . Photographers of the collection include Michael Heilgemeir, Lisa Miletic, Michael McKee, and Dieter Mayr Martin Fengel.



It is their aim to experiment with different products, from shirts to housewares, utilizing various production processes and distribution models while upholding a set of aesthetic and ethic ground rules. The fabric of the mens shirts consists of 100 % organic, eco-friendly cotton. Even the dying process of the fabric took place in accordance with the guidelines of the International Association of Natural Textile Industry. The shirts are produced sweatshop free and Blake Hamster ensures fair working conditions for everybody involved in the process.

The shirts are sewn in Italy by the renowned Confezioni Barbon. Barbon has been manufacturing clothing for over 40 years. They produce for Jil Sander, Escada, Chanel, Etro, Marithè Francois Girbaud, Theatre de la Mode, Marni, Gaetano Navarra, Calvin Klein, Pollini, Valentino, Piazza Sempione, Victor Victoria, and Hilton. Barbon’s production division is made up of a high qualified staff able to realize and produce items of a high quality standard.

At around $100 each, they are not cheap! But keep in mind they are limited to 50 of each style, so you are basically buying art. If you are interested in purchasing any of their products, SHOP HERE.

Fashion Week Highlight: John Patrick Organic, Fall 2008

February 11, 2008

I crossed under the scaffolding on a wet, gray Friday to enter the Bryant Park Hotel where a small crowd had gathered by the elevator, chatting about everything from the rain outside to Hillary Clinton’s pants-suits. I wondered if we were all headed to the same show – I couldn’t imagine the typical fashion-week crowd, ambling around in their furs and expensive-logos, getting excited by anything “eco”. Funny thing was, that on any other winter it would be snowing as opposed to raining. February in New York is typically a slushy mess, but – as we know – our planet is changing – and, being a physical part of it, so must we.

JPO Vest

Once inside the loft, a simple set of raw, wooden benches with recycled felt cushions lined the sides of the runway. The lighting was bright and sunny, and the room was getting packed. John Patrick ran around, saying hello to everyone and offering water. “You’re the one with the blog!” he said to me. “I grow my own organic cotton in the Peruvian jungle, and I recycle wool. I have offices in three different countries and I don’t even use computers!” He must have had some coffee. A suited DJ with classic Ray-Bans readied the turn-tables.

Apparently, John Patrick has mastered the art of turning old bed sheets into chic shirts, using harmless and natural dyes, and like Bono’s ‘Edun’, ORGANIC is comprehensive in it’s approach to labor. He travels around the world, training his factory workers to mill the organic crop into fibers and to maintain sustainable, local cottage hand-production industries.


The menswear featured on the runway had a casual and bucolic, private-school feel. John Patrick’s home in the Hudson River Valley surely played a role in inspiring these rustic looks from the recycled wool herringbone pants and recycled alpaca, storm-dust gray, short-tie to the organic cotton and recycled-wool, kelp-green vest. Another highlight was a gorgeous, organic jungle-cotton henley.

We talked briefly about our common taste for folk-rock, his work methodology, and his motivations. “We make sexy, modern organic clothes for the sexy, modern organic world…to look at ORGANIC and see only clothes is to miss the point: the clothes reflect a lifestyle. To wear them is to vote for the radically modern concept that luxury isn’t about stuff, it’s about integrity.”

JPO4 While we disagree in some areas, specifically on the use of new wool and leather (aside form recycled wool, which I have no problem with, he uses new ‘organic’ Vermont wool and vegetable-tanned cow skin), our vision for a paradigm shift within the industry is mostly united. More and more, the symbology of ‘cool’ and ‘luxury’ is changing, albeit a resistance of status-quo financial interests, and continual waves of color-by-number designers, stylists, and writers who haven’t been exposed to anything but a traditional and dangerous ideology of garment production and it’s equally dangerous iconography.

Let’s be honest; prototypical fashion designers do not concern themselves with ethical issues of ecologicalJPO3 sustainability, social responsibility, and animal exploitation. Some do, however – recently, fur seems to have made a come-back, and even while a psudo-defiant celebration of infantile self-gratification seems to overwhelm the fashion industry’s most influential – there is a growing rebellion that has yet to be embraced as the true calling of the iconoclast. Designers such as Vivian Westwood, Ralph Lauren, Betsey Johnson, Benjamin Cho, Charlotte Ronson, Stella McCartney, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Comme des Garçons, Linda Loudermilk, Jay McCarroll, Richard Chai and Marc Bouwer have all banned fur from their designs. Michael Kors and Donna Karen, take note. For more on fur, click here.

Furthermore, organizations like the ICC, UN, and ILO provide standards in working towards sustainability and social justice.
>> Go to ILO

There is a new generation of people (not ‘consumers’) who really care about where their clothes come from and what lives they affect. The important thing is that SSA (Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Animal Advocacy) is no longer just a noble concept to put into action – it is literally crucial for the very existence of the fashion industry.

DB’s Etiquette Recommendation: We live on a finite planet (that means there are limits, not infinite resources) and the typical production model for fashion and most other industries is a linear one. All things considered, common sense tells us this is bound to self-destruct. Watch this video to get a better understanding. It’s high time for the rest of the fashion industry to evolve or die off. The stakes are high, but the reward is the sustenance of fashion itself.

Check back soon for my interview with John Patrick.

*Photos courtesy of Paper Magazine