Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Peta: Rage against the Burberry

I received an email this morning (shown below) about what appears to have been quite a dramatic and heated exchange by Burberry front man Christopher Bailey and Peta's Bruce Friedrich. With the exception of the anal and vaginal electrocution references *shudder*, I enjoyed reading it, especially the script detailing the exchange. As someone who falls on the anti-fur side of the wall it's still good to be reminded why fur (including vintage pelts) isn't glamorous. It's to easy to ignore the moral issues that are part and parcel of the this trade:

PETA VP confronts Burberry designer Christopher Bailey at London College of Fashion

After years of trying to reach executives at Burberry about the company's use of fur—via polite letters as well as lively protests—and getting no response, PETA took the issue to Burberry designer Christopher Bailey personally Monday night when PETA VP Bruce Friedrich caught up with him at a London College of Fashion discussion. In front of more than 200 students, Friedrich confronted Bailey about his continued use of fur and refusal to meet with PETA.

Below is Friedrich's play-by-play. On the heels of successful, behind-the-scenes negotiations with Polo Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood and Tommy Hilfiger over the past two years—which have resulted in the companies' formal policies against fur—Burberry refuses to engage in any sort of dialogue. So PETA is turning up the heat, a tactic not without a successful precedent: it took a sit-in at Calvin Klein's office in 1994 before he took the fur issue seriously, and banned fur.

Event started at 6 p.m... It was “a discussion” about men’s fashion moderated by Colin McDowell of the Sunday Times. After about 30 minutes of talk about trends, I [Friedrich] raised my hand:
  • Mr. McDowell said, “Oh good, a question! Yes. Oh and you’re prepared, you have notes! Please wait for the microphone so that everyone can hear you”
  • Friedrich: Do you mind if I take the discussion in a slightly different direction?
  • McDowell: No no, please do!
  • Friedrich (reviewing my notes, which is how I know exactly what I said—I had the microphone and spoke very slowly): I have a question for Mr. Bailey about morality in fashion. [Bailey starts to look nervous]. Specifically, fur farming is so cruel to animals that it is illegal in the UK and many other countries, yet you continue to put it into Burberry's collections. Animals are anally and vaginally electrocuted and skinned alive [gasps], and you seem not to care at all. Is there any abuse of animals so hideous that you would object? For those who are interested, there is video and documentation available at
  • Bailey: I would be happy to have that discussion with you, but not here.
  • McDowell (blustering, livid, bursts out): Now I have a question for you—What gives you the right to come in here, what relevance does that question have to the issue of men’s fashion. Take his microphone away!
  • Friedrich: Well you asked me a question, so please do me the courtesy of hearing my answer. [he looked like “oh shit, well that was stupid of me”] What Christopher Bailey pays people do to do to animals on some of the worst fur farms you can imagine, would put him in jail for cruelty to animals if he were paying people to do it to dogs or cats. The fur industry is a violent bloody industry that skins animals alive and crams them into crates where they go insane, and he supports it. Every time and everyplace is appropriate for this discussion.
  • McDowell: Well he says he’ll talk w/you about it later. This is not the time.
  • Friedrich: He told us that before and then he didn’t return our calls or reply to our letters.
  • McDowell: You have made your point. You’ve done what you came here to do. You are welcome to stay or go, but we will not be discussion this issue at this forum. [thunderous applause, though til this point, you could hear a pin drop].
  • About 10 minutes later I [Friedrich] walked up and slipped Bailey one of our Burberry leaflets and a note that read “Please make good on your promise this time. You told us you’d meet with us before; this time please call” and gave him my contact info. McDowell looked very concerned as I walked up.
  • When they finished up, I [Friedrich] was able to go up and have a very heated exchange with him, our faces about 5 inches apart, in front of the line of people who had come for his autograph.
  • Friedrich: I hope you will meet with us; I think if you saw these fur farms, if you really understood the horrible abuse of animals involved in the fur industry, you’d agree to stop designing with this cruel material.
  • Bailey (moving in and putting his face about 5 inches from mine—very angry and intense): What gives you the right to come in here and hijack this event and take over everything and disrupt it and ruin this event? This is not the place for this discussion.
  • Friedrich: You told us you’d meet with us and then you backed out. I hope you will call or email me to set up a meeting; you are supporting horrible cruelty.
  • Bailey: I have to talk with other people. You have no style [yes, he actually said “you have no style”; maybe he meant “class”?]
It was pretty bizarre—everyone on line for an autograph from Bailey took a Burberry leaflet from me (including Bailey and his handler and Jeremy Langmead, the editor of Esquire, who was sharing the stage with him.)




Amstermatt said...

Excellent, I'm glad that these questions get asked, that it was done in an environment that made Mr. Bailey feel uncomfortable is a wonderful comparison to the thousands upon thousands of animals suffering more than discomfort daily...

Now, all we need is some answers from Bailey, hopefully he'll talk to PETA now

Edith Purdy said...

You make an excellent point, I think it is very fitting that he was outside his comfort zone when being questioned. I'm sure he had quite a sleepless night afterwards.

I have to say, I've always been anti-fur, but I had no idea that the process was quite that bad. I feel quite sick at the thought of it. I knew it was wrong, but anal and vaginal electrocution!

Betty said...

I can't believe McD's outburst! that man is something else...can you please just sit up and take note of the issues? Fashion should not be ignoring the major effect it has on people and planet, and old school opinions like that only support the old school pompous cliche that fashion doesn't give a damn. So wrong.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, fur is bad!? Well I never!

And to quote:

"I have to say, I've always been anti-fur, but I had no idea that the process was quite that bad."

God, if this blog was any worse it'd be in The Sun. I'm convinced the "Islam" entry was ripped straight from it's pages.

Edith Purdy said...

Well the sun is the nations 'favourite' newspaper... so thanks!

Anonymous said...

I am a design student myself who is extremely interested in researching the fur industry and after reading this article i am shocked that such a talented designer could be treated with such disrespect at an event with hundreds of people. Fur is a vital part of the burberry brand, he is simple staying loyal to the company he revitalised years ago. Adam, Newcastle.

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