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slay green is the new black

SLAY Gets Under Fashion’s Skin—And Ours

Make way because the producers of Cowspiracy and What the Health have a gritty and game-changing documentary that has dropped on WaterBear, the new environmentally conscious streaming service, and we can’t stop talking about it.

Directed and presented by animal rights activist Rebecca Cappelli and co-produced by Cowspiracy co-director Keegan Kuhn, SLAY exposes harsh truths in an unhesitating light and asks, is killing animals for fashion acceptable?

The title is a play on its definitions, to kill and to dress to kill.  Over three years in the making, this documentary spans across seven countries and explores myths and hidden issues around fashion’s three favourites: leather, fur and wool.

Animals: the dark corner

There are several organisations, such as Fashion Act Now, Fashion Revolution, Good On You, Asia Floor Wage Alliance, Clean Clothes Campaign, Remake, addressing issues of garment workers and justice, but not enough people are talking about fashion’s use of animals. Undeniably, both are linked: what we need is a system that does not commodify animals – the same way fashion still commodifies people working in tanneries, slaughterhouses, shearing sheds, garment factories and so on.

SLAY steps in to make these interventions about the lack of transparency, greenwashing, and horrific slaughtering supply chains. Animals have been left out of the climate justice conversation despite their bodies being turned into fashion statements on runways. We get under fashion’s skin and see this for ourselves.

Skin is not a ‘material’ but animal skin

Director Rebecca Cappelli, a French animal rights activist, starts the documentary by asking: can you be an animal lover and wear animals? Viewers follow Rebecca on her three-year journey across seven countries to uncover answers, and we’re treated to numerous unscripted interviews by industry professionals.

The film carefully dissects every pro-animal leather/fur/wool argument. Is leather longer lasting and more biodegradable than synthetic alternatives? Is it really just a byproduct? Watch the documentary to find out. But in a nutshell, strong and toxic chemicals are needed to transform animal skin to leather. This is something you might not have heard of: how detrimental they are to the environment and exploited workers, how those working in and living around tanneries struggle with fatal diseases all their lives when exposed to the toxic water.

And what have ‘made in Itlay’ labels got to do with it, you ask? Shouldn’t that be safer, more trusted? Well no, a seemingly prestigious label like that that is said to promise higher quality materials is false. We rarely get to see what goes behind the certifications, what part of a manufacturing process needs to happen in Italy for it to be given this label. According to the bloody truths uncovered in the documentary, a leather belt made from a cow reared in a deforested area of the Amazon, whose skin was transported to a sweatshop in India for tanning before making its way to Milan for finishing touches, can still count as ‘made in Italy’.

Fur, too, has been branded as a sustainable option, more than plastic-based alternatives. The market for fur globally is larger than ever, with up to 120 million animals killed in the industry every year (those killed in cruel traps and those confined and killed brutally, in massice numbers). Fur produces seven times more emissions than syntheic faux fur. And wool is left out of animal cruelty conversations because we are taught to believe that no sheep need to die to obtain the material. In Slay we see how australia Australia produces 80% of the world’s supply of merino wool, but farmers breed their lambs during winter to keep costs low. Australian winters are brutal. Millions of lambs die every year within hours of being born.

Slay does not flinch away from naming those most culpable. Yes, building a kinder wardrobe, if that’s something you can do, is essential. But more important is collectively holding big brands that source leather from questionable sources, like Armani, Versace, Dior, Zara, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger, accountable.

What can we wear instead?

In the end, we are led to two questions: (a) What do we wear instead and (b) How do we push for a better fashion industry. The makers behind Slay believe that fashion must be free from both animal-derived materials and virgin synthetics. Arguing that we must choose between either animal-derived or synthetic materials is to argue a false dichotomy – alternatives like cork leather, Mirum, GACHA, hemp, Tencel, and so on are just a few of the many alternatives to leather, wool and fur which are either plant-based, plastic-free, biodegradable or all three.

As their FAQ section elaborates, “While it’s true that common alternatives to animal-derived materials are synthetic, they advocate the fashion industry’s adoption and investment into total ethics alternatives which value animals, people and the planet alike. While some partly bio-based leather alternatives still require some fossil fuels for example, this innovation is a stepping stone to entirely fossil fuel and animal free fashion.

What’s more, it’s important to remember that the reasons for avoiding fossil-fuel derived synthetics can be applied to animal-derived materials, too: leather production can require more fossil fuels than synthetics, and while fossil fuels and synthetics perpetuate the climate crisis and destroy ecosystems, so too do fur, leather and wool. We must move beyond all of these.”

A total ethics fashion system

Finally, the documentary leaves us with a powerful call to embrace ‘total ethics fashion’: one which values the life and wellbeing of all animals; humans and non-humans, as well as the planet, before profit. Protecting non-human animals like raccoon dogs, foxes, mink, cows and sheep in the fashion industry is critical, as non-human rights are an unshakeable part of social justice. Protecting one is a part of protecting all.

The fashion industry needs to slow down and produce less, allowing for more Indigenous land to be returned and protected. A just transition – one which delivers more secure, equitable work, which respects cultural customs as well as the fate of our planet and all those living on it – doesn’t leave anyone behind, and is built with and for the often silenced voices.

 Take action

ASK #WhatDoIWearInstead – Join the social media campaign, call on brands to innovate and evolve beyond harming animals, while starting important conversations in your community.

SUPPORT A FUR FREE EUROPE – Right now, a European Citizen’s Initiative is collecting 1 million signatures, calling on the European Commission to ban fur farming and the sale of all farmed fur products.

KEEP LEARNING AND ENGAGING WITH TOTAL ETHICS FASHION – Continue learning about animals exploited for fashion, and about other ethics and sustainability issues in the industry.

BUILD A KINDER WARDROBE – Your wardrobe is powerful, and you can choose to use it for good. Learn how to better care for the clothes you already have, and about how to shop more consciously for animal-free, ethical and sustainable garments, shoes and bags – including those which are pre-loved.

This list is compiled from Slay’s website—head there for more!

Catch the premiere of SLAY (screening on Sunday, 2nd October at 12:30pm) at our very own Conscious Festival in Paris!

FEATURED IMAGE: via Waterbear | IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Close up of a black open toe heel with “SLAY” in white block font on the left and “THE FILM THAT GETS UNDER FASHION’S SKIN” to the top left.