Animal rights: When fur flies on the catwalk

The designer Julien Macdonald was pelted with flour at London Fashion Week yesterday by protesters. Oliver Duff and Jonathan Brown report on some fashionable furores
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The Independent Online

No darling of the fashion world likes to be seen wearing the same outfit twice. So the designer Julien Macdonald may keep a low public profile for the rest of London Fashion Week after being pelted with flour by anti-fur protesters following his Covent Garden show on the opening night.

Macdonald, 32, was coated from head to toe as he posed for pictures with the hotel heiress Paris Hilton outside the Cuckoo Club in Mayfair, on their way into the after-show party. The white-faced Welshman laughed off the incident, although Hilton, who escaped with a sprinkling on her shoulder, looked less impressed as she was dusted off.

Members of Peta ­ People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ­ are promising further attacks on those leading lights of the industry who continue to support the promotion of lavish pelts on the catwalk.

Number one on their hit list is American Vogue's editor, Anna Wintour, who took her seat in the front row of Paul Smith's show yesterday morning wearing her trademark fur coat and dark glasses. Her presence ­ after an absence of four years ­ has stirred great excitement on the London scene, but protesters are salivating at the thought of scoring a direct hit against a long-standing enemy of the animal rights movement.

Wintour has been repeatedly targeted in the US for refusing to ban fur from the pages of her magazine. Protesters have stuffed cream pies in her face, thrown paint over her, jumped naked into a bath of fake blood outside her offices and posted her a package of maggot-infested animal guts.

In one notorious incident 10 years ago, an activist approached her in a New York restaurant and threw a dead racoon in her soup, reportedly shouting: "This is for the animals, fur hag." Wintour claims to have coolly ordered a waiter to remove the animal and continued with her meal.

Macdonald too has been targeted before ­ hence, perhaps, the calm resignation. "They had just got out of their car and were posing for the cameras," said an onlooker. "All of a sudden, a woman approached from behind the cameras and emptied the flour bomb over them. Julien was covered, as was the doorman standing next to him. They were both bundled back into the car and driven around the block."

The female protester was held by door staff while they called police, but she escaped and ran down the street just as sirens came into earshot.

Yvonne Taylor, a spokeswoman for Peta, said there was "nothing fashionable about the torture and death of animals killed for fur". Referring to the fur-clad models in his show, she added: "Julien Macdonald may have been able to ignore images of bloody skinned animals gasping for breath in the past, but hopefully a dash of flour will help him forsake fur once and for all." A spokesman for Macdonald said the Merthyr Tydfil-born designer did not wish to comment.

A spokeswoman for the British Fashion Council said that the council did not interfere with the aesthetic of any designer.

She defended the organisers' arrangements: "We always have a very strong security system and this season was no different. Security at the Julien Macdonald show was excellent because the protesters did not get into the show."

Peta targeted Macdonald in February 2003, storming the catwalk during his winter collection at the London Fashion Show. At the time, he justified the use of fur, saying it "was inspired by sex and glamour. It is for the women who... aren't afraid to look sexy." He shrugged off the demonstration, saying it was "a bit of a waste of their time" because his fur jackets and coats were manufactured from rabbit pelts and by-products of the meat industry.

The Protests

* Peta anti-fur protesters carrying "Fur is dead" placards leap on to the catwalk at Julien Macdonald's spring-summer collection in London in September last year. One demonstrator, pictured, held aloft a mis-spelt banner as the designer took his final bow

* Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, in stockings and suspenders during the Victoria's Secrets show in New York in 2002, is targeted by Peta for her contract with the American fur company Blackglama

* Peta protesters wearing masks of American Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, protest outside the New York office of the "Fur Witch" in October. Twice last year she received the tofu cream pie treatment

* Calvin Klein's black suit is plastered with a tofu cream pie as he arrives at the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards ceremony in New York in June 2001

* An unpleasant moment for a Peta protester on the catwalk of designer Jean-Paul Gaultier's show in March 2003. The designer's assistant threw a fur blanket over the activist

* The Pretenders' lead singer, Chrissie Hynde, is arrested in March 2000 for protesting in the window of a Gap clothing store in New York, against what she claimed was the company's use of "illegally and cruelly" slaughtered cows in India

* The Italian fashion giant Prada was in the firing line hours before its autumn-winter catwalk show in Milan last year when Peta protesters in red paint caused havoc in their upmarket store in the northern city

* Shoppers at the Galeries Lafayette in Paris survey semi-naked protesters from Peta. The sign reads: "We'd rather be dead than wear fur"

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