Fuseworks Media

THE ICONIC bans decorative feathers as new report exposes widespread mislabelling by fashion retail giants

In response to widespread mislabelling exposed in a new report digging into the cagey global feather trade, fashion retail giant THE ICONIC has introduced a new decorative feather ban from 2024. Meanwhile, ASOS have responded by strengthening their existing policy.

Outlined in the report, independent textile analysis confirmed that genuine animal feathers were inaccurately labelled as ‘faux’ or ‘synthetic’ by THE ICONIC, Selfridges, Boohoo and ASOS. In addition, report researchers identified that fashion brands Nordstrom, Cettire, Net-a-Porter and Revolve were selling garments with clear distinguishing features of genuine feathers, mislabelled as ‘faux feathers’.

Suzanne Milthorpe, Head of Campaigns, World Animal Protection said:

“Our polling has repeatedly shown that the use of wild animals in fashion is becoming unacceptable in the eyes of the consumer. This makes the mislabelling by big fashion brands a blatant breach of consumer trust, many of whom may be trying to shop cruelty-free.”

Report co-author Emma Hakansson of Collective Fashion Justice added:

“THE ICONIC’s decision to ban all decorative feathers helps to protect all wild birds in addition to conventionally farmed birds typically used for those purposes. The policy is progressive, and one we are sure to see replicated by global retailers in the near future. Brands can choose to spend big money tracing their supply chains in an effort to reduce animal welfare risks, or they can implement strategic policies that help to eliminate animal suffering from the value chain entirely. This is a more effective and responsible approach, particularly given there is no way to commodify wild animals for fashion which can be considered genuinely ethical.”

Fashion retail giants are not the only ones ditching the controversial material as Australia’s Melbourne Fashion Week just announced that wild-bird feathers will no longer be allowed on its runways from 20241, making it the first show in the world to become fur, feather and wild animal skin free.

World Animal Protection and Collective Fashion Justice have celebrated the move as a shining example for the global fashion industry and a message to other Fashion Weeks which currently have no existing policies in place on wildlife use across their runways.

Suzanne Milthorpe, Head of Campaigns, World Animal Protection said:

“Kiwi designers using feathers in their collections have a real opportunity to innovate past the cruel and dated use of wildlife in fashion, while contributing to an ethical and sustainable future for the industry.

“Feathers often find their way into fashion through extremely cruel practices which undermine the most basic principles of animal welfare. With their new policy, Melbourne is setting the stage for a future where fashion and ethics go hand in hand, cementing a global standard for the industry which truly aligns with public expectations. We hope to see more brands and fashion week organisers follow Melbourne’s lead and embrace innovation over exploitation by keeping wildlife materials out of their collections.”

Emma Hakansson, Founding Director of Collective Fashion Justice, said:

“Fashion’s ongoing use of feathers is built on a ‘we’ve always done it this way’ notion that deems animal exploitation and planetary harm acceptable. In an interwoven environmental and ethical crisis, it’s time to move beyond that. Fashion is about creativity and innovation, and designers utilising next-generation plant-based, 3D printed, bio-based and recycled materials in place of feathers are leading us to the future of fashion we need. M/FW’s decision allows the industry to become more creative, and less reliant on outdated systems: that’s exciting and commendable.”

The report, labelling feathers as the new fur, has also highlighted the shocking practice of live plucking within the feather industry, marketed to major brands as being of the highest quality.

“There is no way to turn a wild animal into a handbag or coat without causing immense suffering. It’s now up to the brands and shows to decide whether this is something they can justify and support.” Suzanne Milthorpe, Head of Campaigns, World Animal Protection added.

World Animal Protection and Collective Justice are calling on the industry to end its reliance on wildlife exploitation as a source of materials by investing in ethical, sustainable and innovative alternatives, in line with consumer expectation.