In this game, we play for small wins. We hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and – maybe, if we’re feeling positive – expect something that falls somewhere neatly in between. (A smattering of partially-recycled materials here, a vegan leather upper there.) Occasionally, though, you get something a little grander in scale; a change where you can see the needle move – and stay moved – rather than just wobbling a little.
When Kering announced that the entire group would go fur-free as of the Fall ’22 collection cycle, for example – that was a jump. When Balenciaga – which, as it happens, is a part of Kering – released its mycelium-based EPHEA™ wrap coat, the leap was less impressive but still had a massive impact.
On that scale, the announcement that SMCP – the French group which counts Sandro and De Fursac amongst its small collection of well-regarded brands – will end the use of feather and down products in the collections of its labels, falls somewhere between the two. On the one hand, of course, Maje and Claudie Pierlot aren’t on the same level as Gucci or Bottega Veneta; on the other, committing to a full-scale ban on these products, which have been linked with poor standards even at the “responsible down” level, is a big deal – not just because of the fact itself, but because of what it means moving forward.
Several of SMCP’s brands produce the kind of outwear which, traditionally, would have employed feather and down materials from various birds – namely ducks and geese – in their construction. Given that these brands are unlikely to scale back their output and take jackets off the menu entirely, this means diverting resources into research and marketing for alternative materials.
To that end, the Group’s official statement to PETA France confirms a push toward vegan materials not just under the pressure of effective animal rights campaigning but also with regard to material efficiency; SMCP notes that these products have the potential to be low-impact in their production and, when it comes to performance, to “retain their insulating properties even when damp.”
Of course, we have to mention here that SMCP hasn’t made this commitment across the board: yes, the Group also ended the use of exotic leathers and furs, but the more usual animal leathers remain a huge part of its offering across more-or-less every brand. That being said, for the first time this year, say it with your chest: Progress Over Perfection.
Photograph: Benjamin Suter