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Tim Gunn and me

Tim-gunn-peta I had the loveliest chat not long ago with Tim Gunn, the heart and soul of "Project Runway." If you didn't see it originally, you can read it here.

Gunn occupies the role on "Project Runway" that the Queen of England holds constitutionally in her realm: to advise, to warn, to be consulted. It's a wonderful role, and an influential one, which is why I was all the more delighted with this part of my exchange with Gunn:

Do we have you to thank for the fact that there is no fur in the challenges?

Yes, thank you! I was called a fool when I was chair of fashion at Parsons and I invited PETA to speak to students. The industry went crazy. I said: "Wait a minute. The International Fur Trade Commission is coming here. I have a responsibility to bring another point of view, let the students decide." I would say if you're going to use fur, you have a responsibility to know its origins. At Liz Claiborne, every brand is now fur-free. A woman assaulted me verbally for my fur position. She said one of [her] favorite items is a mink coat, and that furthermore, it's sheared mink, so people wouldn't even know it's fur. I said: "Then you have even less of an excuse. Sheared fur looks like velvet. You could wear a velvet coat." I'm also not a great fan of faux fur that looks real -- I'd much rather have it look fake.

And yet every few seasons, including this one, you thumb through the fashion mags, and there's fur, fur, fur. PETA's chic, no-fur celebrity messages can't compete -- they can't afford to make the same splash that huge, rich fashion brands can, and it's the latter that drive buying habits. I won't say ''taste'' because it isn't tasteful.

There's no reason to kill animals for fur. Wearing fur is like wearing a big sign reading, ''I'm in favor of inflicting cruelty and pain on animals as a fashion statement.''  Unspeakable torture is inflicted on dogs, cats, bunnies, raccoons, foxes, minks and myriad trapped, helpless creatures in the name of fashion -- yes, dogs and cats.

Here's a PETA music video of what those dog and cat fur ''farms'' look like, and if you've gone shopping for fur or even thought of buying it, you have a moral obligation to watch. [Warning: There are images of animals being poorly treated:]

 And here is the video Gunn made with PETA on the matter. [Warning: It includes some graphic images of animals being poorly treated, killed and stripped of their fur:]

About 10 years ago, Burlington Coat Factory had to recall parkas trimmed in dog fur. A couple of years ago, the Humane Society asked the feds to penalize retailers and designers that mislabeled fur from dogs and wolves as something more, well, palatable. Donna Karan's pledged to go fur-free. How about you?

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Tim Gunn Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (27)

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I enought of my own natural fur! I don't an additional layer!

As much as I admire Tim, he's wrong about this.

Among other furs, I own a sheared mink. I also own velvet coats. The velvet and the sheared mink do not look, nor do they feel, alike. As to faux fur, well, I've yet to see a faux fur that didn't look cheap. Until global warming does something to improve Chicago winters, I'll stick with my furs: coat, jacket, muffs, etc. NOTHING keeps me warm like fur (unless I want to look like the Michelin tire man!).

What about wool?, that be a better choice than fur.

Guy's got a point. Just because we can doesn't mean we should. There's plenty of other materials that will keep you warm. Leather you can barely make an argument for since the animals are already raised for milk and meat, you might as well use the whole animal... but cats? dogs? animals we don't generally raise for food? Why? You will not die of cold or of poor style.

Mr. Gunn is certainly welcome to his ill informed opinion.

The rest of us will be warm, thanks.

tim gunn is such a cool guy

jlp, i feel sorry for you that you do not see what is wrong with torturing and inflicting pain on animals for your so-called fashion sense.

fur is tacky and just plain ugly.
there are plenty of other sustainable, fashionable, cruelty-free ways to stay warm.

I'm not into fashion, or fashion shows, or anything related to that. But tonight, when I read this about Tim Gunn, I became an instant supporter, if you will.
I agree about faux furs -- what's the point? And I am pretty much that way with vegan foods that are designed to look like the animal they're a mock of. So thank you, Tim Gunn, for being in a place where what you say can mean something to others! And truly, the only beings who look good in fur are the original wearers (racoons, mink, leopards, bears, dogs, cats, skunks, squirrels, etc.). I've never yet seen a human being, wearing an animal's fur, whom I thought in any way attractive.

Among other things, I own sheared mink, and I've also gutted two children from section eight housing to wear as boots. NOTHING keeps me warm like a gutted child from poverty. So unless global warming does something to improve these LA nights, I'll be killing a wear children as boots (unless I want to look like the kind of cretin who would wear fur!).

Good for you, jlp! Whilst I'm all for stopping cruelty to animals I think PETA and their clones have over stepped the mark on too many occasions. Yes - the Chinese production is terrible but that's not to say that all fur producers behave that way.

The Scandinavian fur producers treat their animals well and 'harvest' them with no pain at all. It's wrong to imply that ALL fur producers are sadists.

I'll have no problem buying other half a mink coat.

you know, JLP, you are the one who is wrong. It seems that you've managed to ignore or remain in denial of the main point of what Tim Gunn is saying here--that fur is cruel. Get over yourself and your selfish fur-wearing ways. Who cares how cold it is! I live in the midwest, too, and it is very possible to be warm without fur. You're a selfish person, and by buying, owning and wearing fur you are also participating in unspeakable cruelty. I admire Tim Gunn for this unpopular stance. You, on the other hand, are a jerk.

Tim Gunn. PETA. Two words for useless.

Thank you, Tim Gunn, for your stance against fur. I have to agree that there is absolutely no reason to kill an animal to wear fur. I've never seen anyone wearing fur who looked fashionable or tasteful -- only the opposite. Fur makes the wearer look cheap and out of touch. Dogs and cats are highly intelligent creatures. Dogs especially are a human's most loyal companion, and yet we will kill it just to wear it's skin. It's awful and grotesque.

jlp: so you think it's okay to kill cats and dogs so you can wear them to keep your butt warm when there are so many more attractive alternatives that doesn't involve butchering animals. You also write that it will take an environmental catastrophe like global warming to get you to stop wearing fur. You're rationale is indicative of the serious problems we have in this world -- no respect for the environment or for life. When I see someone in a fur, I don't see beauty, fashion or anything resembling a decent person, I see only a hideous, selfish monster parading in the skin of other animals.

...and I'm sure the Michelin man looks more attractive than you.

I can only imagine that being warm is more important than the suffering of countless animals - hopefully that energy that the animal had in it's death follows it's skin that is being worn...personally, I would rather look like a michelin man and know that I did not support an industry that thrives on creulty - we are not cavemen anymore - we have technology that allows for fabrics that can keep us warm without having to wear the skin off another creature. I guess I will have to start treating people wearing fur the way that I treat smokers...

JLP, are you kidding me? Did you watch those videos? Are you totally lacking in empathy? Your number one concern is not looking like the michelin man. These animals should have to suffer so you can be fashionable? I'm not militantly against fur but the reality is the fur trade is a mess. JLP, please watch the videos above and then go to Patagonia and buy a damn fleece.

I'm so glad someone with the influence of Tim Gunn has come out against the mindless and unnecessary fur industry. You DON'T need your mink coats. Go and watch these animals being slaughtered and then realize you're responsible for their death

Tim Gunn, I appreciate your stance against wearing fur. In this day and age, there is absolutely no need for it. But do you wear leather shoes? Sit on a leather sofa? Eat pork, beef, lamb or chicken? That also involves painful killing. It's not always easy to find substitutes but the world would be a much better place if we all ate far less meat, bought fewer shoes and boots (and made them last longer), stop buying leather couches or car seats, and seek out items made with non-animal materials. Each small change you make will help.....

JLP -- The fur may warm you on the outside, but inside you are still stone-cold. Go ahead and wear the fur -- it makes it easier for the rest of us to spot the selfish, coldhearted people. All the fur in the world cannot warm a cold heart.

SHERYL misinformed?

people, if you don't like PETA, fine. there are plenty more organizations who take the same stand. PETA has been around long enough and has had enough money to do good work uncovering atrocities that everyone should know about, and care about. if you are a person who has no compassion for animals why are you bothering to read this article? just to give a good one liner and disappear? this article isn't only about fur for fashion and the cruelty it takes to get it but it should make people think about where the rest of their "creature" comforts come from. the meat you eat. the products you buy. the countries you buy from. think of the bigger picture if you don't give a damn about animals and their suffering. making wisecracks about a serious subject is pathetic.

To see comments suggesting that we can't stay warm without fur is utterly, completely, wholly preposterous.

If you're going to argue for fur (and you're welcome to) at least use some semblance of fact.

Californians love fur -- we all enjoy our sheepskin boots -- those are fur.

And if you wear leather or wool or eat meat or fish or dairy or eggs, you are feeding mink and creating natural fiber mink coats. Mink are carnivores and so they eat what is left from the production of our food and clothing.

You can learn more at And you can visit a fur auction and mink farm online at

As a younger woman, I don't understand why fur is considered stylish by some - it's old-ladyish to me. The information about the cruelty and deceptive tactics of the fur industry has been out there for so long, it just seems that anyone still wearing fur is either out of touch or an awful human being. Even if you like fur, why wear something that makes you look like you're either clueless or cruel?

But people like Gunn who are inside the fashion world are better positioned to bring the message to those who are still ignorant.

What a surprise that someone who signs him- or herself as "Fur Commission" opposes anti-cruelty.

I think it's great that someone with the influence and credibility of Tim Gunn opposes using fur. It's important that someone within the fashion world cares more about not being cruel than impressing people with how much you can spend, only to end up impressing people with how heartless you can be. How morally bankrupt must you be to seriously make the argument that your velevet coat looks nothing like your sheared mink? Seriously, you have WAY bigger problems in your life if you can't see what's wrong with that picture.

And please don't be so ridiculous as to say Scandinavian fur producers slaughter animals "humanely." If ever there was a jaw-droppingly Orwellian bizzaro phrase that makes no sense it's "humane slaughter."

To quote the great Thelma Ritter, "Nobody ever invented a polite word for a killing yet."

I wonder how many of the people who are criticizing Tim watched the video before writing. You have to watch the videos before you criticize him.

In my humble opinion, how could you watch that video, see the looks on the animals faces and still think everything about wearing fur is okay? I can't stop thinking about the cat in the cage that was still licking the fur of its neighbor. Sometimes, cats do that when they're stressed out. How can you think that animals don't have emotions, have thoughts, or don't suffer? Why do you still want to wear fur when your fashion is built off of the backs of their misery?

Oh, yes, by all means, let's take the Fur Commission's word that fur is "harvested" humanely. I'm sure an industry that has been on the way out for several decades thanks to animal welfare groups exposing the reality of how they treat animals is going to be totally truthful.

Those of you still wearing fur--at least have the backbone to say "I don't care if animals were tortured for my vanity." That's what your clothing says anyway, loud and clear.

You have proven that intelligence need not be anathema to fashion. Thank you.


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