Gucci’s transformation under new creative director Alessandro Michele is going well. Just last month, the Florence-based design house posted positive results for the first half of 2015, following a warm reaction by consumers to changes at the label. Revenue was up almost 12 per cent, Gucci owner Kering reported, with sales in European Gucci stores up more than 13 per cent and 19 per cent in directly operated stores in Japan. Critics and buyers have also given the house’s change in direction a warm welcome. In fact, nearly everything has gone rather smoothly for Gucci under Michele until now. At issue: those Fall/Winter 2015 fur-lined Gucci loafers, and their female counterparts (slingbacks and clogs), which are (or at least, were) anticipated to make a splash. Turns out, that fur is kangaroo and the press, and PETA, of course, hasn’t taken too kindly to this fact. The vast majority of the fashion press, unsurprisingly, isn’t fazed.
Interestingly, this is just the latest in an array of animal rights scandals over the past couple of months. In June, an investigative report at a Texas farm into how crocodile leather is obtained for high-end accessories, namely Hermès, was released by PETA. The video depicted alligators and crocodiles, which were bred to provide skins exclusively for the Paris-based brand, being subjected to dreadful mistreatment and inhumane slaughtering. In the wake of such allegations, actress Jane Birkin asked Hermés to rename her namesake bag in protest of crocodile farming and skinning practices. And that isn’t all. PETA subsequently purchased a stake in the iconic fashion brand in order to fight its use of alligator and crocodile skins.
On the heels of that controversy, Stella McCartney, fashion's most prominent animal-rights advocate, was confronted with PETA-provided footage of sheep being mistreated at one of the Argentine ranches where she sources wool. As a result, McCartney released a statement, saying: “I am very saddened to report that we have had to cease sourcing some of our sustainable wool … Unfortunately, after conducting our own investigation in Argentina, we found out that 1 of the 26 ranches we used source sustainable wool there, mistreated its sheep. It is one too many."
And now, Gucci is coming under fire. As for whether such controversy will have any substantial affect on sales, it seems unlikely. The kangaroo-fur lined footwear has been getting serious editorial treatment since the brand’s show and chances are, it will be all over street style photos in the near future. And Gucci certainly seems to be banking on its hot new accessories. According to our friends over at Quartz, “Once in a while, a single accessory can define a fashion season, or begin a new era for a well-established brand. This fall, a pair of Gucci loafers, compliments of the label’s new creative director, Alessandro Michele, did both.”