Last month, PETA released an exposé on the mohair industry, showing the abuse of goats in South Africa, the source of 50% of the world’s mohair. As a result, 150 of the biggest retailers decided to ban the use of the material completely, including H&M, Topshop, M&S, Primark and Next. Now, ASOS has gone a step further, announcing that, by the end of January 2019, mohair, silk, cashmere, feathers and bone, teeth or shell, including mother-of-pearl, will be banned across the whole site, which currently includes a staggering 850 different brands. A spokesperson for the online retailer confirmed that ASOS had updated its animal-welfare policy, stating: “These changes align our policies for third-party products with those for our ASOS collections, which do not use feathers and down, bone, shell or teeth. Silk, cashmere and mohair are new additions to the policy.”
PETA released a statement in which it applauded the decision, stating that ASOS “is leading the charge for compassion in fashion”. Yvonne Taylor, director of corporate projects at PETA, said: “In response to PETA's campaigns, consumers are changing the face of the industry by demanding that designers and retailers ditch animal-derived materials in favour of cruelty-free alternatives that look great without causing suffering."
This move shows that the industry needs to examine all areas of production, right from the source of the materials and how they’re made, before it can truly move towards sustainability
The reports from PETA about how such materials are made are horrifying. As the statement from the organisation states: “Each year, the mohair, cashmere, down, and silk industries exploit countless goats, geese, ducks, and silkworms, causing these sentient beings unnecessary pain and suffering.” The move from ASOS comes amid growing consumer awareness about what we buy – Fashion Revolution Week earlier this year focused on the supply chain, looking at the exploitation of workers and campaigning to make the fashion industry more ethical for everyone involved. This move from ASOS shows that the industry needs to examine all areas of production, right from the source of the materials and how they’re made, before it can truly move towards sustainability.
The fact that ASOS is such a leading light in the industry (in 2016, it posted sales of £1.9bn) signals a real industry shift and surely means that other retailers will soon follow suit. Yesterday saw the news that John Lewis is currently trying a scheme that will see it buy back unwanted clothes from its customers, offering a financial incentive to people to encourage them to recycle their clothes, as opposed to sending them to landfill. Such big names making these decisions is sure to be a catalyst for real change in the industry.