By the end of Ralph Lauren's show on Thursday morning, I was starting to feel sick. If there's been a dominant theme on the fall 2015 runways, it's fur -- fox, mink, you name it -- and at Ralph Lauren, it looked especially animal-like, its uses especially superfluous, accompanying everything from outerwear to evening gowns.
Only it wasn't fur. At the bottom of the collection's show notes was a statement that read: "Ralph Lauren has a long-standing commitment to not use fur products in our apparel and accessories. All fur-like pieces featured in the collection are constructed of shearling."
Commendable, right? Not to mention impressive from a design perspective (we were all fooled!). Except that shearling, like fur, is made from the tanned hide and wool of a sheep (it helps to think of it as "sheep fur"), and sheep are slaughtered shortly after they are shorn.
I asked Ralph Lauren for further clarification. A spokesperson said the decision not to use fur was driven by a "humane concern" that has been in compliance with PETA guidelines since 2006. (A PETA spokesperson did not immediately respond to for a request for comment, but PETA's website frequently praises Ralph Lauren for its decision not to use fur.) The Ralph Lauren spokesperson added that the company only works with vendors that have been "totally certified that the skins they're using are byproduct [materials]." So, yes, that's commendable -- if not as commendable as, say, using only faux fur or skipping the look altogether.
Fur debate aside, Ralph Lauren's collection looked good this season. Lauren likes to build a collection around a place -- Russia, India, the Far East -- and as many reviewers have pointed out before, the effects can be a little costumey. But it did not seem that Lauren had a specific place in mind this season. There were certainly Western elements -- brown suede trousers and fringed bags, shearling jackets, ivory knits piled with yet more fringe -- but the hats read more safari than American West. The mix worked well; in the end, it simply looked like Ralph Lauren.