Not only is contributor, Christopher Hollowell, the confounding purveyor of NYC's first vegan doughnut enterprise, Dunwell Doughnuts, but he is also a stylish Discerning Brute and activist for animals. Christopher writes about his recent and effective experience with getting a business to stop using animal fur. Last month, when I was able to get Urban Outfitters to publicly apologize for selling real fur labeled as faux, it was emboldening and easier than I thought. Cases like this go to show that concerned emails, phone calls, and rational requests often work. Here's Christopher's experience in five easy steps. Do you have a similar story? Share it in the comments below.
By Christopher Hollowell
It is often difficult as an “activist,” and I use that word in the broadest way possible, to feel like any form of action we do truly makes a difference. We recycle to stop global warming and yet everyday see thousands of plastic water bottles being used and thrown into the trash, we cut the rings on the plastic device used to hold soda cans together in hopes that it won’t end up strangling a bird rummaging around in a landfill, we hand out pamphlets that end up in the trashcan down the block, we give up meat and advocate for a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle all the while watching fast food chains grow and advertise all around us, and we ride our bikes only to get an ear full of horns and a face full of exhaust. The entire notion of being an activist can, in many ways, feel like a futile effort. An effort that, at times, seems to be based more in faith than logic as societal pressures for the immediate creep into our psyche. “When will I see the change?” we ask ourselves.
Well, this past week I saw change. And change happened fast. On March 24th at 5:33 I received a message from my friend directing me to an article that would at first disgust me and eventually be a source of extreme joy and a symbol of the power our voices can have.
The Article, titled “Fur-Out: Rubil & Raven Does Fur Hair Extensions” for sfindiefashion.com was intended to highlight the “cool” new fashion trend that was beginning at a salon in the heart of San Francisco. A stylist there, Sonja E., had decided to reinvent the trendy feather extension look that has recently become ‘all the rage’ in SF by exchanging the feathers with fur. In the article she was quoted to have found inspiration for the idea while looking around a local bait shop where a plethora of fishing ties that utilized fur were on display. This article praised the practice as the beginning of the “next big trend” in the city.
I was furious. Those who know me know that of all the things that make me mad, fur tops the list. The illogic of wearing or using it is so forging to my mind that I become visibly altered when I am in its presence. This article was no different. I immediately set to work.
Fur hair-extensions in a variety of dyed, dead chinchilla pelts.
Step One: Respond to the article, which had had pictures of the author getting her hair done in these unnecessary and cruel accessories, with a calm and thoughtful analysis that highlighted my disagreement with the practice and hopes for its end.
Step two: Contact the salon offering the treatment by phone and speak with the owner. This was an interesting point because the owner was a very nice man who was a great conversationalist but was, at the time, unwilling take on responsibility for the actions of a stylist working within his salon because of her status as an independent contractor. I proceeded to make him aware that I found it to be an unwise business practice to allow one’s name to be used in the promotion of any product or service that he himself did not oversee or approve. Because of this I would be organizing a boycott of the entire salon including any other stylist who was working under the same roof as the aforementioned Sonja E. whom he asserted was the only person offering the extensions.
Step Three: Put boycott into action. Using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter I posted the salon’s phone number and Yelp page whilst encouraging everyone I knew to contact and boycott this salon and those who work within its walls until the situation was rectified.
Step Five: Educate the salon as to what the fur they are using represents and what it actually means to promote something so frivolous and disgusting. (Thank you Tim Gunn and PETA for making such a great film that explores this issue)
In less than five hours, around 10:20PM, I received a personal letter from Sonja, the stylist using the extensions, apologizing for her actions and promising to immediately cease all use of fur within the salon. She further went on to praise my commitment and passion for the cause and explain that she had had no idea that what she was using was not faux, she had assumed that all fur on that scale was faux and that it was never her intention to contribute to any form of animal cruelty.
The battle had been won, the fur was gone, and this all happened in less than 5 hours. How is that for activism paying off?
illustration of Christopher by Richard Haines
I immediately called off the boycott of the salon and lauded them for their haste in rectifying the situation. I further went on to explain to her and the salon that ignorance is only an excuse once and that I was happy that they chose to heed the call and rise above fashion at any cost. That next morning I noticed that the article that had so openly praised the use of the fur extensions had been changed and now claimed:
* Editor’s Note: The SF Indie Fashion editorial team has removed identifying information for the salon and its stylist due to threats made against the business. The salon has since stopped offering the service.