Protestors hijacked one of fashion’s biggest events on Monday to call out Ralph Lauren for allegedly contributing to deforestation, human-rights abuses, and climate pollution. Holding court outside the 2015 Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards at Lincoln Center in New York City, members of the San Francisco–based Rainforest Action Network unfurled a banner featuring a parody version of the luxury house’s logo and the motto, “When Deforestation is Part of Your Lifestyle.” The demonstration was part of the nonprofit’s broader “Out of Fashion” campaign, which accuses Ralph Lauren of making clothes at the expense of the environment.
“Every year, millions of trees are turned into clothing through the use of forest fabrics like rayon and viscose,” Brihannala Morgan, senior forest campaigner with RAN, said in a statement. “This scandal has been hidden in plain sight for too long, but no more. The time has come for the fashion industry, and in particular Ralph Lauren, to take responsibility for its impacts on people and the planet and to publicly adopt binding policies that prevent deforestation, human rights abuses, and climate pollution from being woven into the fabrics Americans wear everyday.”
The recent expansion of “mega-plantations” for the production of pulp for fabrics has led to rampant land grabs in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa. Made with neither consent nor cooperation, these illegal seizures are devastating to the indigenous communities who rely on the forests for their livelihoods, Morgan said.
“As one of the biggest fashion brands in the world, Ralph Lauren has the ability and resources to ensure that human-rights abuses and forest destruction won’t be a part of [its] next collection.” Morgan added.
Still the brand is hardly alone in its transgressions. Other inductees of RAN’s ignoble “Fashion 15” include companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Guess, Footlocker, Forever 21, Michael Kors, Prada, Tory Burch, and Under Armour. Even so-called “crunchy” brands like Beyond Yoga and Gaiam aren’t above blame.
“RAN is calling on these fashion companies to take responsibility for their supply chains, identify and eliminate bad actors, and develop strong, time-bound commitments to protect forests and human rights,” Morgan said.