Sunny weather bestows many gifts on us: pleasant temperatures to enjoy nature and a cold beer outside, a bronze tint to our arms and faces and attractive people in flattering clothing. In addition to these seasonal delights, I am enjoying a different sort of gift this year; the ability to walk down the streets of Amsterdam without ducking and dodging Goose after Goose, and I’m not talking about waterfowl.
In the past couple of years, Canada Goose — a Canadian clothing brand specialising in luxury ‘extreme weather’ outerwear — has bled into the Dutch market, adding to its already vast estimated annual revenue of $200 million. Their products are stylish, plush and expensive; many of coats on offer approach the €1000 mark. Such success in a clime like ours is easy to understand. Canada Goose have tapped into a demographic that, like its homeland, is most of the time covered in the soft down of rain and snowflakes, at one extremity, and boulderous hail on the other. Yes, we beg the skies for some respite, yet this weather keeps coming for at least 9 months of the year. So, we buy warm clothing to protect ourselves and spend a few hundred more for an extra helping of pizzazz.
The PR problem
Despite its growing success, Canada Goose suffers from a particularly bad PR problem concerning their appropriation of coyote fur for coat hoods. Trappers contracted to collect coyotes primarily use leg-hold traps (like a traditional barbed bear trap) which is designed to snap onto a limb and hold it in place until the animal is found — bleeding, panicking and dehydrating in the meantime. Apart from the attention that this predictably attracts from vegan interest groups and animal charities, criticism of Canada Goose’s practices has come from the mainstream too, from The Daily Mail to GQ and Life&Style magazine. As one might imagine, even meat-eating westerners have a special place in their hearts for the canine, and the apparent abuse of the coyote cuts a bit too close to the genetic and behavioural grain of man’s best friend.
The pseudoscience of comfort
Canada Goose does own up to these facts, but claims on its website that coyotes’ furry exteriors are fair game because their fur ‘works’ in a way that faux fur couldn’t possibly hope to; it ‘disrupt[s] airflow’ and ‘create[s] turbulent (warm air)’ for the wearer. In addition, Canada Goose reassures the public that using leg-hold traps to incapacitate coyotes before execution is ‘ethical and responsible’ because it meets the recommendations of the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards.
Predictably, there isn’t a shred of evidence to back up Canada Goose’s claims about its ability to combat airflow better than any of the synthetic fabrics developed for military units and exploration teams in severe environs. Neither is there any evidence for the magical thermal-energy-enhancing properties of coyote fur. And yet, even if these statements were corroborated by science, one would be hard-pressed to argue for slightly warmer necklines over tortuous treatment of living things.
In addition, it is difficult to see how appeals to professional-sounding committees of suits can pass as legitimate insurance against the unethical and irresponsible treatment of animals. After all, moral integrity does not necessarily follow from power (or the illusion of it through titles). If this were the case, historical regimes of bigotry and violence mandated by overbearing political structures, and our present grappling with the destruction of the natural environment under hopelessly unregulated corporate shoe heels, would be impossible. Further, if it is the principle of animal trapping and its cruel methods that repulses you in the first place, any invocation of agreements that officialise its usage can do nothing to set your mind at ease. No, thinking for ourselves about practises in the fur trade is required here. I, for one, can’t defend any of it.
Next season’s trend
So, you now understand my enthusiasm for hot pants and sunglasses over parkas and bombers. However, like the sunny weather, the pleasantness can’t last. The sale and distribution of Canada Goose carries on and it will be visible on the Dutch streets in no time at all. But, when it is time to wrap up warm and brave the cold, I hope some of you avoid the gaggle.