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Sandro Owner Forsakes Feathers as PETA Fights ‘Responsible’ Down

The Paris-based company that owns Claudie Pierlot, Fursac, Maje and Sandro is no longer down with down.

SMCP told People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Wednesday that it is committed to removing duck and goose feathers across all four brands by the fall/winter 2023 season. The move, which follows similar bans on exotic skins and fur, will be the culmination of a seasons-long shift in favor of down alternatives, it said. A number of padded jackets on its sites currently feature fillings made from 100 percent polyester.

“SMCP’s compassionate decision is great news for the birds who will be spared the agony of live-plucking and a violent death at the slaughterhouse,” said Yvonne Taylor, PETA director of corporate projects. “We celebrate this move and call on other brands to follow suit and cut ties with the abusive and cruel down industry.”

SMCP, which operates more than 1,680 stores across 43 countries, was previously a proponent of the Textile Exchnage-managed Responsible Down Standard, or RDS. The company had listed the chain-of-custody certification among the “eco-responsible” labels it was committed to increasing in its universal registration document as late as 2021.

But the RDS has come under heavy fire from PETA. Undercover footage released by the animal-rights group in November appeared to show the horrific abuse of birds at slaughterhouses that provide feathers to two Vietnamese down suppliers: Nam Vu, which PETA claims sells the feathery insulation to Gap, H&M, Lacoste, Uniqlo and others, and Vina Prauden, allegedly a Guess supplier, though the down maker denied this.

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This month, PETA criticized the involved companies for attempting “damage control” by scrubbing websites, cutting ties or using the process of “investigating” to delay meaningful action.

H&M, it said, removed all animal welfare labels from its online items and wiped mentions of the RDS and “responsible down.” (Sourcing Journal was only able to find references to “recycled down” on the Swedish retailer’s product pages, although the RDS is still mentioned in the “animal welfare” section of its website.)

The Cos and Monki owner, for its part, reiterated its previous stance, that it doesn’t have a direct connection to either of the suppliers cited in the investigation.

“H&M does not have a direct connection to the supplier in question,” a spokesperson told Sourcing Journal. “We have not made any changes with regards to labeling or how we communicate with customers concerning the standards we use to source animal-derived materials responsibly.”

PETA also accused Nam Vu and Vina Prauden of deleting their client lists from their websites. A snapshot of Nam Vu’s website from August, as archived on the Wayback Machine, showed this to be true, though Sourcing Journal wasn’t able to verify whether Vina Prauden did the same. Neither Nam Vu nor Vina Prauden responded to requests for further comment, though Nam Vu previously said that it would be reinspecting all farms and slaughterhouses. Vina Prauden told Sourcing Journal in November that it wasn’t able to identify which slaughterhouses were being filmed by PETA and whether they were RDS certified. An unannounced audit of its only certified slaughterhouse in Vietnam found “no critical non-compliances,” it said.

The activist organization took a similar swipe at Textile Exchange, saying that it “claims to be investigating, just as it does after every PETA exposé, although no changes in the standards appear ever to have been made.”

Indeed, Textile Exchange told Sourcing Journal that it has been working with the two certification bodies active in Vietnam to investigate the allegations. The video’s lack of details regarding locations or dates, however, has made a targeted site inspection difficult. Instead, the certification bodies have conducted unannounced audits in the regions of various certified sites, including husbandry and slaughter facilities, finding no “critical” nonconformities such as those highlighted in the footage.

“However there were other non-conformities identified,” a spokesperson said. “These are being processed by the certification bodies according to the assurance policies of the standard, and if any of these result in loss of certification status, our public database will be updated.”

Still, PETA finds only one solution satisfactory: following the lead of companies like SMCP and jettisoning down altogether. Doing so, however, raises the question of what should take its place. Are synthetic materials, whether virgin or recycled, best positioned to replace natural feathers at a time when brands are trying to shake off their addiction to fossil-fuel materials? Is recycled down recovered from castoff duvets and puffers a scalable option? Or should the industry double down on bio-based alternatives like Pangaia’s Flwrdwn, which combines hand-picked native wildflowers, a corn-based biopolymer and a patented aerogel?

One thing is clear: the business of keeping people warm is only heating up.

“This investigation revealed that workers stabbed ducks in the throat and cut off the feet of conscious birds, and now companies are desperate to walk back their involvement,” Tracy Reiman, executive vice president at PETA. “PETA is calling on these brands to take action in a way that really counts, which is by ditching down altogether.”