Fur flies over designer's 'hypocrisy'

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 09:28 04/09/2013
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Annah stretton
WAIKATO TIMES GRAPHIC
The Sunday Star Times feature that sparked the controversy.

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A Waikato fashion designer is being condemned on the eve of her latest fashion show after posing on a bearskin rug while advocating animal rights.

Annah Stretton has been labelled a hypocrite by animal lovers after she supplied the photo of herself to a newspaper ahead of New Zealand Fashion Week.

In the Sunday magazine article she said her favourite New Zealander was "anyone who fights for animal rights in this country".

But the Morrinsville designer's answer to the next question was somewhat contradictory.

When asked to reveal something about herself that very few people knew, Stretton answered that she was "a big fan of taxidermy".

The interview and accompanying photograph has sparked outrage among animal rights activists on social networking sites.

Sunday's article reached Facebook through Auckland-based animal shelter, Helping You Help Animals.

HUHA founder Carolyn Press-McKenzie said she was alerted to the article by another member and was "speechless".

"It was just a jaw-dropping moment. I couldn't fathom that someone could be so hypocritical," she said.

"It's just nonsensical that she has two passions that are so contradictory."

It is not the first time the designer has been thrown into the spotlight for hypocrisy. She has previously been the target of animal rights protesters over the use of fur in her fashion collections and famously sent a model down a catwalk wearing a taxidermied boar's head, decorated with stuffed budgies.

Stretton, who recently led a campaign against testing party pills on animals, responded to the vitriol on social networks with a statement claiming the animal had been killed to control the bear population in a Canadian national park, not for sport.

"A small number of bears were deemed unsuitable to be transported to other parks and government authorisation was given to cull these. I do not condone the killing of animals for sport and this bear was not a sports trophy. I chose the photo as both Boxer puppies love to sleep on the bear rug," she said.

But her stance on the issue only sparked more outrage as hundreds flocked to Facebook to condemn her for the picture.

"Please, Annah, if this is your best defence and you stand behind your love of taxidermy can you then please stop promoting yourself as an advocate for animal welfare as all it does is tarnish the good work of those who are," Isabelle Maloret wrote.

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Others got more personal in their attacks on the designer. "Hmmm who do you remind me of? Oh that's right! Cruella de Vil. Another fashionista who condones the killing of animals for fashion! Thank goodness you've got Boxers and not Dalmatians," Rukmini Vadke wrote.

Stretton then released another statement which said she was most definitely an animal lover and she should not have picked the picture to accompany the article.

"Given the benefit of hindsight, I absolutely would not have chosen the picture that I used in the Sunday Star Times article," she said.

"I cannot change people's opinion. I can however continue to support animal rights organisations as I have in the past both through advocacy and financially, organisations including Safe, SPCA and the campaign I have led against party pill testing on dogs."

Stretton refused to discuss the matter further when approached by the Waikato Times yesterday, saying her earlier statements had been "all encompassing".

The Annah Stretton show at Fashion Week is scheduled for Thursday night. New Zealand Fashion Week spokesman Vinny Sherry said organisers were aware of the issue and expected that police would advise if there was any risk.

"I think it's a bit of a storm in a teacup," he said. "Animal rights groups will look for any opportunity to protest. We're aware there could be some risk but we're not going to speculate."

Fashion Week regular and former model Colin Mathura-Jeffree was unconcerned by the bear brouhaha. "As long as it's a teddy bear it's alright. Cuddle it."

- Waikato Times

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