[OUTLOOK]To see beauty in a scarBritish fashion designer Stella McCartney is a hip person in the truest sense not only because she is a leading designer but also because she is a vegetarian and animal rights activist.
She is almost the only fashion designer who does not use leather and fur in her designs.
I won't talk about her not using fur, because I too disapprove of it. But to decide not to use leather is something. How can she make such a decision when almost all fashion design lines make a fortune by selling leather purses and bags these days? She must be aware that Pheobe Philo, her close friend and the creative director of Chloe, makes a fortune from fancy-named bags such as Silverado and Paddington.
Ms. McCartney has a vision and beliefs that environmental awareness will be at the center of the fashion world in the near future.
Perhaps the world is moving toward her at this very moment; I am just amazed about her decision and conviction.
However, I am not sure if I can ever give up leather bags like she did. I once tried to give up meat, but failed. So I certainly respect vegetarians.
I feel the same about animal rights activists. I am just not that type of person, who sets strict rules and abides by them, or is committed to a great cause.
There were some motivating moments for me too, which could make me committed to these issues.
They were, for instance, when my yoga instructor promoted a vegetarian diet, and when I saw an in-depth TV program, which showed dogs being slaughtered for their meat.
Recently I visited a tannery, a place where raw animal skins are processed.
There, the hides were washed, chemically treated, polished and dyed.
The moment when I arrived there, people were unloading hide to which only preservatives were applied.
The material was actually closer to “skin” than leather. The hides had been peeled and even had hair and blood on them.
They were the color of skin as well ― the color of flesh with a hint of dark blue.
I am still horrified whenever I think of that color. The smell was also horrible. It was my first time to smell rotten skins.
As a person who has experienced this, I should find leather bags repugnant, and become an animal rights activist on the street.
Strangely, however, my love for leather bags has instead grown deeper.
Days after my trip to the tannery, I went shopping in Seoul. At the men’s clothes and accessories corner, I found a shoulder bag made of thick leather. There was something peculiar about it ― a scar on the cover of the bag.
The scar was not made during processing; clearly it was there when the animal was still alive.
The scar was large and deep, but it was impossible to tell whether the animal’s skin had been ripped by something or the scar was from a skin disease. Whatever it was, it must have hurt badly.
When making leather, that kind of scar is cut out right away. When hides are from a warm climate, a large part of the leather is cut out.
On this bag, however, the scar remained as a special pattern.
My desire to own the bag can be seen as quite natural because that was the moment when fashion became profound.
This means that poetry is not the only way to sooth scars. The moment I saw the scar on the bag, I felt a strange empathy with the animal.
Scars are the proof that show you have survived. This animal and I were comrades who had survived threats in life, which had left scars on us.
This friend left its leather after its death and I, with this bag hung on my shoulder, am struggling here to live life as a decent human being.
* The writer is a painter.
by Park Sang-mi