I stumble across a lot of odd stories in my search for news. The latest: Fashion icon Donatella Versace told a British magazine this month that her family's luxury fashion company will no longer use real fur in its products.
"I don't want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn't feel right," she told The Economist's 1843 magazine.
The really unusual part of the story is the plastics angle.
The International Fur Federation, an umbrella group that represents global farming and fur trading organizations, said it was disappointed by Versace's decision.
"The majority of top designers will continue to work with fur as they know it is a natural product that is produced responsibly," said CEO Mark Oaten.
"With growing concern about the environment and plastics in fashion, I truly believe that fur is the natural and responsible choice for designers and consumers," he said.
Before now, I'd never heard of the IFF. But the group has plastics in its crosshairs. On its website, the most recent news release is about the fur industry fighting back against "the fake news about fake fur." There's even a video that slams synthetic fur, focusing on plastics and ocean pollution.
"[Synthetic fur] is a grossly irresponsible product, which ends up polluting the earth and its waterways for generations. It poisons the soil and kills wildlife," Oaten said.
IFF even commissioned a life cycle analysis comparing real and fake fur, specifically reacting to claims that natural fur is not environmentally friendly.
"Such claims should always be based on independent and scientifically sound data," IFF said. "The results [of the study] have revealed a number of environmental advantages of natural fur when compared to fake fur."
My point isn't to poke fun at the fur industry. But it is amusing to see what it says about plastics, using some of the same language and tools that I've heard before from the plastics industry.
So, it got me thinking: What other professions and industries have a negative public image? And that reminded me of a story:
Back in the 1980s, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. was battling a takeover attempt from financier James Goldsmith. Especially in Akron, Ohio — Goodyear's headquarters city — people rallied in defense of the tire company. It was a rare opportunity for a big polymer manufacturing company to feel some love.
Goodyear's chairman at the time, Robert Mercer, took advantage of public sentiment, and he made speeches around the country about ethics in business. I covered one, a luncheon at a chamber of commerce meeting in Virginia.
After the speech, I sat down with Mercer, and we joked about the idea of an industry CEO taking a stand in favor of ethics. He admitted that it was an unusual topic, but he felt strongly about sharing his experience living through the takeover attempt.
As we wrapped up, I couldn't resist sharing that I was from Ohio and my younger brother lived in Akron, where he was working part time and attending college. Mercer asked what he was studying, probably hoping he was a polymer science or engineering major.
"He's in law school," I said.
"Too bad. I was hoping he wanted to be a contributing member of society," Mercer replied.
Sure, plastics may have an image problem. But it could be worse: Think of those poor fur folks and lawyers.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.