Five nearly-naked models in heels and snake-print body paint had no trouble upstaging the other attractions at the Fashion Week headquarters of Lincoln Center yesterday. Their appearance was part of PETA's ongoing protest against animal cruelty for the sake of style, this time specifically geared at designers' use of skin. “We’re just trying to raise awareness,” Ashley Byrne, a model and PETA spokesperson, declared, “Snakes and other reptiles may not be as familiar as cats and dogs, but they feel fear and pain.”
Whether out of curiosity about the animal cruelty issue or a basic interest in scantily-clad models, many onlookers quickly shifted their iPhone cameras from the more-conventionally dressed models to PETA’s painted reps. Byrne attributed the welcoming reception to fashionistas’ open minds on animal rights. “I think people are compassionate,” she said. “They never dream that animals are killed in such cruel ways.”
But some passersby weren't persuaded by the demonstration. “They won’t change anything,” Alfred, a Brazilian tourist, said. “You show up naked, people look, then what? Besides, if you’re wearing something synthetic, that takes a lot of pollutants to make. Fashion is always bad for someone.”
Across from the protesters, two women were hurrying into a show. Like the PETA models, one was dressed in snake-print. Unlike the PETA models, her snake-print was actually from snake. Her companion wore a leather dress. “Oh, I love animals, I respect them and all that,” she said when asked about the nude models nearby. “But you know it’s very difficult to have high-couture designers not use animals.
"Besides, I don’t wear leather all the time; I don’t want to be a hypocrite.” She smoothed her leather jacket’s shiny collar. “This is an old Bottega Veneta.”
For more on the issue, PETA's short film "Cold-Blooded Horrors," narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, shows "how many of the exotic animals they used are beaten, stabbed, and flayed alive":