Cassandra Verity Green is no stranger to strong opinions. The Central Saint Martins alumna, who recently completed a degree in fashion design with knitwear, caused a stir at the school’s graduate show in May when she paired her Esther Williams-inspired collection with perspex fishbowl backpacks and purses. Although the multihued, multitextured ensembles, which combined intricate beading techniques with seaweed-like knits, drew their share of plaudits, all eyes were on Green’s unexpected guest stars: her own pet goldfish. “Her bold statement triggered both criticism and admiration from her audiences,” notes online retailer Not Just a Label, which will stock Green’s upcoming ready-to-wear line later this year. “[But] isn’t this what contemporary fashion is all about?”
We know at least one entity that would beg to differ, however: the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The British animal-welfare charity slammed Green for treating living things as “replaceable ornaments.”
The RSPCA slammed Green for treating living things as “replaceable ornaments.”
“While we understand that a graduate fashion show is about grabbing attention and headlines, we do have concerns that using a living creature to create a novel or unusual accessory encourages people to see them as replaceable ornaments, rather than living creatures in need of care and commitment,” an RSPCA spokeswoman said in a statement. The bag designs could also lead to poor water quality and insufficient oxygen for the fish, she added.
Willie Walters, Green’s course director, defended the young designer, however. “When Cassandra Verity Green first said that she would like to use her goldfish in the bags the subject was discussed at length to ensure that the fish would be comfortable,” he told the Evening Standard after the show. “They came into the building on the day of the show in a large goldfish bowl complete with their regular ornaments for a sense of home.”
The fish left their bowl only for the duration of the catwalk run, according to Walters. “They have been fed regularly and will return home with [Green] today all in excellent health,” he said.