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Economics/Industry, Environment
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South America, Europe, Southeast Asia
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Thailand, Animal Skins, Cruelty to Animals, Fashion
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An exploration of the sacrifice hidden behind the ruthless values expressed by high fashion and its cultural trend dominated by remorseless standards of beauty.
Paolo Marchetti

2015 — professional winner

We all know how intensive farming works: using industrial and scientific techniques to get the maximum amount of product at the lowest cost and using minimal space. We also know that it is extremely widespread in all the developed countries. Yet we know much less about how intensive farming operates producing animal skins that are destined for the worldwide high fashion market. 

The business volume that revolves around this trade amounts to several millions of euro and among the most famous brands, we find Gucci, Hermès, Cartier, and Burberry. Italy and France alone represent half of all the European import demand.

The breeding of animal skins has long been opposed by animal rights movements, leading to massive campaigns against this practice especially in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, we have to wonder if there is a need for new laws or just more cultural awareness.

In this broad scenario, there is a long list of animals involved whose existence is destined for the industrial sector of high fashion and all of these species are condemned to intensive farming for the production of clothes with furs, feathers or leather.

For example, most of the intensive farming of furry animals are concentrated in the northern hemisphere in Europe, where at the top of the list we find Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands. At the same time, looking east, China is the world leader in the manufacture. In southeast Asia, we find countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam which represent the main market of snakes and many species of reptiles. At the other side, in the western hemisphere, Canada and the United States are the largest producers of furs and reptile skins, but for what concerns the crocodile skins production, in South America we have strong competitors such as Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia.

To date, I accomplished the first two chapters, I worked in Colombia, where I told the intensive breeding of the crocodiles and later I travelled in Poland, working inside a minks intensive farm. In addition, I already got the fatal access in an intensive breeding in Thailand, where I will tell the fate of ostriches.

I chose this path, because it will provide a worldwide coverage of my photojournalistic investigation and finding the contents of this presentation, also, the third charter will give to the whole project, reliable vision and geographically complete.

"The Price of Vanity" will be a document unprecedented accomplished, on this terrifying phenomenon, a monstrosity in accordance with law that is perpetrating from decades, the extermination of animal species destined for the market of high fashion.

This is my long term project born to tell this hellish process and I make you the proposal to support and produce it, in order to trigger a general awareness, especially in an historical moment like we are going through.

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Thailand, Ratchaburi province, close to Bangkok. Ostriches in an intensive breeding farm called "Malai Farm" are being transported to the department where they will be killed and where the skins are separated from the bodies and then receive various treatments necessary for its cleaning, before they are sold to tanneries. Paolo Marchetti/Alexia Foundation
Thailand, Ratchaburi province, close to Bangkok. Operators are preparing to separate the skin from the bodies, but first wash away the blood to do it better at "Malai Farm.” Paolo Marchetti/Alexia Foundation
Thailand, Ratchaburi province, close to Bangkok. An operator lifts the skin from the ground to bring in departments where it will receive the necessary treatments in an intensive breeding farm called "Malai Farm.” Paolo Marchetti/Alexia Foundation
Thailand, Ratchaburi province, close to Bangkok. Operators are preparing to separate the skin from the bodies of ostriches at "Malai Farm.” Paolo Marchetti/Alexia Foundation
Thailand, Ratchaburi province, close to Bangkok. A herd of ostriches at “Malai Farm”. The larger specimens are males, and are separated from the other males in order to avoid violent struggles for the coupling. So males live together with two females within the pens of about 500 square meters. Paolo Marchetti/Alexia Foundation
An intensive ostrich breeding farm called “Malai Farm” in Thailand’s Ratchaburi province, close to Bangkok. Paolo Marchetti/Alexia Foundation
Bangkok, Thailand. Inside of a tannery specialized in the processing ostrich and crocodile skins. Paolo Marchetti/Alexia Foundation
Thailand, Ratchaburi province, close to Bangkok. The dead bodies of some ostriches at "Malai Farm.” Paolo Marchetti/Alexia Foundation
A myriad of products are made with ostrich leather: handbags, wallets, belts, diaries, jackets, shoes, bags and so on, but in addition eggs are widely used for decoration, luxury handbags, lamps, ornaments and more. Paolo Marchetti/Alexia Foundation
Thailand, in Bangkok, inside a tannery where they are handcrafted shoes covered with ostrich leather. Paolo Marchetti/Alexia Foundation