If Christina Sewell has her way, the animal-free frocks that are popping up in Parisian showrooms and suburban shopping malls will never go out of style. As manager of fashion campaigns at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), she’s committed to ensuring that fur is faux, leather is vegan, and cotton is organic.
“I feel lucky to dedicate my life to an issue that means so much to me,” says Sewell, who moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to join PETA’s West Coast headquarters in Echo Park. “Every day I get to work shoulder-to-shoulder with people who share my passion for animal rights.” Among them: senior vice president Dan Mathews, CAS/BA ’85. In 1992 Mathews launched PETA’s iconic “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign, which has since showcased dozens of celebrities, including Pamela Anderson, Eva Mendes, and, in 2017, trans models Loiza Lamers and Benjamin Melzer.
While Sewell’s work—partnering with labels; participating in undercover investigations; lobbying for legislation; and drafting petitions, scripts, and letters—isn’t as sexy as PETA’s in-the-buff billboards, it’s making a difference.
Retail giants Gap, H&M, and Zara have gone fur-free, joining such luxury brands as Gucci, Versace, and Stella McCartney. And vegan leather—crafted from a variety of materials like recycled nylon, polyurethane, soy, and even mushrooms and apples—is projected to be an $85 billion market by 2025.
“Everyone needs to lift the veil and ask themselves, ‘Where are my clothes coming from?’” says Sewell, a former captain in the US Army Reserves. Before joining PETA, which boasts 6.5 million members around the world, “I never thought about it. But now, I check every single label,” says the activist fashionista, who enjoys shopping at Tinseltown’s vintage stores and the Silverlake Farmers Market.
“I’m proud that I’m living”—and wearing—“my values.”