Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Can Fashion Do Without The Melbourne Cup?

Why People are Saying Nup to the Cup

After two long years of bouncing in and out of lockdowns, Victoria is looking forward to a reason to celebrate, and you’d think that the Melbourne Cup is just the thing. Just on 10,000 people will be permitted to attend. But as bubbles flow, dresses swirl and celebrities mingle, you have to ask, what’s it really all about?  

We’re told that horse racing is a sport, so big that the Melbourne Cup is the “race that stops a nation”, that it’s incredibly glamorous, the place to to be seen and if you’re a fashion designer, the place to have your clothing and accessories seen. No wonder it’s one of the biggest social events of the year. Sounds like it’s all champagne and fascinators, right? Not quite….

Track Record of the Melbourne Cup

There have been seven horse deaths on the race-track in the last six years during the Melbourne Cup and more going further back. Is this death rate ok for a sporting event? In what other sport in the world have there been such a high rate of deaths, humans or other kinds? But it’s not just about the unacceptable death rate. Why is it ok to use whips on horses and tie their tongues? Is it really ok to inflict unnecessary pain and anxiety on another sentient being?

First Nations Fashion Design
Image: Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses

It’s Not All Frolicking and Green Fields

In 2019, ABC’s The 7.30 Report exposed what really happens to horses at the end of their racing career. Once horses don’t run fast enough to win prize money, they are sent to slaughterhouses on a seemingly industrial scale and killed in the most barbaric way. We’ve provided a link to that episode, but we must warn you, do not tap on the link if you are the slightest bit squeamish, or if by chance you are one of our younger readers. Warning- graphic content: The The Dark Side of the Horse Racing Industry.

Horse-lovers are quoted as saying that one horse dies every three days on a race track and there’s evidence for this.

Poster with horse saying Nup to the Cup
Image: Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses

Who Loves the Melbourne Cup, Anyway?

The Melbourne Cup is said to be one of the biggest events on the Australian social calendar, drawing millions of people from all over the world. However, as people realise the extent of animal cruelty involved, apart from regular punters and those involved in the industry itself, attendance crowds are getting smaller.

Horse-racing is losing popularity with everyone except for those who make money out of it. That also includes the governments which depend on its revenue to boost the economy and the fashion industry, where many fashion labels make up their annual targets in the lead up to the spring racing carnival.

First Nations Fashion Design

Recently, some businesses have been taking a stand against the cruelty involved in horse racing, by supporting the Nup to the Cup Movement. Some smaller hospitality businesses, such as Red Sparrow Pizza in Melbourne and Bodhi in Sydney, have held anti-horse racing events to raise money for animal welfare charities.

Celebrities such as Megan Gale, Taylor Swift and Lana Condor have also pulled out from past guest appearances due to social media backlash. While both Taylor and Lana cited scheduling conflicts, could they too be taking a stance against the race?

Can Fashion Do Without The Melbourne Cup?

The close link between the fashion industry and horseracing is no more evident than in the fierce competition for the Fashions on the Field prize which for Covid times has morphed into Fashions on the Front Lawn. The list of what is worn by entrants and winners sounds like a roll-call of designer names and fashion labels. Meanwhile, A-listers, celebrities and everyday racegoers dress to the nines for the big day. The unofficial dress-code seems to have been designer apparel for those wishing to gain entry into the corporate marquees, pre-covid.

In fact, The Melbourne Cup is almost as big a day for the fashion industry as it is for horse racing. The question should be not why fashion loves The Melbourne Cup but why hasn’t it done anything to replace fashion’s big day out with something that is far more palatable!

Smaller fashion brands are taking the lead, it seems. Ethical Melbourne designer Lois Hazel doesn’t agree with her designs being used to celebrate the cup.
“Although I can’t control how my clothing is worn after my customers buy it, it would be very hypocritical of me to dress someone for the races. I would probably turn them down” she said.

Accessories designer Tessa from A_C Offical agrees. “Our bags are designed with animals and the planet in mind. We don’t support the excessive waste that is involved with these kinds of events and are vehemently against the cruelty behind horse racing. We believe the cost of an animal’s life is worth more than this.”

What Can Animal Lovers Do?

It’s not as hard as you think. Firstly, check out Coalition for the Protection of Race Horses to learn more about it. Then, tag along to one of the alternative events below and meet some like-minded people.

If watching the Melbourne Cup is a family event in your household, maybe suggest another activity and gently explain why you no longer support the racing industry. After all, sharing your knowledge is key to helping others understand.

Another easy way to cut ties with the racing industry is to check that your Superannuation fund aligns with your values. Try Australian Ethical Super for a planet-friendly Super Fund.

Cruelty-Free Dressing-up & Partying

Anti Melbourne Cup earrings

There are a few events for those who oppose The Melbourne Cup, but still want to dress up.


Bolted is a chance to let your hair down and celebrate your best self.
Be prepared for a glam lunch full of special guests, with a surprise creature visit. All profits will go directly to RSPCA QLD and QCGC Research.


Ready to say “Nup to the cup”? Then head along to a yummy vegan lunch hosted by Free The Hounds. All profits raised will support greyhound advocacy work by Free The Hounds. 


The animal activist groups of Sydney have joined forces for a protest outside Randwick Racecourse to say Nup to the Cup. Support their efforts and help raise awareness around the cruelty of the racing industry.

Australia Wide

Fashion’s on the Field? Nope, Fashions on your Front Lawn! This Australia-wide event is encouraging everyone to get dressed up in their finest, hold a sign with an anti-racing message (such as #Nup to the Cup) and then post to Instagram. We don’t need a race to get frocked up!

Show Your Support

Hoping to support a brand that is anti-racing? Then check out these cruelty-free champions.

Fussy Gus

Anti Melbourne Cup Fashion

Say it loud and say it proud with this locally handmade tee by Fussy Gus.

Each To Own

Anti Melbourne Cup fashion accessories

To get extra loud, pair your new tee with these ‘Nup to the Cup’ earrings by Each To Own. $10 from each sale will go to support Save A Horse Australia to support the rescue and rehabilitation of horses.

Vegan Style

Cruelty-free Fashion shoes

Seeking some shoes for your dress-up party? Look no further than Vegan Style in Fitzroy. Their ethically made shoes range from party heels to casual sneakers. All perfect for your next Nup to the Cup event.

Looking to host your own (anti) Melbourne Cup event? Get some ideas from Fashion Fun without the Cruelty.

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