We all know how work-intensive agriculture must be. Modern practices combine industrial and scientific techniques to get the maximum amount of product at the lowest possible cost, while using the minimum amount of space.

At the same time, we know much less about the work involved with one particular kind of intensive farming: the harvesting of animal skins. This is a huge business, with the products destined for the worldwide high-fashion market.

In these photos, I show you the hidden sacrifice that lies behind the ruthless values expressed in the high-fashion world. It is an industry dedicated solely to image, to upholding remorseless standards of beauty, regardless of the cost.

The volume of business alone amounts to millions of euros a year and includes many famous brands: Gucci, Hermès, Cartier, Burberry, and many more. In fact, Italy and France alone are responsible for half of all European demand.

There is a long list of animals involved, whose skin is destined for use in the industrial sector of high fashion. These countless specimens are condemned to a life of intensive farming that results in the production of luxury clothes: furs, feathers, and leather.

To date, I have accomplished the first two chapters of this project. First, I worked in Colombia, where I witnessed the intensive breeding of caimans. Later, I travelled to Poland, where I worked inside an intensive mink-breeding farm. I plan to continue my project, trying to obtain further access into these fatal breeding farms. These places exist all around the world, and I would like to create a unique report on this awful practice.

The Price of Vanity is an unprecedented document that represents the beginning of an investigation on a terrifying phenomenon. It is a monstrosity, though it is in accordance with laws that have been perpetrated for decades; this is an extermination of animal species destined for a “beautiful” end.

—Paolo Marchetti

Editors’ Note: Don’t miss the work of all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Earth Awards 2015. In total, you’ll find 34 unique points of view inspired by the earth, nature and our shared surroundings. Beauty, destruction, wonder and hope—these are timely, important works that shouldn’t be missed!