Fur fashion has hit the headlines again recently with Gucci stopping the use of fur in their future collections. Despite this, there was fur trends in abundance in the fashion capitals in the latest season of fashion shows and varying opinions about fur throughout the media. Are all furs created the same? What are the more ethical options for designers and consumers? And is Faux Fur really as wonderful as is claimed?
Controversy surrounds fur in fashion, therefore it is important to delve deeper into the procurement processes to understand why this controversy exists. On one side of the argument, any mistreatment of animals would result in poor quality pelts and fur, making inhumane treatment of animals a misguided perception. Regardless, it is of the utmost importance that brands and manufacturers know the fur that is used is sourced fairly, humanely and with sustainable practice. Animal Rights activists have encouraged Fur Industry members the world over to consider their practices, streamline systems and regulate their supply chains to keep the trust of their clients and customers. Following consumer pressure for traceability, the fur industry like many industries adapts in order to stay viable in our capitalist consumer culture.
Consumers, designers, manufacturers, suppliers and fur farmers or fur trappers are all responsible for ensuring an ethical fur industry. Designers have an obligation to source from reliable and trusted suppliers, ensuring humane practices for sourcing fur, as well as fair labour and working conditions. Manufacturers have a responsibility for their staff and to know where their materials are coming from. Suppliers and fur agents need to be upfront about their sources and the way the fur was harvested, as well as official documentation to prove this. Fur farmers and trappers are accountable for how the fur is harvested and to provide the utmost care for the animals welfare. Local and international (where applicable) certification, documentation and standards must be adhered to throughout the supply, design to provide proof of this responsibility.
Animal rights activists started campaigning against fur fashion in the 60’s and 70’s when endangered species such as the tiger and jaguar, and rightfully so. Now, fur is only harvested from animals that are not endangered and in some cases such as New Zealand’s possum are causing the endangerment of native species.
Wild and Free
Garments made using wild fur is a way to ensure animals have lived free range in the wild, allowing normal animal behaviour. Many species of animals are needed to be kept in controlled numbers for conservation purposes. Human development has altered natural habitats by combining species of flora and fauna that may naturally have never met. This delicate balance has become off kilter in some parts of the world, resulting in overpopulation of some species. This can lead to other issues such as poor health within the animal group, lack of food and impacts on native plants and animals sharing the habitat. To combat this, groups of trappers and hunters keep these numbers in check, and earn money from the animal furs they retrieve. This adds value to the conservation effort at little or no cost to government bodies. Social positives of this brings jobs to people in these areas – some quite remote and therefore reliant on the fur industry for their local economies. Despite the variations in pelts due to natural occurrences in wild animals eg scratches/nicks in fur, using these pelts and fibres can be made into products that add value, rather than rotting in the forest.
What about faux fur fashion?
Studies comparing the environmental impacts of Faux fur vs. Real fur have many variables to consider. Many designers and consumers prefer a faux fur alternative for animal welfare concerns and technologies have enabled much more realistic faux fur options. As well as animal treatment, variables to consider are sustainabilty in terms of biodegradability, length of wear and material composition. The infographic below provides an easily interpreted depiction comparing faux fur with real fur on these factors.
The environmental affects of faux fur industry can be harmful to natural habitats that both animals and humans rely on. As a petroleum based product, faux fur is made from a non-renewable source which can shed micro fibres throughout it’s life which have been proven detrimental to ocean and marine life.
Fur is also considered for it’s function. Designers catering to colder climates claim that faux fur simply isn’t comparable to real fur due to the intense and arguably lifesaving warmth they bring. Canada Goose is a perfect example of this – creating functional outerwear that can be considered luxury in its attention to design, high quality materials and growing celebrity endorsement to wear in any snowy situation. Canada Goose’s website enlightens the reader with reasons why the fur is so complimentary to their down outerwear garments. One fact explains the practicality of using fur trims on hoods, the movement of the fibres around the face can provide airflow that reduces the risk of frostbite!
Danish designer Morton Ussing, created a collection in collaboration with Chinese fur brand Liu Du in September this year. The collection came about after Ussing won the IFF Remix Gold award for his innovative dyeing and colour printing on fur. Through the IFF connection, Liu Du and Ussing have created ‘Return to True Self’, a five piece collection of fur outerwear. The opportunity allowed Ussing to explore his use of fur, creating interesting silhouettes, mixture of materials and bold textures of multicoloured fur.
Fendi Furs are always on the mark for pushing boundaries in fur fashion. This year, fur fashion for men has been a new trend, something that seems unlikely until you see it. More subtle than woman’s fur fashion, but fun and a statement all the same. Karl Lagerfeld is the legendary designer working on Fendi’s furs for over 50 years. The level of intricacy in the designs are incredible, depicting whole scenes in different furs and colours, mixing unlikely fabrics together and truly inspiring designers to push the boundaries of possibility with this incredible material. Textures, colours and techniques create endless design outcomes.
Fur Fashion Trends
Perhaps the most obvious fur fashion trend seen lately on bloggers, models, designers and influencers alike is bold, bright, striking colour. Some are multi-coloured, some just a pop of colour, some almost tapestry like with a myriad of multi-colours depicting an overall scene like a dappled impressionist painting. Alongside the brightly coloured furs, are also natural options, referencing colours seen in nature.
Mixing fur into athleisure and casual looks makes the viewer feel fur is more accessible. Investing in heirloom pieces like a fur coat is more attractive when the wearer can dress it up or down. Bomber jackets, fur sleeves mixed with sleek bodices and pops of fur in the way of a trim (see below) all can be lended to an everyday look.
Craftsmanship and patch work of furs is at an all time high. Made possible by highly skilled artisans, combining furs in different colours and textures creating interesting and bold motifs. Using multiple lengths of fur in the same jacket creates intriguing shapes and silhouettes.
The familiar fur trim on puffer jackets and parkas was seen in many different ways. Taking influence from traditional outerwear and no doubt brands like Canada Goose and Moncler, famous for functional and incredibly warm outdoor wear. Also seen is contrast coloured fur collars, juxtaposing textures. Again this season embellishments and fur accents are seen on accessories such as shoes, belts, handbags and keychains.
The best thing to look for with any garment is high quality – this applies to fur, and all material goods. If we take deeper consideration in what we wear and how we care for our clothing, the garments can last season after season. Shopping to personal style over passing trends for big ticket items such as a fur coat, decreases the likelihood that it will be thrown away next season. With the refined level of craftsmanship and creativity and dedication to responsible sourcing, fur coats of today are works of art.
Despite major players such as Gucci going fur free, the industry is still seeing a lot of interest from younger consumers for designs that use real fur. Business of fashion ponders “Will millennials boost the fur trade?”