Will the Fashion Industry Ever Be Fur-Free?

Following our last ‘Five Ways to Wear: Fur’ feature and the recent backlash on social media against fashion blogger and “influencer” Sarah Ashcroft for promoting real fur from the online brands Twentyfall and Noughtsandkisses, it seems like high time to talk about the use of real fur in the fashion industry.

Whilst wearing real fur was once the ultimate representation of wealth and glamour, it has come to invite public condemnation over recent years. A multitude of organisations have formed to criticize the use of fur in the fashion industry, perhaps the most famous challenge being posed by Peta, whose ‘I’d Rather Go Naked’ campaigns featured a host of celebrities such as Khloe Kardashian, Christy Turlington and P!nk. Another important organisation tackling the use of real fur in fashion is the Fur Free Alliance, consisting of an army of over forty animal protection agencies. The alliance offers an informative platform, with a ‘Fur-Free Retailer’ feature on their website to encourage consumers to educate themselves on which specific brands use real fur.

Aside from specific animal welfare organisations, a selection of big-name fashion brands have made high-profile denouncements of the use of real fur. Notably, Gucci announced in October that they will be going fur-free in 2018; following in the footsteps of Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss and Net-A-Porter. Stella McCartney’s immensely popular brand is also based upon an ethical value system, describing itself as “vegetarian” in its rejection of leathers, skins, furs or feathers.

Founder of Shrimps, Hannah Weiland, suggested that “increased customer demand for faux fur has pushed the technological development and innovation forward at a fast pace”. Her brand is famous for its unique faux-fur coat designs and is a name of note in the booming faux-fur industry, only one of many high-end brands who pride themselves on the quality of their faux-fur. Significantly, such brands are able to maintain a reputation of luxury whilst at the same time remaining faux. Previously, synthetic fur often previously held negative connotations of cheapness, undesirability and poor quality but given the recent technological progress, faux fur has achieved a position of credibility within the fashion industry, to decrease the demand for real fur.

Despite decreased demand for real fur and its near total abandonment in the mainstream market, it seems overly optimistic to consider that it will ever have no market at all. There is still demand for fur coming from somewhere, since sixteen million animals are still trapped each year for fur and fifty million are killed. Estimated at $40 billion worldwide, the industry is undeniably huge. In recent years, the IFTF (The International Fur Trade Federation) stated that global fur sales doubled from the years 2011 to 2013, from $15.6 billion to $35.8 billion, the result of increased demand in China.

For one, many luxury brands still pride themselves on their heritage of quality fur, such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Chanel. Karl Lagerfeld himself has defended the use of real fur, responded to criticisms by simply suggesting, “it’s an industry”. Further, he asked “who will pay for all the unemployment of the people if you suppress the industry of the fur?”. Additionally – and worryingly – there has been an increase in the profile of online boutiques (such as Popski London), who pride themselves on the use of real fur. Such retailers have been promoted by fashion ‘influencers’, such as blogger Sarah Ashcroft, who boasts a following of almost 800,000, and reality TV stars, such as Made in Chelsea’s Louise Thompson.

Evidently, although incredible progress has been made, the use of real fur is still prominent in the fashion industry. As individuals, we can boycott brands that use real fur, unfollow any online promoters of it and educate ourselves on the extent of the industry, in order to educate others. Despite the stubborn nature of the real-fur market, we can each do our bit to publicly condemn its use and pave the way to a more ethical landscape in the fashion industry.

Here are some links to informative websites:

Louise Thompson wearing Popski London

Sarah Ashcroft wearing slides made from fox fur

P!nk in Peta’s campaign

Brix Smith-Start, Aimee Phillips, Pixie Geldof and Alexa Chung wearing Shrimps

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