Why the fashion industry fell out of love with natural fur

In May of this year, the Prada Group announced that they did not see a future in products made from natural fur. Citing a new policy of “innovation and social responsibility”, Miuccia Prada has committed Prada and Miu Miu to a commitment to refrain from natural fur starting with their spring / summer 2020 collections.

In recent years, a significant number of luxury brands, including Burberry, Gucci, Chanel, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach, Diane Von Furstenberg, DKNY, Michael Kors, Versace and Giorgio Armani, have issued statements that they are phasing out mink, fox fur. , chinchillas, rabbits and other animals. Some brands have even given up making expensive leather goods from exotic animals and angora.

In 2018, the British Fashion Council announced that it would do its best to “free” London Fashion Week from natural fur. It is important to note that fur farming has been banned in England since 2000, but imports are still legal and approximately £ 75 million worth of fur was purchased in 2017.

As for retail, in the same 2017, the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group published a decision to end the sale of fur, and Farfetch pledged to remove from sale products from fur and leather of endangered species by the end of this year.

About a month ago, American fashion giant Macy’s – a department store that used to sell fur coats for thousands of dollars – announced that it intends to stop selling fur by 2021. Also recently, the entire state of California, following the individual cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, passed a ban on the manufacture and sale of new fur products.

Even the Queen of Great Britain supported the change in attitudes towards fur: Buckingham Palace confirmed that all new clothes for Her Highness will be made only from faux fur.

Queen Elizabeth in London, 2008

© Anwar Hussein

A brief history of the anti-fur movement

All these events have become a kind of slap in the face of the highly profitable fur industry, which just a few years ago was growing and developing. Since 2000, global fur sales have increased by 70 percent, and in 2014 the industry, according to the International Fur Federation, was valued at more than $ 40 billion (which at that time was comparable to the global Wi-Fi market).

It would seem, where did such a sharp flurry of negativity come from? In fact, a fashionable ethical revolution has been brewing for decades. The creation of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organization in 1980 sparked an early wave of activism, PETA’s tactics already raised a lot of noise: those who were not indifferent protested loudly at the show venues and infiltrated the show activists showered designers and models with fake blood, and celebrity supporters of the movement went naked in public in support of the slogan “Better naked than in furs.”

In the mid-1990s, supermodels Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell took part in the PETA promo campaign. The latter, however, later changed its point of view and in 2009 even became the face of the Dennis Basso brand, known for its love of fur.

In addition to the scandalous PETA actions, in the 20th century, several more anti-fur projects were created, which the fashion world recalls to this day. For example, in 1984, Greenpeace, together with the anti-fur organization Lynx, came up with a really rude, but effective slogan “It takes 40 stupid animals to make a fur coat. Just one thing to wear ”, accompanied by a photograph of David Bailey depicting a woman’s silhouette, carrying a fur coat in her hand, followed by an ominous trail of blood.

The following year, Bailey directed an equally attention-grabbing television ad, which turns a fashion show into a low-budget horror movie where the beau monde is spattered with blood.

In 1994, Calvin Klein stopped working with fur. In November of the same year, Cindy Crawford appeared on the cover of New York magazine wearing only one faux fur hat, which Todd Oldham co-designed with PETA. Already at the end of the last century, American public opinion was inclined to believe that wearing fur was morally and ethically dubious, because sales of fur products around the world fell somewhat.

Rebellion Against Fur – Why Now?

In the 2000s, however, the fur industry recovered even though digital platforms made it much easier to disseminate information about animal cruelty. While some designers, including Vivienne Westwood, who announced her rejection of fur in 2007, continued to boycott cruelty to animals, the overall negative attitude towards fur did not return until the second half of the 2010s. There are several reasons for this. The efforts of activists in the 1980s and 1990s helped attract the press and public attention to the problem, but most of the tactics they used were so shocking that they provoked negative reactions despite the good news. Fundamental changes required painstaking “behind the scenes” work. The Humane Society International (HSI) animal rights organization negotiated with Prada and Gucci, as a result of which, as it has become visible now, it was possible to peacefully achieve global change. “We adhere to an open door policy in working with all companies, we have experience of cooperation with a huge number of retail chains and designers, but most importantly, we have a reputation for an organization that respects the opinion and the right to privacy of those who join us. appeals, and that is the basis of trust, ”PJ Smith, director of the organization’s fashion policy, told Vogue.

The fashion industry’s dislike of fur that has emerged in recent years clearly indicates a change in the world: there is a demand from consumers for transparency and environmental sustainability of production. “Finally, companies are listening to their customers, and customers are reluctant to support the egregious and devastating environmental impacts that accompany fur production,” Smith continues. “Companies develop new bylaws that keep pace with today’s values, and consumers reward them with positive feedback and thereby promote their brand.” Interestingly, not all companies that have decided to abandon fur will face financial problems. Before Gucci announced a new fur policy, sales of their fur products accounted for just 0.2 percent of total revenue, according to a Business of Fashion report.

Search for innovative alternatives

Many brands today say that they are ready to invest in the development of new materials that would replace the good old skins. New York-based Maison Atia, under the leadership of sixth generation furrier Chloe Mendel, has announced that it intends to find a worthy replacement for handcrafted fur of the highest quality made from alternative materials.

Another example is Hannah Weiland’s London-based brand Shrimps, which is incredibly popular with models, editors and celebrities. Weiland told Vogue that working with faux fur opened up new professional perspectives for her: “I learned hundreds of techniques and effects. Faux fur is a very versatile material. I especially enjoy creating jacquards; I love it when depth and almost 3D effect are created with the help of a plush pile of faux fur. “

However, the main problem of artificial fur is ecological inferiority: production from synthetic materials, short wear period and biological non-degradability. On the other hand, wearing and storing natural fur also requires a very harmful chemical treatment. Other “warm” alternatives, such as mohair or sheep’s wool, are also by-products of animal husbandry. These are all highly controversial questions, and both animal rights activists and opponents of artificial materials have rational arguments.

Shrimps fall-winter 2019

© Jamie Stoker

Stella McCartney, whose brand has adopted a vegetarian policy since its inception in 2001, recently proposed an option that could be a step forward for anyone concerned with the ecological footprint of faux fur. In September, Stella announced Koba Fur-Free Fur, which is made from a blend of recycled polyester and vegetable raw materials.

Natalia Vodianova wearing a Stella McCartney fur coat in Paris, 2019

© Iconic

End of the era of natural fur?

However, not everyone rejects natural fur. Finnish fur firm and auction house Saga Furs believe that young people are their fastest growing group of potential consumers. The Vogue editorial staff commented on Saga fashion director Tia Matyus: “Consumers now buy not just a product, but its entire history and everything that it represents. They are interested in the process, from the source of materials and ingredients to production details, they are interested in information about all persons and companies associated with the product. This is especially true for millennials and Gen Zers. ” Matyus notes that although they have suffered damage in recent years due to the deterioration of the reputation of fur, sales are still strong: “The fact that many brands have abandoned fur has had a negative impact on the image of the industry, rather than on demand and sales in the global market. … Fur still appeared in 60 percent of last year’s shows. Young budding designers also welcome the material: they use it for both display and sale. “

Shrimps fall-winter 2019

© Jamie Stoker

While we are still awaiting data for 2019, it is already clear that since 2015, sales of natural fur have fallen by 18 percent: currently from $ 40 billion to $ 33 billion. The number of animal skins in circulation has also decreased, and according to estimates by the auction house Kopenhagen Fur, the number of mink heads on farms by the end of this year should fall from the 2015 mark of 90 million to 60 million. (However, it is important to take into account that this number has been growing steadily until 2015).

Only time will tell whether natural fur will disappear from circulation in the future. Today, the number of brands that have expressed a desire to rethink their attitude towards it is growing every week. And only one thing is clear: the time has come for a conscious choice.

PETA activists in Zurich

© Michele Limina/EPA/Shutterstock

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