Fur or Faux?

The use of fur fashion has become a heated topic in recent years, and much controversy has arisen over designers and celebrities who continue to support the industry. Protests from animal welfare organisations have encouraged a long list of designers to abandon ship and renounce their use of fur in future collections. Despite the blacklisting and finger pointing the fur or faux argument is not black and white, with the fur industry continuing to defend it's practices, while animal welfare organisations demonise them. But both sides pose interesting discussions, so perhaps there is more to the issue than just right and wrong.

Anti-fur protestors have become a staple for fashion events around the world. Animal welfare organisations have led impassioned protests which accuse designers, retailers and consumers of encouraging the unethical treatment of animals for the sake of fashion. PETA has been leading the charge in the fight against fur, their protests gaining international recognition. Their display in Hong Kong in response to the Hong Fur Federation’s international fair made headlines around the world. The protestors dressed as animals covered in blood and held gruesome images of slaughtered animals. The group has continued to protest the use of fur in the fashion industry, their stance being that “you don’t need to be cruel to stay warm and look cool.”

The group's aggressive protests have certainly made waves in the industry, with many dominant fashion houses eliminating fur from their collections. Designers who have renounced fur include Gucci, Versace, John Galliano and Michael Kors. While the group has undoubtedly seen results the pressure they have put on designers is so belligerent that their new anti-fur stances are perhaps a response to the bullying organisation as opposed to representing their real position on the issue. Designer Michael Kors turned to a fur-free business model in 2018, but Kors’s statement on the matter was rather unimpassioned. “Due to technological advances in fabrications, we now have the ability to create a luxe aesthetic using non-animal fur,” said the designer in an official statement. Kors had been the target for many of PETA’s protests due to his use of mink, fox and crocodile throughout his collections. The demonstrations ranged from protestors barging on stage during his talk at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to hanging pictures of the designer’s face on the grim reapers body outside his New York store. PETA’s methods have been aggressive are indeed unorthodox, but for them, the ends justify the means and seeing the fashion industry move towards a cruelty-free future is justification for their actions.

The organisation preaches the importance of animal welfare, and they maintain that the treatment of animals in the industry is shocking. “Fur farmers use the cheapest and cruellest killing methods available, including suffocation, electrocution, gas and poisoning,” said the group. They have released a series of exposes exposing the industry’s poor treatment of the animals in their care, which has bought more impassioned animal lovers into their corner.

However, the fur industry continues to maintain that many producers are operating well within ethical boundaries. Saga Fur supplies premium furs from strictly regulated European sources and openly discusses their supply chain methods with querying consumers. The company claims that fur is produced in a circular economy model, which encourages strong sustainability and the ethical treatment of their animals. Animals are treated humanely, and no part of their furs are wasted, making the industry a sustainable model of business.

Additionally, new research from the Organic Waste Systems laboratory in Belgium revealed that real fur is a far more environmentally friendly product than the faux fur replacements. Real fur biodegrades at the speed of an oak leaf, while faux fur is made from materials that do not degrade at all. In the end, all these items of clothing will end up in a landfill somewhere, and real fur poses no threat to the environment come it's use by date, ironically making it a healthier alternative.

There is no question that the use of fur in fashion poses an ethical dilemma for designers and consumers alike, and like any industry, there are instances of malpractice with terrible consequences. But despite the industry’s move against fur, it has not affected the markets standing. Saga fur has seen sales increase by 30 percent in the last 18 months, and according to research from Euromonitor International, the US is expected to spend more than $352 billion in the manufacturing of fur apparel and accessories in this year alone.

Fur of Faux? Both industries present answers to a different problem and are drenched in their own controversies. It will be interesting to watch how the fur industry is received in the coming years, and the stances industry elites will take in response to the debate.