The use of fur in the fashion industry: friend or faux?

Teddy bear coats and faux leopard prints have taken fashion by storm over the past winter months. However, faux fur is no longer just a fashion statement. It is an important political one. In the past, animal skins and furs were a luxury reserved for rulers, nobility and the elite. Its prevalence in the fashion industry became a visual indicator of social status and wealth, becoming increasingly popular with women of high society.

While animal activists began to target fur in fashion in the 1970s, it was not until 1994 that high-profile models including Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford posed nude for PETA in a campaign labelled ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur.’ Nowadays, the stand against animal cruelty is stronger than ever as faux fur is at large in this winter’s trends.

Stella McCartney, the original pioneer of ‘ethical fashion,’ has slowly but surely paved the way for high-end brands to ditch the fur. Gucci and Burberry are just two of the many brands that have recently hopped onto the ethical bandwagon in a stand against animal cruelty, and even Donatella Versace has turned her back on the trend, saying “Fur? I am out of that. I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.”

Fundamental to the future of cruelty-free fashion is social media. Today’s young users of Instagram are more concerned with the ethical implications of the fashion industry as ecological awareness becomes more fashionable.

Consequently, the fear of online attack alongside the benefit of plaudits for going fur-free, has resulted in an influx of high profile influencers advocating for ethical and sustainable fashion. Feeling the impact on their fashion lines and sales, brands have had to evolve in order to maintain their millennial cliente.

In a survey of 24,000 customers, Net-A-Porter found that 72 per cent of fashion brands made purchases driven by social and environmental considerations. The rising transparency in the fashion industry via these social platforms means that the individual buyer is making a choice with the whole world watching.

As awareness of the unsustainable nature of the fashion industry increases, some brands are less than willing to contribute to the ever-growing problem of pollution that our planet now faces. Consequently, the fur industry is striking back, campaigning for the sustainability of real fur in a claim that it is more ecologically favourable than faux.

Whilst Gucci’s proclamation that “technology is now available that means you don’t need to use fur” alludes to the embrace of faux fur in an elevation of both design standards and materials, as concerns as fast fashion rise, the ecological consequences of faux must be considered.

The big question is: is this just a phase or a lasting change?

While veganism is often dismissed as a passing trend amongst millennials, its rising popularity and subsequent changes in the fast-food industry such as McDonalds and Greggs, as well as major supermarkets, begs the possibility of its longevity. This generation’s concern for ethical and sustainable alternatives is firmly entrenching itself in many aspects of consumerism.

For example, once the world’s top producer of fox pelts, Norway’s government have agreed to phase out fur farms by the year 2025 and is the fourteenth European nation to do so. This signals that fur’s reign in fashion is well and truly over. Along with the number of high-end brands that have publicly denounced any use of fur, it seems the future is bright.

Wearing real fur fashion continues to be seen as unfashionable as well as being morally wrong. The combination of brands and governments taking a stand is absolutely vital in ensuring fashion remains fur-free.

 

Image: Fahni via Wikimedia Commons

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