Furry Fashion: Do or Don’t?

Sunday, 3 May 2009 | Tags:

One of the most controversial materials in fashion, fur has been used as clothing for hundreds of years. Only in the last century or so has it become more of a fashion statement than a necessity for warmth. We talk to designers, fur manufacturers, and anti-fur activists to bring you their opinions and insights, so that you can form your own opinions on this touchy topic.

Fur as Fashion

In the past 200 years, fur went from being a warm clothing liner to a statement of fashion and high society. In recent years, fur saw a rise in popularity from the 1960s to 1980s, followed by an anti-fur movement in the 1990s that peaked with a collection of supermodels stating they’d rather go naked than wear fur. It also saw a number of fur coats and their wearers get red paint thrown at them by anti-fur activists.

Since then, wearing fur has been greatly frowned upon. However, in the past couple of years, a resurgence of fur, or faux fur, as fashion, as well as the recycling of existing furs as a “green” alternative, has brought this controversial style topic back into the spotlight.

Here’s what three players in the industry have to say about fur as fashion in 2010.

The Players

The Fur Industry

The fur industry today makes the controversial claim that it is “green” and “humane”. We talked to Alan Herscovici of the Fur Council to find out more:

    • Fur is a renewable resource. Only a ‘surplus’ of animals are harvested each year, ensuring that population numbers are maintained.

    • Fur is naturally resilient and long-lasting, so does not require the energy used to replace it as frequently as other materials.

    • Fur is biodegradable, unlike petrochemical-based faux furs.

    • Fur processing today is earth-friendly, utilizing a minimum of chemicals.

    • Fur harvesting is extremely well-regulated. We’re using only a small part of what nature produces each year. Animal welfare is respected. The fur trade works very hard to have excellent standards.

    • Fur trapping (about 15% of fur in production) is humane and conducted in accordance with trapping standards.

    • Fur farming (about 85% of fur in production) is conducted under the same strict guidelines governing animal handling and euthenasia.

An Anti-Fur Representative

The anti-fur movement is alive and well. We talked to Lesley Fox of The Fur Bearer Defenders.

  • Each year in Canada over 2 million animals are killed each year just for fashion. They are killed for their fur alone, so there is a lot of waste happening as the carcasses are discarded.
  • The fur industry is not green as claimed due to the following factors (source: PETA):

    • Energy consumption estimates do not take into account the farming process, which requires 15 times more fuel per garment on average than a synthetic garment.

    • The processing of fur renders it non-biodegradable.

    • Fur tanning uses formaldehyde, which contributes to water contamination, among other health issues.

    • Fur trapping practices still utilize leg-hold traps as the primary tool. Leg-hold traps are renown for the pain they cause animals, many of which will chew a limb off to escape, or die a slow death due to blood loss or shock, or become victim of an opportunistic predator (rendering the pelt useless)

    • Fur farming practices induce extensive psychological harm on these still-wild animals, causing self-mutilation and cannibalism.

A Clothing Designer recycling existing fur garments

Mariouche Gagne is one of a new breed of designers who believes we should be boycotting fake fur and reusing real fur. She recycles old furs to create new, modern collections.

  • Real fur will stay nice for about 100 years. Fake fur is actually worse for the environment when you’re making it, and when you’re getting rid of it, because it uses plastic.

  • I think we’re doing better for the environment with real fur, creating heirloom pieces that will be passed down for generations, from grandmother to daughter to grand daughter.

Fur Alternatives

Fake fur has become popular in the past couple of years as a way to look glamorous but save money, and lives. Many designers are now using it for major pieces like coats and jackets. 

The growing popularity of faux fur can be attributed in part to the fact that incredible advances in material production make it hard to tell from the real thing. This has actually given rise to a strange problem where retailers have been accused of selling real fur and labeling faux.

Many designers and retailers no longer use fur products. These include Betsey Johnson, Calvin Klein, Herve Leger, H&M, The Gap,
Eddie Bauer

, and a number of other small and major fashion houses. For a full list of fur-free companies, see the Humane Society of the United States website.

Real, Fake, or Bare?

It’s a personal choice that only you can make.


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