Friend or Faux?: A Brief Look into Fashion and Ethics

The winter season is a great opportunity to incorporate more textures into your daily wardrobe. During the cold months, to add a little flair to their wardrobe, people flock to fur garments. Although fur is timeless, chic, and luxurious, it does not fall short of being controversial. You may think, “Since the beginning of time, humans have used fur and/or animal hides for things like shelter or clothing, so what’s the problem now?” (Lee, 2014; Wilcox, 1951). Well, let’s take a deeper look into the history of the fur industry.

For centuries, fur has been used for trading purposes and even used as currency (Ramchandani & Coste-Maniere, 2017). The fur industry has spread all over the world, from Native Americans trading fur good with colonists, to later fur trading spreading through Europe and then traveling to Russia (Ramchandani & Coste-Maniere, 2017; Peterson, 2010). Between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, Russia was the world’s largest fur supplier (Ramchandani & Coste-Maniere, 2017). Within the nineteenth century, North America started fur farming (Ramchandani & Coste-Maniere, 2017; Peterson, 2010).

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Fur traders, circa 1777. Source: http://www.historicfortsnelling.org/history/fur-trade

The fur trading business seems like a normal, supply-and-demand type of situation, right? Well, not to everyone. The issue lies within the ethical practices of the fur industry. Crane & Matten (2004) define ethical consumption as the conscious and deliberate consumption choice based on moral and personal beliefs (Kim & Kwon, 2016). The issue many people have with fur is that they believe that animals have rights, just like humans do, and that the use of animal-based materials for fashion products is wrong (Lee, 2014; Kandel, 2011; Olsen & Goodnight, 1994; Sneddon, Lee, & Soutar, 2010; Summers, Belleau, & Xu, 2006). Animal activists strongly oppose the practice of using animals to fulfill human desires, such as fur consumption (Lee, 2014; Singer, 1972). In the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, faux fur was created from synthetic materials such as Orlon and Dynel to create a cheap alternative (Hines, 2015). Anti-animal-cruelty activists began to speak out against fur in the 1960s and continued to gain celebrity support throughout the 1990s and 2000s (Hines, 2015).

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People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protesters with bystander. Source: http://affinitymagazine.us/2016/04/05/blog04252016/

Although consumers have the right to buy as they please, many designers did not want any part of this ethical issue. Some fashion designers have adopted faux fur in their collections as a more socially responsible alternative to fur. For example, big-name designers such as Chanel, Jeremy Scott, Giorgio Armani, and Christian Siriano have incorporated faux fur into their collections or go fur-free for good (LeTrent, 2013; Bigolin, 2011).

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Double-breasted, brown faux fur coat, circa 1990. Source: Textiles and Clothing Museum collection, Iowa State University

Although faux fur is a seemingly positive solution to the fur industry controversy, there is one major caveat: faux fur is not biodegradable. Despite faux fur evolving in feel and look, as well as being much more affordable, faux fur is made from synthetic materials, has a short shelf-life, and will most likely end up in a landfill (LeTrent, 2013). When it comes to the topic of fur versus faux fur, the fashion industry seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place: go for the ethical option or the environmentally friendly option. One thing is for certain, when the fashion industry faces a problem, a creative and innovative solution is on the way.

 

By Courtney Johnson

References:

LeTrent, S. (2013). Fur on the catwalk: Is it worth the controversy? Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/15/living/fur-controversy-nyfw/index.html

Hines, A. (2015). The History of Faux Fur. Retrieved from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-faux-fur-180953984/

Lee, Minjung. The effects of product information on consumer attitudes and purchase intentions of fashion products made of fur, leather, and wool. (2014). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 13840.

Ramchandani, M., Coste-Maniere, I. (2017). To fur or not to fur: Sustainable production and consumption within animal-based luxury and fashion products. Textile Clothing and Sustainability Technology, pp. 41-60.

Kim, Y. J., Kwon, Y. J. (2016, November). Meaning of Wearing Faux Fur. Paper presented at International Textiles and Apparel Association Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Bigolin, R. (2011). Faux pas? Faking materials and languages of luxury. Proceedings of the 13th Annual Conference for the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes (IFFTI) Fashion and Luxury: Between Heritage & Innovation, Paris, France, April 11-15, 2011, pp. 219-226.

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COOGI: A Pop-Culture & Fashion Icon

Winter is now upon us, so it’s time to break out some cozy sweaters! Winter colors can sometimes be dark or dull. So maybe this winter season, you can brighten up your wardrobe with a splash of color! A COOGI sweater, perhaps?

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COOGI sweater from 1992 in the Clothing and Textiles Collection.

You’ve probably seen these sweaters before. The loud, colorful designs are almost always a giveaway of the knitwear brand COOGI. Although most people relate their knowledge of the brand from the 1980s and 1990s, COOGI has been around for some time. COOGI was founded in 1969 in Toorak, Australia. The popular knitwear brand stays true to its Australian roots and heritage with the bold color palette and eye-catching patterns.

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COOGI OG Crewneck Sweater via https://coogi.com/products/coogi-og-crewneck

When you first see these high-end knitwear pieces, you don’t think “hip-hop,” right? Well, COOGI has had quite a long-term relationship with pop culture, specifically with the hip-hop community. Let’s revisit the 1980s, when The Cosby Show was one of the most popular programs on television. Bill Cosby’s character on the show was notorious for wearing loud, almost tacky sweaters, but in an endearing kind of way (Oatman-Stanford, 2013). Cosby was known for his flamboyant knitwear collection from multiple designers, some of which were by COOGI (Oatman-Standford, 2013).

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Bill Cosby in a COOGI-inspired sweater designed by KOOS.

The popularity of the show, mixed with those eccentric “Cosby sweaters” created a trend amongst African-American men to started wearing more and more of this style of sweater (Podoshen, 2008). Within the 1990s era, the hip-hop community grabbed on to the “Cosby sweaters” trend. Most notably, the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G., or Biggie Smalls for short, was a style leader in the hip-hop world catching on to COOGI sweaters being a fashion must-have (Jankov, 2016). Biggie Smalls, like many rap artists, was known for rapping about brand name clothing in their music (Jankov, 2016). One of the most famous lyrics of Biggie Smalls career was from the 1994 song “Big Poppa,” when he says,

“However, living better now, COOGI sweater now” (Jankov, 2016; Genius, 2016).

This lyric created an aspirational effect between owning this expensive, cool, high-end brand of clothing along with living a happy life. The COOGI sweaters became a hot commodity once Biggie Smalls rapped about them.

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Rapper Biggie Smalls in a COOGI sweater photographed by Dana Lixenberg for Vibe Magazine in 1996. Source: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/hip-hop-auction-artnet-362990

 

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Rapper Drake and comedian Andy Samberg wearing COOGI sweaters on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.  Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/07/coogi-comeback-photos_n_5104705.html

Once clothing trends reach a twenty-year-old mark they are considered “retro” or “vintage” and tend to resurge back into fashion (Lewis & Gray, 2013). Somewhere within the early 2000s, COOGI declined in popularity after licensing its name to various discount manufacturers who didn’t uphold the quality of the product (Wilson, 2014). But, in recent years, COOGI sweaters have re-emerged into the fashion spotlight. Brands such as Rag & Bone, Pigalle, and Supreme have payed homage to and collaborated with the knitwear brand (Wilson, 2014). The kaleidoscopic-style patterns, made famous by artists in the 1990s, were honored by being inducted into the Collection of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum for the brand’s knitting craftsmanship. COOGI is one of fashion’s most easily recognizable and iconic brands, and is the ultimate “Comeback Kid.”

By Courtney D. Johnson

 

Lewis, T, Gray, N. (2013). The maturation of hip-hop’s menswear brands: outfitting the urban consumer. Fashion Practice, Vol. 5 (2), 229-243.

Podoshen, J. S. (2008). The African-American consumer revisited: brand loyalty, word-of-mouth, and the effects of the Black experience. Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 25 (4), 211-222.

Jankov, A. (2016). Branding and hip-hop culture: product placement in musical audio data. Conference Paper, pp. 1-26.

Oatman-Stanford, H. (2013). The truth about cosby sweaters. Retrieved from: https://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/the-truth-about-cosby-sweaters/

Wilson, J. (2014). Coogi is making a comeback, are you ready to start wearing the colorful sweaters again? Retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/07/coogi-comeback-photos_n_5104705.html

About. Retrieved from: https://coogi.com/pages/about-us

Munro, C. (2015). The stories behind iconic shots from artnet’s hip-hop photography sale. Retrieved from: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/hip-hop-auction-artnet-362990