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).
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).
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).
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
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.