Photo: Rex Features 


Is this the beginning of the end for the fur industry?

Recently outlawed by some of the world's most influential fashion brands, today an inquiry has launched into fur's use on the high street. Has the time finally come when we stop using fur in fashion asks Tamsin Blanchard

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By Tamsin Blanchard on

Update: Jean Paul Gaultier has become the latest designer to ban all fur products from his collections. He announced his decision live on French television, saying that he thought the way in which animals are killed for fur is "absolutely deplorable". The decision comes just after London Fashion Week delcared that it will now be fur-free, significantly increasing the list of designers now avoiding fur altogether. 

Nobody is happier than I am that fur is finally out in the cold. The killing of animals for the use of their skins has always been one of fashion’s blind spots, which has made me feel that it’s an industry with loose morals and uncertain ethics. So, last October, when Gucci’s CEO and president Marco Bizzarri declared that fur was “not modern”, I felt elated, slightly incredulous and, yes, vindicated. Not only was this luxury Italian fashion house ending its relationship with fur, but it was actively signing up to the Fur Free Alliance, a coalition of 40-plus animal-protection organisations working to end the exploitation and killing of animals for the fur trade. Extraordinary. And wonderful. Thank you, Marco Bizzarri!

Thank you to Stella McCartney, who has never stopped campaigning and trying to persuade her fellow designers to stop using fur, and whose influence on Gucci’s parent company, Kering, cannot be underestimated. McCartney, of course, goes one step further and doesn’t use any animal skins at all, including leather. But that’s another story.

According to a YouGov poll commissioned in 2016, nine out of 10 British citizens believe it is unacceptable to buy and sell real fur. Farming of fur has been outlawed in the UK since 2000. Currently, the UK allows the import and sale of fur from fox, rabbit, mink and chinchilla – which seems hypocritical when we don’t believe it’s ok to farm ourselves. The Humane Society International is calling for a fur-free Britain with a petition (sorry, another one) to ban the import of fur.

Gucci’s ban clearly sends the message that real fur has no place in the modern woman’s wardrobe. Whether fellow Kering brands, particularly Christopher Kane (who has made a specialty of lining plastic Crocs with mink), Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and DSquared (who were recently criticised for employing Kendall Jenner to model a fur coat), embrace alternatives to fur remains to be seen (watch this space). What’s for sure is that any designer showing gratuitous displays of animal pelts on the catwalks this season will look like an embarrassment, as though they just didn’t get the memo. Real fur is just not fashionable.

The lack of transparency in the fashion supply chain means that brands often don’t even know themselves if their fur is synthetic or real  – and many don’t make it their business to find out

In December, Michael Kors announced it was going fur free, along with Jimmy Choo. Brands who are already fur free include Giorgio Armani (since 2016), Vivienne Westwood, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. Retailers are distancing themselves from the fur trade, too. Selfridges stopped selling it in 2005. Net-A-Porter stopped in June 2017. Retail outlets for fur are becoming fewer and further between.

What’s most worrying now is the blurring of the lines between fake and real fur on the high street and online. It’s not just expensive designer brands who are using fur in their collections. Now that it has lost its currency, unscrupulous suppliers are passing off the real thing – often cat, angora rabbit and raccoon from China, the world’s largest fur exporter – as fake. The lack of transparency in the fashion supply chain means that brands often don’t even know themselves if their fur is synthetic or real  – and many don’t make it their business to find out.

So, the bad news is, just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s fake. In January, Boots withdrew hair clips decorated with a fur pompom after a shopper suspected that the Scünci hair accessories were made using real fur. In December, the Humane Society International published a report confirming that a £30 pair of fur pompom high heels, from fast-fashion retailer Boohoo, were indeed rabbit, not synthetic as stated on the label – echoing a similar issue earlier in the year, involving a pair of “not-faux fur” mules withdrawn from sale by Missguided. They were tested and found to be made from real fur, possibly cat – a fur ball too far, along with Boohoo’s £5 fluffy earrings, which contained mink. Today it was annoucned that MPs will start an inquiry into the misslabelling of real fur as faux on the high street, in an attempt to stamp this out for good. 

Fake fur itself is enjoying a real moment and we should be able to shop without worrying that it might actually be real. If clothing labels can’t be trusted to give accurate information, how can we be sure of what we are buying? Fake furs are so advanced now, it’s often hard to tell the difference. Not only has fur been outmoded, it’s been superseded by new technology.  

Examine the fur closely. Real fur will be attached to a leather backing rather than a synthetic fabric. If it feels soft, silky and like you are stroking a cat, chances are, you might be. Fake fur should have blunt ends and feel a bit more sticky to the touch. Beware of fur trims – and decorative balls of fluff – a common dumping ground for rabbit or fox.

But think twice before you buy. And then think again. While a fake-fur coat is cruelty free, it relies on petroleum for its manufacture and has a severe impact on the environment, from its initial manufacture to the millions of microfibres it will shed over its life, and, ultimately, the fact it’s never going to biodegrade, which means it’s going to be with us for a very long time. Make sure you really love it. Just like your grandmother’s fox fur before it, this is an heirloom for future generations.


Originally published on January 24th, 2018

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Photo: Rex Features 
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