With just 18 days to the New Year, we begin to reflect on some of the biggest trends of 2016. In Nairobi, one that caught on in all manner of shapes, colours and sizes was the faux fur coat trend. Even in blistering temperatures, you could always spot that one lady rocking a faux fur lining or full on ensemble.
Faux furs were created to be the no-guilt alternative to the genuine article that seems to stubbornly remain a staple of the haute couture fashion circles. You just have to look to the likes of Vogue US’ Editor in Chief Anna Wintour and designer Karl Lagerfeld to see how valued it is. While there are several celebrities and affluent individuals who wear real furs, it’s these two personalities that have supported the practice publicly. In a 2009 interview with CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System), Wintour expressed just how much furs would remain ingrained in her wardrobe, “I don’t like to travel with security, but it got to the point when I was having pies and rice and fake blood and all sorts of things thrown at me,” she says. “And it just became easier to use the security. I mean, was I going to not have security and not wear fur? No way.” Lagerfeld likened the fur industry to the leather in his infamous quote, “In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and even clothes, the discussion of fur is childish.”
However, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) would strongly beg to differ. You see, a lot of the real furs in the industry are retrieved in horrific ways. Ways that are particularly hard to capture in words. Below are just some of the investigative findings PETA has managed recover over the years that can make you question where we went wrong as human beings:
*Warning, contains some graphic images that can be uncomfortable to see
And when the industry began to trumpet angora fur/wool as the a safer alternative, PETA showed up to prove them wrong (again).
Thankfully, exposés such as the one above has helped brands make the decision to ban angora. This includes but not limited to H&M, Forever 21, Mango and Calvin Klein.
SO what does this have to do with faux fur?
Some pro-life conservation experts believe, like with the argument of synthetic rhino horns (read our article on rhino horn here), it normalizes the fur-wearing culture to the point where faux fur wearers can easily transition to the real thing. The fear of being pelted with red paint or in the case of Anna Wintour, a dead racoon or a tofu pie, isn’t as great anymore. The likes of Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Cara Delevingne and both Middleton sisters have all been allegedly spotted sporting the real fur, giving some credibility to the British Fur Trade Association (BFTA) findings that ‘real-fur sales’ have increased globally by 58 per cent since the end of the Nineties’. Even Naomi Campbell who famously posed with four other famed five supermodels in 1994 to launch PETA’s ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur’ campaign has sadly been spotted in fur.
However, Chief Executive of BFTA, Mike Moser, argues that faux fur has a greater impact on the environment than real fur does. He believes because faux furs are made from non-renewable petroleum-based products such as acrylics or nylon, it lacks the biodegradability that real fur possesses. In a nutshell, he argues it just contributes to the landfill mess we’re facing now. Another pro-fur organisation, The Fur Commissions USA, also argues that faux furs greatly contribute to water pollution and energy consumption through their manufacturing process in ways we’ve discussed earlier in the series. We should note that they’ve been ‘Representing Mink Farmers since 1994’.
PETA started the ‘naked’ campaign in a bid to spread awareness in addition to driving down the demand of real fur and closing fur farms. Even cultures that incorporate animal skin and fur are rethinking this strategy. In a 2014, through a project by the Wildcat Conservation group “Panthera,” members of the Shembe religion from South Africa were slowly switching to synthetic materials to help with the conservation efforts. You can see more of the news piece below.
So we’re left with the question, what is ethical when it comes to faux fur? PETA’s stance on it is that it can be a good alternative for shoppers looking for real fur; more fake fur means less real fur. But if you can avoid it all together, opt to do so; especially if you can’t tell a real one from a fake. (However you can learn more about how to determine it’s indeed a faux fur through articles such as this). Their main agenda remains to be reducing the sum total of animal suffering.
PETA’s videos tend to make us question everything animal related in your wardrobe. And while many activists believe being ethical to the letter means shunning all furs (and fast fashion), is it practical? Or achievable? But what do you do with the items in question should you decide to be completely against fur of all kinds? In addition, for those pro faux fur, how do we ensure we’re not just replacing a problem with another one? No wonder it continues to be a huge debate in the fashion industry. Where do you stand on the faux fur debate?
PS: Great news, at the end of November, Japan closed its last Mink fur farm. (You can read more here) Whatever your stance on faux fur, you can’t deny how great that news is. More of these little guys get to live free and unharmed. Can’t we do the same for the rest of our furry friends?