A friend lent me a beautiful winter coat last week, with a big furry collar. We had decided that we would share the coat, in the spirit of getting more wear out of one special piece – good for the environment, good for the bank balance.
I went to meet another friend, who looked at me and said, “Nice coat, is that real fur on the collar?”
I was horrified. Was it?
I had just assumed it was faux. It was hard to tell, as imitations are so close nowadays. I called my friend, who reassured me that the collar was fake. It had not occurred to me that real fur was still a thing in this day and age. When I began working in fashion in the Eighties, fur was very popular – there were advertisements for fur in magazines, there were posh stores in the CBD selling full-length mink, sable and chinchilla coats. You saw them brought out for special events, but I was never a fan.
My mother fell for the marketing idea that a mink coat was the ultimate in glamour and spent money she couldn’t afford on a grey hip-length jacket, which naturally spent most of the time just sitting in her wardrobe because a mink wasn’t exactly de rigueur in Sylvania.
When I began to travel to New York and Milan for the fashion shows in the Nineties, furs and skins were being worn and used very extravagantly, but there was also a growing backlash against designers who used fur in their collections, championed byPETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Protesters began to sneak into the fashion shows, suddenly leaping onto the runway as the models came out, bravely brandishing anti-fur and “no animal cruelty” signs.
The security guards would quickly wrestle them off the stage, and I recall at one show in Paris how they wrapped the protestor in a fur pelt as they dragged her out, which was an awful thing to do to an animal activist.
The use of real fur in high fashion has gradually diminished – you see it mostly used as a trim, or as useless dangly trinkets, as some brands still try to make a feeble correlation between fur and luxury.
Thankfully, many of the top fashion houses are putting an end to the business of real fur for good, with brands such as Gucci, Versace, Prada, Diane Von Furstenberg, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfger all committing to being fur-free, a move that is in step with the more ethical practices that the fashion industry are currently adopting. Designer Stella McCartney, given the legacy of her vegetarian mother Linda, has always been anti-fur and leather.
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Calvin Klein has been fur-free since 1994, and we will undoubtedly see less and less use of exotic skins in the near future by designers worldwide.
The wearing of faux fur seems like a preferable alternative, but even faux fur is not a good ecological choice, unless it is made from entirely bio-degradable fibres and worn for years.
My friend and I need to share and wear that coat until it falls apart!