In 1985, 45 designers used fur, today around 400 use it for their products, from Giorgio Armani to Matthew Williamson. The ultimate guilty pleasure is back, the British fur industry is now worth £500 million per year and globally it’s worth £7 billion. Which makes us question what has changed? Fur it seems is more acceptable these days even though technological advances within textiles means that many of us can hardly tell real and faux fur apart. Channel 4 G Spot conducted a survey where they asked the public whether they would ever wear real fur. Out of 1,631, 22% stated that they have no problem wearing fur no matter where it comes from, 39% said that that they would only wear fur that’s ethically sourced, 2% would wear fur if they didn’t feel so guilty, and 35% would never wear fur as it being against everything they believe in.
I understand why someone would; if they had the extra cash lying around, buy in to the ‘real’ experience. Fur has long been associated with the elite leisure class; it signifies wealth, impeccable taste, and social importance. The reassurance you get from knowing that the garment is real and not fake, is more satisfying than if others knew whether or not it was. Fur is a timeless piece, it’s luxurious, making you feel empowered, evidently showing that you have ‘it’.
However, the way fur is sourced is far from the luxurious designer stores that it ends up in. Fur farming is banned in the UK, and as a rule of thumb the English are uncomfortable about it. However the rest of the world takes a different stance as Europe and USA have major fur exporting markets whilst over half the worlds fur comes from China. In China foxes are skinned alive so the fur isn’t damaged, just for our personal gain. Some people take the view that there is a middle ground where animals can be killed humanely by trapping, although trapped fur only makes up 20% of the fur market and is open to anyone as young as 13 if they hold a licence, inevitably there will be good and bad practises. But as consumers, we cannot make informed decisions due to the industry not being transparent. Even if we wanted to trace where our fur comes from we wouldn’t be able to as the fur auction houses don’t rate fur on where it has come from but on the colour and quality. So your fur coat could be made from 40 different pelts from 40 different places, with the slaughtering practises varying massively. It’s unquestionable that the industry needs to be more regulated, and more emphasis needs to be placed on good welfare practise assurance.
Ethical practises within the fashion industry as a whole aren’t up to scratch and the fur industry is just the same, which may explain our relaxing views on fur, we are used to hearing about certain brands exploiting their workers, and we still go out on to the high street in our masses to bag the latest trends and bargains so why does our take the use of fur have to be so different, surely we are humanising the animals a little too much?
Fur is a controversial subject but isn’t that what’s so great and interesting about the fashion industry. It makes people question what is acceptable by pushing social boundaries and throwing society back in its face. For now, personally I wouldn’t buy a new real fur coat, and opt for the faux fur. But if a vintage fur coat past my way, well it would be hard to say no.