Fashion is beautiful. It is a form of art. But do beauty and art have to come at the price of the poaching and hunting of thousands of animals? The simple answer is no. Yet the furs of real animals, perhaps endangered animals, have consistently been worn by elites, celebrities and have featured on the catwalks of many designers in the industry.
Real fur clothing has and always will be one of the most controversial and shameful parts of the fashion industry.
Much like with many of the other problems of the fashion industry, it is a hushed topic among fashion designers, fashion editors and other key fashion figures, who consistently avoid confronting such a topic. But the cries of anger from animal rights activists cannot be silenced so easily. From back in 1996 when Anna Wintour, editor-of-chief of Vogue US, had a dead raccoon tossed into her lunch, to when Kim Kardashian, reality TV star notoriously ‘famous for being famous’, found herself being flour-bombed; animal rights activists are known for delivering the shock factor in their protests.
But despite their continuous efforts, the fashion industry has constantly turned their backs and shut their ears on these activists. One of the industry’s most influential designers, Karl Lagerfield, has voiced his strong belief for the use of real fur in fashion, especially for fashion design house Fiendi, where he is the creative designer. This is also evident in other huge designer houses like Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Tom Ford (The Guardian). Statistically, 73% of 436 fashion shows in 2015 in all the major cities of fashion week (New York, Milan, Paris, London) paraded real fur in their runways (Saga Furs). This illustrates just how much real fur is valued in high fashion.
Whilst the creativity and imagination that sparks from the vision of fashion designers is inspiring and exciting, there should be some limitations imposed due to the ethics surrounding hunting, fur farming and the protection of endangered animals. Admittedly, stricter laws have been enforced to limit illegal and unethical fur hunting and trading in the UK and the USA. In 2003 in the UK, fur farming was legally banned. Moreover, the signing of the Truth in Fur Labelling Act in 2010 by President Obama means that the origins of each fur piece must be declared. But, despite this, fur farming and hunting is still a huge problem. For example, China is the biggest country to account for the fur trade industry supplying around 80% according to Frank Zilberkweit (chairman of the Polar Group), alongside their poor rules and regulations. Reports on the conditions and treatment of these animals farmed for fur is, to put it bluntly, disgusting and inhumane.
However, despite the fur trade industry being worth around $40 billion and its strong presence in high fashion, the appeal of real fur clothing is seemingly declining. Once upon a time the streets of New York paraded fur clothing, but now the appearance of them ‘pops up more casually and sporadically’ (New York Times). Meanwhile, high street fashion is saying no to real fur. UK high-street brands and shops like H&M, Topshop, M&S, New Look, Selfridges, House of Fraser, Zara, plus other more high-end brands like Diesel, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren have all banned the sale of real fur. In fact, designers like Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood refuse to work with real fur and opt for synthetic fur instead. Although the word’s largest produce of factory farmed fur is sourced from the EU (European Union), regulations are enforced to ensure the protection of endangered animals and ethics. Along with the UK, Croatia and Austria have banned fur farming. The most significant organisation fighting against the unethical use of the hunted fur and skin of animals is, unsurprisingly, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). They point out that from both sides of the spectrum, young people are being targeted. Dan Mathews, senior vice president for media campaigns at PETA, called it ‘a tug of war’. The next generation are becoming increasingly liberal and more aware of animals rights, so for the average young person, ‘fur is about as desirable as acne’ (Dan Mathews, The New York Times).
While, regulations and laws are making fur trading more ethical, I believe real fur clothing should be banned altogether. We can just wear faux fur instead. For me, it is plain and simple: ‘stealing an animal’s skin for the sake of vanity is wrong’ (Meg Mathews, The Guardian).
Text by Akanshya Gurung, photo of fake fur by Kristiana Vasarina