Faux fur: A fashion faux-pas?

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By Billy Stockwell, First year, Zoology

Billy Stockwell discusses whether faux fur can truly be called the ethical alternative to real fur

For so long fur epitomised the glamour and prestige of high fashion, championed by the fur-loving, world-class sybarites designing luxe collections for big brands. But as with anything, and especially with consumer-driven markets, fashion follows the people.

Anti-fur activism is now as chic as the classic red lip à la Marilyn Monroe. In the past year alone, Versace, Gucci, Michael Kore and Jimmy Choo have added their names to an enormous list of fur free brands, and thanks to the efforts of the grassroots animal rights organisation Surge, fur is now banned from the catwalks of London Fashion Week. Many will rejoice, some will dwell in the nostalgia of the old days of glamour, but everyone must accept that change has come.

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(Image: Julian Howard / Unsplash)

Sometimes our craving for change can unearth new and complex obstacles; the anti-politics of Brexit, and the avocado debate thrown at every newly-fledged vegan are fine examples of this need for change, blind to the consequences. The ‘Blue Planet Legacy’ proved that people have concern for the future of our planet, but is it possible to be environmentally conscious and ethical?

The petroleum-based synthetic fibres that dominate the faux fur scene ultimately end up outliving their owners, and according to the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF) use three times as much non-renewable energy as the production of the real deal. With fast fashion plaguing Western desires, our dependancy upon foreign oil is likely to increase, uprooting more and more conflicts of interest for the “ultra woke” do-gooders of our generation.

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Of course, faux fur is a much better alternative as far as animal welfare is concerned, but too often we fail to recognise our place on the global stage, and how we influence trends worldwide. The desire to replicate Western fashion capital in the Asian market is strong, and brands like Burberry are adored due to their British associations, despite the fact that most of it won’t even be made in Britain. Therefore, regardless of our well-placed intentions to elevate faux, countries which admire the Western fashion world, but don’t have the same attitudes towards ethics and animal welfare, may just end up buying the real thing. And this shows in the figures: the fur industry is still valued at $40 billion globally, far greater than its fake counterpart, as stated by the IFTF.

I think faux fur somewhat embodies a much wider message; simply changing lanes doesn’t offer a quick fix. Ever since Naomi Campbell stripped off in that infamous PETA campaign back in 1994, sporting the slogan ‘We’d rather go naked than wear fur”, the anti-fur agenda has been growing. But to what avail? We seem to be living in an era where we’re constantly having to choose between ethics and the environment. Sometimes it’s hard to escape this ecological niche of destruction we humans have landed ourselves in. Good intention just doesn’t seem to be enough anymore, and we far too often find ourselves having to pick between the lesser of two evils.

Thankfully, a third lane is emerging. Hyper-conscious customers can now flaunt their purchases guilt-free, with more and more brands releasing faux fur coats made from recycled plastics, and proving Stella McCartney’s promise that ‘luxury does not mean landfill’. But this earth-friendly, fair trade silver bullet comes at a cost; a faux fox coat from House of Fluff will set you back a moderate $1,275. Even your pets can get in on the action, because let’s be honest, which self-respecting pup wouldn’t want a Yeti faux fur and French Terry jacket with snap closure and cotton jersey lining?

Is faux fur therefore just the Tesla of fashion, meant only for those privileged enough that they can afford to care? It seems so to me. But one thing’s for sure, the decision of whether to buy faux or real (if any) this winter, may leave you in a cold sweat.

Featured Image: Guillame Bolduc / Unsplash


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