By Jenni Sellan

WE ARE GOING THERE – Asking potentially one of the most controversial and emotionally charged questions in fashion; Fur. Faux or Real?

Admittedly there is something a little intriguing about wearing fur, a certain Hollywood glamour with luxury appeal symbolising style and social status.

Immediately images of a glamorous 1970’s Jerry Hall are conjured up in my mind; A coveted life. Rock star on one arm and a luxurious mink stole draping over the other.

But it was the 1970’s and we were not enlightened back then to the shocking practices that hid behind the production of Fur that we know now. Forgiven? Or does it even require forgiveness?

Fast forward a few years to 1980 PETA was established.  Through their confronting campaigns, love them or loathe them, exposure of the treatment & suffering of animals shed a spotlight on industries including fashion in a way that could not be ignored.

The collective resulting decision to ban the use of fur from a number of design houses including Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood & Giorgio Armani was monumental in the lead to challenge the fashion industry to move beyond the use of real fur through innovation and new technology; a stance firmly taken from prominent designer and animal activist, Stella McCartney who has never used anything other synthetic leather and faux fur in her designs.

(Case in Point, more recently, in November 2016, Kym Ellery announced that fur would no longer feature in future designs and coinciding with her announcement, all fur from Ellery’s e-store was removed).

But not all luxury brands hold the same position; Prada, Michael Kors and Fendi continue to feature real fur in their collections with Karl Lagerfeld admittedly turning a blind eye to it’s practices as he would “rather not know”, citing his problem with ‘fur’ is that as long a people eat meat and wear leather, he doesn’t understand the message”. Is this a fair point? It certainly crossed my mind.

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And even if we conclude that advocates of the use of fur sit amongst a minority, the question remains as a hot topic in fashion and there is obviously not only a demand in the market for it, but swaying opinions about it’s importance.  What is it about our obsession with fur that has some of us like Karl, turning a blind eye to the sometimes-horrifying truth for the sake of ‘looking good’ and what is the true cost of our fashionable tendencies?

It has been said that Fashion is a way for us to communicate who we are through our choice of clothing. So what does our clothing say about us? Is my stance on fur directly related to my value system or is it as simple as not ever giving the decision to purchase any consideration other than my wardrobe? It’s in the same category as leather and even wool after all and most people I know have little issue wearing either. (Does Karl have a point?)

IS the question of faux or real simply a catalyst to the much broader question around the degree to which the fashion industry should take responsibility for its impact both socially and environmentally?

Some food for thought….

– In May 2013, more than 1000 factory workers were killed when Rana Plaza garment factory, Dhaka Bangladesh, collapsed around them due to building neglect. (Neglect due, according to leading authorities, to driving down costs to satisfy profit margins of global retail brands) All for the sake, some might say of a $10 pair of jeans…

– 97% of all garments sold in the USA are made in developing countries where workers are paid as little as $10USD per month.

– Coveting an Hermes bag? Alligators and crocodiles have been found to sometimes survive the process of having their vertebrae dislocated so their skin can be used for watch bands and the must have IT Bags of the season. (Source PETA)

– Love an angora sweater? In 2014, PETA conducted an undercover investigation revealing that the Angora rabbits were tied down and the fur ripped from their skin. (more than 70 companies banned it’s sale as a result including Calvin Klein, H&M, and Tommy Hilfiger).

So is it wrong to purchase fur in 2017? The answer to this question might not be as simple as we once thought. Fashion is a multi billion dollar industry, and there is no questioning that social and environmental impacts are a part of the equation, however as consumers it is easy to get caught up in the fun, glamour and celebrity of fashion and perhaps unintentionally turn a blind eye to the aspects that might confront us.

Maybe once in a while it doesn’t hurt to consider the impact of our purchasing habits, outside of ourselves, or is ignorance bliss?

Fur. Real or Faux?  It’s up to you.