FUR. FASHIONABLE?

The fashion industry is rarely averse to prompting controversy. From the ultra skinny to adolescent and transgender models, there is always an ethical debate to engage in. It became apparent back in February, however, that this season’s offerings would reignite the fued for fur. On the A/W14 catwalks of every major design house – from Dolce & Gabbana to Tom Ford, Mcqueen and Prada (naming just a few) – there was a vast array of real animal skins on show and with the industry’s estimated worth to have surpassed £9 billion, is this fluffy resurgence making fur in fashion more acceptable?

There is certainly some evidence to suggest so. March of this year saw the largest auction of furs ever seen in the industry, with dealers and designers swarming Helsinki to vie for their share of 14 million assorted wild animal furs. Mark Oaten, chief executive of the International Fur Trade Federation (FTF), has attributed this rise in demand to younger generations discovering pelts. Indeed in 2008, the British Fur Trade Association (BFTA) launched a web-based educational initiative for 12 – 14 years olds, named ‘Fur Trails’, intending to promote fur as a ‘light and playful’ fashion statement. Then in 2013, it was this same generation targeted in a poll by YouGov regarding the use of fur in fashion. 58 % of 18 to 24-year-olds believed it wrong to use fur compared to 77 % of over-55s – figures that would suggest the fur trade is targeting the younger market.

Technological advances must also be acknowledged as a contributing factor to the increased use of fur this season. Developments in manufacture mean fur can be mixed with other fabrics, dyed and even thinned to be made more suitable for warmer, richer countries like Dubai and China. Such techniques readily expand the reach and popularity the market has over consumers, whilst the modern practise of celebrity gifting enhances the desire for any products seen in the media.

Despite some pro-fur affirmations, opposition from animal welfare groups and ethical organisations continue to fight their cause tirelessly. Burberry’s A/W14 London fashion show saw protest from members of the Four Paws organisation, calling for the luxury British label to end its use of fur. The organisation claims that it has had support from 23,500 people on their website, all backing expert Thomas Pietsch’s testimony, that “Fur produced in accordance with animal welfare does simply not exist.”

It’s not just renowned organisations that are making a stand. With the backing of Noel Gallagher’s ex-wife and campaigner, Meg Matthews, London’s chic Mahiki nightclub announced earlier this year it would no longer admit anyone wearing fur. Many high-street shops in the UK have also banned skins, including H&M, Topshop, New Look, Selfridges and House of Fraser. Diesel, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Zara joined them this year, whilst Oslo Fashion Week continues to ban fur from its catwalks.

For now, the consensus remains divided on the use of fur in fashion. However, it seems that companies that are trying to promote the industry as ethical and economical are missing the vital point regarding immorality. Fur production is known for using cruel methods and although anti-fur campaigns in the 1990s achieved some success in demonstrating to the wider public the grisly, inhumane side of fur, unfortunately it seems without constant exposure to this level of imagery, the force needed to change majority opinion is lost.

The poignant question to ask is; with technology advancing so rapidily and with such quality faux fur alternatives being produced, is the real thing even required in today’s industry?

Written by Hannah Culley.