Have you heard? Last October, Gucci committed to going 100% fur-free in 2018. According to the company, Gucci will no longer produce garments containing mink, coyote, raccoon dog, fox, or any other animal bred or caught for their fur. Any fur-bearing pieces that remain from previous seasons will be sold at a charity auction (as of this writing, Gucci’s still appears to be selling fur items online). This is huge news, considering Gucci’s renown and international following, and serves as a clear signal that the fashion world is moving towards more humane textiles and away from cruel production methods. “With the help of HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) and LAV (an Italian animal rights organization), Gucci is excited to take this next step and hopes it will help inspire innovation and raise awareness, changing the luxury fashion industry for the better,” said Marco Bizzarri, the label’s president and CEO.
If you’re new to the fur controversy, here’s a bit of a primer. The fur industry, which spans from China to Denmark, is notoriously cruel. It starts with how animals are sourced: minks, foxes, chinchillas, and raccoon dogs are commonly raised in captivity and housed in small, dirty cages for their entire lives. Other animals, such as bobcats, beavers, and seals, are trapped from the wild. Once captured, animals are killed in egregious ways, from electrocution to poisoning. In countries such as China, where welfare regulations are lax and seldom enforced, even cats and dogs may be killed for their fur.
This is why companies Gucci have so much impact: the decision to cut out fur garments demonstrates a seismic shift in the way people and businesses think about their products. Sure, there’s still a financial bottom line, but there is also an ever-increasing consideration of social impact. We’ve already seen other designers jump on the bandwagon. For instance, designer Stella McCartney’s line has been fur-free for years (it does, however, still contain animal fibers like cashmere and alpaca). In 2016, Giorgio Armani announced that his brands would also go fur-free, and Vivienne Westwood, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren have also stopped manufacturing products containing fur.
If fur is becoming a thing of the past, then what will replace it? One possible answer is faux fur; usually constructed out of synthetic fibers, this “fur” often looks and feels like the real thing. Faux fur has actually been around for quite some time, probably as a cheaper alternative to brands selling the real thing. I’ve seen synthetic fur sold at H&M, Free People, and other “fast fashion” brands that don’t exactly practice the type of transparency that we want as consumers. (In a few cases, brands have even erroneously labeled real fur as faux fur.) Some faux fur opponents point to the fact that synthetics have a negative environmental impact; so while a polyester-based coat is definitely cruelty-free, it is not necessarily sustainable or friendly to Mother Earth. Indeed, unlike fur garments, fake fur isn’t biodegradable and will likely end up in a landfill.
Another alternative is buying second hand. You’d be surprised what you can find walking the aisles of Goodwill or Buffalo Exchange! Some people are opposed to buying real fur altogether, while others are open to buying vintages pieces (the rationale is that the animal has already been killed, so buying a used piece doesn’t contribute to any additional suffering), and you’ll likely find both options at your local second-hand shop.
This is just the beginning. With such high profile brands choosing innovation over affordability and ease, fur (and hopefully leather and wool and silk) will truly become obsolete, and that cruelty-free and sustainable alternatives take their place. As consumers, we have the power to make it so. That’s something to celebrate.
What are your thoughts on the trajectory of high fashion?
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