The popular designer brand, Gucci, has decided to stop using fur. The ban is not immediate and will come into action for their Spring/Summer 2018 collection. Gucci have also joined the Fur Free Alliance. It was announced by CEO Marco Bizzarri earlier this month who stated;
“Being socially responsible is one of Gucci’s core values, and we will continue to strive to do better for the environment and animals. With the help of HSUS [the Humane Society of the U.S.] and LAV [Lega Anti Vivisezione, an italian animal rights group], 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”.
The fashion world is currently heralding the move and arguing it will start a fur-free movement, despite the fact that many luxury brands already have already refused to use fur in their collections. A brand that had taken a similar stance to Gucci is Stella McCartney, who does not use leather or fur in their clothing; McCartney, a lifelong vegetarian, has never used either since her brand’s inception. Other brands that are fur-free include: Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Vivienne Westwood and Armani. Calvin Klein were one of the first to refuse to use fur, vowing just that back in 1994. Armani have only recently made the move to go fur-free, while Giorgio Armani stated that he would stop using fur beginning with the Autumn/Winter 2016 collection. The argument designer Armani made was that;
‘Technological progress made over the years allows us to have valid alternatives at our disposition that render the use of cruel practices unnecessary as regards animals’.
Retailer Net-A-Porter, a site that sells luxury brands from one online store, does not sell any item that contains fur. Although it does not exclude brands who create items with fur from selling their clothing there, just the items themselves. Brands like Fendi and Marni continue to sell through Net-A-Porter but cannot provide items that contain fur.
Gucci is a part of Kering, a Paris-based and global luxury group. The group also includes some fur-free designers already. Kering have published a new strategy of sustainability for 2025, in which they want to source raw materials and support supplier sustainability, integrate sustainability into design and reduce environmental impact of their business. Saying this, the Kering group do not mention any goal of going fur-free in their plan.
‘Kering cares about its impact on the planet and on people, and sees the responsibility and the opportunity to reinvent its business and luxury as a whole’.
Gucci faced extreme backlash with the release of their fur-lined loafers in Autumn 2015. Despite this, the loafers were still extremely popular, with high street shops creating similar styles (with faux fur, of course). In 2017, Gucci decided to stop using kangaroo fur in its Princetown loafers and opted to use lambs wool instead. It is also a surprising move for the brand, as in the past fur has featured heavily in Gucci’s collections, with many extravagant fur coats featuring throughout the years.
In the past, having a coat made from fur used to carry status, an overt display of wealth, but in the 20th century fashion houses and brands began using fur more and more. In recent years clothing made out of fur has been subject to a great deal of controversy, yet leather has not really faced the same stigma. Leather jackets and shoes are still acceptable, and often coveted, despite the harm to animals. The same can be said for the use of shearling wool. Arguments are made for the production of leather, in that, the animal is being killed for meat and not solely for their leather – waste not, want not. Leather products are widely available in high street and luxury stores with very little opposition, even though the softest leather tends to come from calves, especially newborn calves, but also some are cut prematurely from the mother’s womb.
What is the alternative to leather? Vegan leather has been created and often it is difficult to tell the difference, visually. Yet, when it comes to the smell, vegan leather smells of petroleum. Some rare vegan leathers are made from cotton or cork. Other alternatives include barkcloth (derived from the bark of trees) and paper. Designers like Valentino, who claim to be eco-friendly, still use leather in their products.
One brand that does not seem to be going fur-free anytime soon is Fendi. Since 1926 Fendi has been almost synonymous with fur. Karl Lagerfeld, designer to both Fendi and Chanel, and Silvia Venturini Fendi created Fendi’s first ever couture collection, presented in Paris in 2015. The brand had previously only released Ready-To-Wear pieces. The collection consisted predominantly of fur, and has been called, ‘haute fourrure’. Fendi’s double F logo even stands for “fun fur.” Protesters attended the show in horror at a collection focused so intently on the use of fur as its primary material. When speaking about the collection Silvia Venturini Fendi commented:
‘Perhaps one day the entire world will become vegan, and we won’t do fur anymore. Maybe one day we will change our habits. Why not? But when people still eat meat and wear leather…’
Anti-fur protests have become commonplace at luxury fashion shows. At London Fashion Week in September of this year, protesters stayed for three days despite designers insisting no fur was being shown on the catwalk – remember that this was a Spring/Summer showcase, and those collections do not tend to feature fur. Burberry’s Spring/Summer 2017 Showcase was delayed due to protests, and could have possibly not taken place as celebrities were unable to enter the building.
In fur farms, animals are bred solely for the use of their coats. Fur is then categorised into farmed fur and wild fur. Most fur sold globally comes from mink, foxes, raccoon dogs, rabbits and chinchillas. According to PETA, 85% of fur comes from farms. Further horror stories have emerged, where animals are overfed as to increase the amount of fur they can harvest, particularly in foxes. Yet, Ireland is not exempt from fur farming: mink is raised, killed and sold to the international market from Ireland. The type of mink farmed here in Ireland is the American mink. It is estimated that there are three of these farms in Ireland. Fur farms have already been banned in the UK since 2003. At present in Ireland, we do not have a ban on the farming of animals for fur. The main consideration regarding the ban being a loss of jobs. In 2012, then-Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney said
‘I have given careful consideration to the series of recommendations contained in the report and I accept the recommendation not to ban fur farming’.
With technological advances, faux fur can be as nice, if not nicer, than its harmful alternative. It is also often less expensive. Yet, an argument can be made that faux fur, since it is derived from plastic products, can be damaging to the earth. Although that may just lead to an unending ethical fashion debate, wherein we find that most clothing can harm the environment.
The use of fur seems to be more historically & socially acceptable within the luxury fashion world, compared to the high street, mainly due to the fact that fur was an expensive commodity in the past, but this has changed; perhaps due to strict bans on fur farms leading to farmers selling their products for cheaper? In April of this year an investigation into faux-fur on the high street found real fur was being used. The fur found in various items included cats, raccoon dogs and rabbits. One of the retailers found to have fur in their products was popular online store Missguided. Missguided previously claimed to have a no fur policy and in response to the allegations said;
’Missguided does not condone the use of fur in any of its products therefore we take the allegations very seriously’.
In 2004 Zara had to remove multiple items of clothing from their stores across Europe, the items including rabbit-fur wraps and fur-trimmed jackets. The brand then pledged to remove fur from all the products going forward. The Inditex Group, which Zara is a part of, claimed that;
‘As from 1 January 2005 the Inditex Group will not use any fur in its clothes or any other products. This policy will cover all Inditex stores throughout the world. This measure is one step further in our commitment to respect the animals and environment surrounding us’.
But Zara faced further controversy in 2013 after they failed to stop selling clothing with angora wool. Angora wool is ‘taken’ from live rabbits every three months. While the rabbits survive this process, it is obviously not a pleasant experience. Most angora used in the production of clothing comes from China, where they do not have many animal welfare laws. On the high street, M&S has banned angora, and many other high street shops claim to be cruelty-free yet continue to use leather.
How can you tell if it is faux or real fur? You can check if the “fur” is attached to a piece of fabric or skin/pelt. Another sign is if the fur tapers into a point, if it does the fur is real. You can also take a lighter to to a few strands of the “fur”, if it smells similar to burnt hair it is real fur. A smell of plastic or paper would mean it is faux-fur. These ways of telling are not necessarily conclusive, and may not always be proper proof.
One would think that because an item is cheap they cannot afford to use real fur. The director of the Humane Society International, Claire Bass argues;
‘We have been finding an increasing amount of fur either mislabelled or not labelled at all…The key thing is that cheap price is absolutely not an indicator that something is going to be fake fur’.
Is going fur-free just another fashion trend? In the 90’s, models like Naomi Campbell starred in the PETA (the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) campaign, ‘I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur’. Yet, years later Campbell was seen wearing fur. Harvey Nichols decided to go fur-free in 2004, but later revoked that action and fur was back on the shelves. Gucci’s Bizzarri, when asked whether he thought the use of fur was modern, argued that its ‘a little bit out-dated’. If fur was to ever come back into fashion, although it does seem highly unlikely, will brands just follow the trend? He also added that moving into the fur-free world was a strategic business move;
‘I need to do it because the best talent will not come to work for Gucci’.