Faux fur: fad or future?

Vanda Absolonova

By Vanda Absolonova12 mai 2021

Fashion has its controversies, and animal fur still tops the list. The development of new synthetic fibres and more innovative production methods offers alternatives that can put a lasting end to the issue.

Prada autumn-winter 2021-2022 collection designed by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons (Prada)

I asked many people around me whether they thought that fur is an inappropriate material to use in luxury fashion. The usual reply was, “Yes, of course!” My follow-up question was to ask if they therefore avoided purchasing any natural fur? Their responses were not as unanimous.

On average, 37% of Europeans think that natural fur is an inappropriate material to use for fashion items. In North America, it's about 23% of the population. Yet major luxury brands such as Saint Laurent, Fendi and Roberto Cavalli continue to use and sell it in their collections.

Illustration Domenica Lucia (on behance)

One natural fur coat takes about 150-300 chinchillas, 200-250 squirrels, 50-60 minks, or 15-40 foxes to make. Depending on the animals' subspecies, it can last about 30 years. Although many designers claim that real fur is responsibly and sustainably produced and is a renewable natural resource, there is a well-known alternative: fake fur.

Prada autumn-winter 2021-2022 collection. Faux fur is now a classic for the Italian fashion house (Prada)

However, one fake fur coat takes more than one litre of petroleum to be produced. A person might wear it for about three to five seasons, and that coat would take approximately 1000 years to decompose. Karl Lagerfeld famously declared: "Fake fur pollutes the world”. A statement that also creates an unfortunate association with the polluting fast fashion industry.

Anti-fur activists claim that wearing natural fur is cruel to animals, while the pro-fur lobby point out that real fur is more sustainable because it lasts longer and is entirely biodegradable.

As a result, fur remains one of the most divisive topics in the fashion world.

Killing animals or killing the environment – is it that simple?

As a fan of soft materials, sustainability and progress, I decided to dig deeper into this topic. Before I wrote this article, I didn't have a positive opinion about faux fur. I mainly associated it with big fast fashion brands, which are widely known for polluting the planet and acting unethically. I also wasn't sure of its positioning as a luxury material. So, what is luxury faux fur?

Stella McCartney, a famous pioneer in sustainable fashion, has proven that faux fur can work within the luxury field for many years. Her products are made of cruelty-free materials, and she is committed to reducing environmental waste.

But it's not only Stella who is pointing the way forward. Many of the big luxury fashion houses are changing their strategy and abandoning natural fur, including Gucci, Prada group, and Burberry.

In fact, the development of new materials, as well as the advances in product innovation, indicate the possibility to create unique, luxurious and ethical alternatives to real fur.

Stella McCartney has been a pioneer in featuring faux fur in her collections. Stella McCartney Autumn-Winter 2021 Collection (Stella McCartney)

Supported by new techniques, there are already several standards being followed while purchasing ethical faux fur. For example, Global Recycled Standard (GRS) ensures the recycled origin of the fibers, real-fur touch and appearance. Then there are several non-profit organizations, such as Textile Exchange, which have a mission to promote sustainable methods in the entire textile value chain. They are part of a growing trend of combining expertise with ethics, and the tools for further ecological development.

This is clearly not faux fur with a fake ethical tag. Instead, luxury faux fur is a material sustainably produced and verified, and a material developed with the newest technology that ensures it is more environmentally friendly – not to mention cruelty-free. Luxury, in other words, is not fast; luxury is considerate development.

If so, being considerate to animals and the environment whilst enjoying fur comes with a bigger price tag.

As Marco Gobbetti, Burberry's CEO, once stated: "Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible."


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    Vanda Absolonova is currently following her international MBA program at IESEG School of Management in Paris. She is one of our two winners of the Luxury Tribune and IESEG School of Management writing contest.

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