Anti-fur advocates have come a long way since the days of slinging red paint on the fluffy-clad fashion elite. Instead, they now count some key luxury fashion players as their advocates. In just the past nine months, Gucci, Michael Kors, Versace, and the entire Yoox Net-A-Porter universe, not to mention InStyle editor-in-chief Laura Brown, have all committed to being fur-free, many of whom have expressed a deep interest and dedication to sustainability. But brands aren’t exactly eschewing fur as an aesthetic choice, as some animal rights advocates would hope. Instead, they’re switching to lavish faux fur options — cue up Burberry’s giant happy rainbow cape.
The pivot should come as no surprise: Faux fur has evolved from a once trashy, often cheap and itchy material to a luxe, highly affordable, and believable version of its real opulent self — one that’s so soft, glossy, and realistic that consumers and brands alike are finding themselves hard-pressed to tell the difference. Increase your margins, streamline your sourcing, and stem the hate mail in one swoop? What’s not to like?
So maybe designers aren’t declaring themselves fur-free for purely altruistic reasons. But if the outcome is the same, who’s really the wiser? Unfortunately, just because a piece of fashion is animal-free doesn’t mean it’s not hurting animals in more insidious ways.
If you believe that it’s morally wrong to kill or use animals for the benefit of human consumption, that’s a perfectly valid (and fiercely debated) personal moral opinion — but it’s not exactly measurable or even scientific. Sustainable fashion advocates have resisted incorporating animal welfare into their measures because there’s simply no way to quantify it. And what science-y information is out there is either put out by animal rights groups or the fur industry, neither of which can be trusted to be fully unbiased or to tell you the whole truth: One study, which was commissioned by a pair of animal rights organizations, says that a fur coat is worse for the environment; a competing study commissioned by the International Fur Trade Federation says a faux fur coat is worse.
So who’s right? Or more accurately, which choice of fur — or “fur” — hurts animals and the planet the most? Really, it depends on a host of factors, which we’ve broken out with some checks and balances below.
Is the fur from a carnivore or herbivore?
The pro-faux study showed that producing one kilogram of mink fur has a higher negative environmental impact than producing one kilogram of other textiles in 17 of the 18 environmental categories, including climate change, eutrophication, and toxic emissions. But as they point out in the study, most of those negative environmental effects are because of the enormous amount of meat-based feed minks require. (Yes, these seemingly adorable creatures are actually agile hunters.)
Let’s also consider how many of us are realistically thinking about buying a full mink anything? More likely we’re pondering a pom-pom …read more