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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Dissertation

"Will the use of synthetic fur-ever compensate the damage caused by using real fur"

Tamara Hena Patel

De Montfort University

Fashion Design (BA)

Critical and Contextual Studies

FSHN3206

Major Project 2018-2019

Introduction

Within the world of fashion, there is an ever-looming question of whether it is morally right to use animals and there hides to construct fashion accessories and garments. Animal rights is always a high discussion point within the world of fashion and as a key contributor to a barbaric trade, the fashion industry over the years have had to combat the stresses of ever-growing voices of morality, scandals, and legal legislation when in reference to the fur and leather trade.

Within this essay, I intend to evaluate the key discussion points on the use of fur in fashion and justify if its validity is shared within its key figures and if the continuation of fur will degrade and discourage the use in the future.

Fur within fashion is deemed a controversial topic as animals are specifically bred for their hides and are not given the baser rights of healthy living environments and sanitation.

The first section of this essay I will examine the campaigns put in place to prevent and combat the issues facing animal rights within the last 3 decades.

I intend to take an in-depth look into PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to evaluate how its campaigns and endorsement of animal rights have brought about a massive change in social perspective on fur and the monitorisation of what seems to be a growing industry.

This will be followed by the medias perception of Fur, here I intend to discuss a various range of cases that have brought controversial opinion and vocalized the anti-fur movement that has shaped the industry.

The remaining part of this essay will investigate the solutions being imposed to met social conformity and what is being implemented in the industry to bring about change on fur use and if it will ever compensate the damages caused by the fur trade.

The fur industry is one of the oldest trades to still be in effect to cloth and furnish the modern age, a trade that has grown from its initial use of a warmth providing pieces to an item that signifies a luxury higher Arche.

As fur grew through the centuries noble dignitaries used it as a means of status and wealth and in some ways despite its barbaric gains will still garner this status

With one of the most lucrative sectors within the fashion industry and garnering over $40 billion annually it stems to see why the trade is still in use.

Throughout the ages, fur was considered a valuable commodity that in some cases had greater value than that of gold and silver

In today's modern marketing place fur will only be found in designer boutiques and used by luxurious fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Valentino. When it can be debated that the pursuit of fashion creativity is not to restrict its use, it is a common opinion ‘should animal rights be sacrificed in the pursuit of fashion guise'.

(1)"Yes, more designers are currently working with fur than ever. In the autumn wear collections for 2017 in New York, London, Milan, and Paris the international fur federation reported that out of 354 designers featured, 190 used fur".

History of Fur

Trading routes that were established between Europe and the Orient led to the Northern American fur trade route to establish as early as the 1500s and allow open marketing for valuable goods and increase the demand of hides and pelts.  As a vital figure for the New world of furnishing and clothing, the northern American trade route routinely supplied an ever-growing demand of a golden age of fur.

An example of the different varieties of furs in demand can be seen in the graph (1.1)

This time period of fur fashion consisted of fur that was extremely varied, and popularity sought to the brutal harvest of animal pelts and unmonitored actions that saw various species decline in number and to the brink of extinction.

Within the modern era the harvest of fur has been pushed underground and shunned for its barbaric means of trade, however, this hasn't hindered nor lost any of its potent savageries.

Today's modern fur trade is divided into the following sectors: -

Trappers

The catching of the animals, this is commonly seen in wild fur farming – wild species and their furs are usually taken as part of wildlife centers and management to support a healthy ecosystem, conserve the population of the animal in question and even enhance disease control

Farmers

Fur farmers routinely practice controlled breeding or raising of certain types of animals for their fur. This shouldn't be confused with wild fur farming which is the capture of animals within the wild, but Fur farming generally sees animals caged and breed for a direct purpose of their fur.

Most of the world's farmed fur is monitored via governmental imposed laws and the international standards Organisations however activists such as PETA, WARN and SAFE are acting against those that don't follow regulative standards of fur farming and humane trapping standards.

Ranchers

Ranchers are the final processors of the fur trade who auction the pelts to various agents and brokers who adopt the fur for retail use and global distribution.

Fur and its relevancy to animals' rights are seen by the conditions in which animals are subjected to for fur harvesting. Due to increasing demand and lack of monitorisation, fur is being collected via illegal battery farming which sees animals caged and killed inhumanely. Animal rights activists argue that despite their animalistic nature, animals have the same rights to healthy living conditions and means to be treated humanely and not merely breed for a specific purpose.

With animal rights being a defining theme to this essay I intend to see how certain topical subjects have influenced and developed the trade.

Animal Rights Campaigning

In light of the modern fur farming era, there have been many animal activist groups set up to voice the common thread of the people's opinion and try to invoke further monitorisation.

PETA – (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is widely recognized around the globe as the leading group for animal rights. Founded in the U.K and solely dedicated to the protection of all animals that are subjugated to animal cruelty PETA have certainly manipulated the way fur is being produced and used.

(2)"I'd rather go naked than wear fur. This iconic campaign will live on forever, and because of its success, most people are now well-educated about the cruelty of the fur industry".

One of PETA's most notorious campaigns was the "I'd rather go naked than wear …." This campaign was not only directed towards the fur trade but radicalized a movement to discourage and educated wears of the process in which fur and leather and various other animal originated products came from.

Set up in the early 1990's (originating from a Florida activist Holly Jensen who had used similar tactics earlier than PETA's adaptation of the campaign),  this campaign has continued to generate a means of discouragement for animal use in fashion and has garnered advocates such as Eva Mendes, Pink, and Penelope Cruz to encourage and educate consumers the darker side of fur farming.

See example (2.1)

Its campaign sought to a decrease in market consumption of real fur with most minor garment makers and boutiques going out of business and fur trading was left to corporate fashion houses.

(3)"Fur industry magazine the trapper in predator collar September 2001 - fur industry directories revealed that in 1972 there were 779 established fur garment makers in the United States however 20 years later in 1992 this number had decreased to only 211"

Within a short span of this campaign, it saw to the biggest decrease in fur garment making.

Its social implication saw that people were willing to adapt and change the way we saw fur and the treatment of animals over a broad spectrum of medical and fashion use.

Using influential figures PETA has been able to market their slogan globally and stagnate the production of fur. They have been able to solidify an image in the media that hadn't been done before by similar activist groups.

PETA within the last 2 decades have worked alongside groups such as Save animals from exploitation (SAFE), Justice Department (animal rights), and World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to encourage the modern age with its defining Groups message that "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment, on or use for entertainment."

Despite their consistent campaigning recent studies carried out by Fur Commission USA indicate the fur market is increasing its demand on a yearly basis, this is down to a various factor that I shall now discuss.

Synthetics and the development of the fur trade

Within Fashion the fur trade seems to be growing exponentially over the last decade, where we can see that there is a negative stigma around using fur, fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton and Valentino are amongst many that are increasing its fur distribution.

On the other side of the "is it right to use fur" movement we can clearly see what the fashion industry is using to combat and improve its social outlook and in order to continue using fur without any negative implication.

The fur industry retains and expands its market by adapting its products to fashions ever-changing requirements a key example of this is the use of

Faux Fur

With legal legislation enforcing the ban of using endangered species fur and negative media attention in forced by PETA, the industries real fur trade was branded inhumane and lacking true beauty, with this issue looming the industry gave way to an alternative that demonstrated all the key aspects and luxury that real fur had without any of the drawbacks. Synthetic fur or faux fur is completely fake in every way that requires no animal farming.

Naturally, this garnered a delightful alternative that enhanced the image of using fur within the fashion industry.

Societal demand

Another factor that has seen the rise of animal fur in fashion is the demand for designer clothing. As Fur has become a branding trademark for luxury apparel within today's society, designers are now seeking to incorporate more fur's whether it being real or faux to give their collections a means of ‘class'. Brands such as Canada Goose and Louis Vuitton continues it's working to use animals within its clothing range however with many of the fashion house's choosing to oppose the fur trade and go fur-free. The movement itself has gained tremendous momentum in its recent years with big fashion houses such as Gucci promising to use fewer real furs in its garments.

(4) - "According to the Fur Information Council of America (FICA), data showed that 55% of fur buyers are under the age of 44"

With younger demographic fashion houses are now implementing a developmental mentality to ensure that fur will not disrupt the discourse of creative fashion but apply the common thread of opinions to ensure that social perception doesn't decline the market.

Scandals within the fur trade of fashion

Over the last decade, the fur movement has gained positive momentum. With an industry combating the negative drawbacks of inflicting animal cruelty the fashion community has had to invent and reimagine the way fur is used.

Despite the positive development of faux fur and the increased monitorisation from the fur commission, there have been many scandals that have thrown an already fragile image into a downward spirally of further negativity.

A key example of this is the faux fur scandal in 2015 discovered by the HSI (Humane Society international) community.

This controversial scandal took place within Highstreet retailers such as Misguided who had been mislabelling there garments and accessories as faux fur however when the  HSI conducted forensic examination of said items to find there were traces of real animal fur, within this particular example the faux fur shoes had traces of dog and cat hair despite cat and dog fur being banned for use in clothing across the EU since 2009.

(5) "We have been finding an increasing amount of fur either mislabelled or not labeled at all. This is misleading ethical consumers, who assume it is fake because it's cheap. Consumers don't know what they are buying"  

See example 5.1

This demonstrates that the international trading association despite its vigorous checks are able to miss certain ethics of the fur trading standards that poses an even deeper question ‘what else are they not monitoring properly?

With negative setbacks such as this the social outlooks have shown people are willing to try faux fur as an alternative to real fur, however, are not trusting that the product they are given is in fact labeled correctly nor is a synthetic by-product.

With situations such as this being conducted under a pressured environment, there are calls from political parties to act and create further legislation to prevent incidents such as this from reoccurring, in addition, these propositions are being backed by animal welfare campaigners such as PETA of which are dedicated to ensuring animal welfare is maintained.

"Despite the UK banning fur farms in 2000 and the EU also outlawing the sale of dog and cat skins, an estimated £75 million of fox, rabbit, mink, coyote, chinchilla and raccoon dog fur is imported into the country annually".

Solutions being imposed

With new technological advancements, the future of fashion looks to be fur-free. Within this year's London fashion week, we have been able to witness activist groups such as PETA meet with the most notarised fashion brands to both encourage and convert its future collections to implement a no fur clause. With a consideration of sustainable fashion, we have seen major houses such as Gucci and Maison Margiela secure the future of fashion and to be developed without the sacrifice of animal rights.

(6)"In recent months, a growing number luxury fashion houses like Gucci and Michael Kors have announced a commitment to more ethical fashion practices. On Friday, Maison Margiela shared that after designer John Galliano's meeting with PETA, the brand would go fur-free, joining the ranks of brands like Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Tommy Hilfiger and more who have long eliminated fur from their collections".

Faux Fur

With a synthetic alternative Faux fur is now being used to quench the need and allure that was originally brought by using real fur. Despite faux fur incurring stiffer environmental concerns such as it not being as biodegradable as real fur and its synthetic composition being toxic to the environment it has certainly declined the barbaric fur farming trade.

We can certainly assume that a difference is being made for using real fur in the industry and we can see the continuous campaigning making a big difference also with new legislation being implemented to ban fur being imported and, in some cases, will eventually ban the trade altogether the non fur movement is nearing its goal.

Conclusion

Whether or not fur is acceptable within today's industry is totally dependent upon one's perspective. I have concluded that within my own opinion the future of fashion shouldn't be at the mercy of defenseless animal and this opinion is certainly shared with key figures within the industry such as Gucci, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger, all of which have chosen to go fur-free.  There's no question that fur is a major and controversial issue and despite the efforts set in place to prevent the exploitation of animal rights, there are endless scandals that will deter users from using fur as a general.

On the other end of the spectrum, I totally agree that nothing should stump the creative guise of fashion and fur has been a major figure within that since the beginning, however, such things as sustainable use, wild farming and moderation will allow the trade to flourish and not overdevelop into an over demanding market.

 Within this essay we have been able to see that in the forefront of fashion discourse animal-rights campaigners have gained the most support in terms of public relations and with the collective input of these groups such as the input done throughout the 2018 London fashion week in which notarised groups liaised with brands to ensure that the relevant measures are being considered.

I believe I have answered, "if the continuation of fur will degrade and discourage the use in the future." With the current state of affairs, the market is increasing substantially and despite efforts to stunt this with shame campaigning it is unlikely to slow down and therefore with this in mind it seems that in order to proceed and create a more sustainable industry that caters both sides of the argument it should be considered that both parties should collectively work on development of faux fur and encourage brands to increase its monitorisation of fur within its own sector, despite this I hope to see fur being used as a way to disbanding  myths and encourage wears to know where their garments are coming from and provide understanding in a rather uneducated market.

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