For up-and-coming designers and namesake heritage labels, the choice to use natural fur is just that – a choice.
And it’s a choice among a full list in the creative process.
Consumer choice is key to the fashion design process. The fashion industry in all its glory is ruled by individualism, freedom of expression and above all – choice. From a designer’s initial sketch, countless decisions are made to bring garment, as well as accessories, into production for the final consumer.
Making selections on fabric, colorways and notions are carefully weighted against one’s personal values and taste. Predicting the trends of tomorrow, Worth Global Style Network (WGSN) fashion reports alone, with 250 global trend forecasters and data scientists, provide an overlook to what are defining trends for the fash- ion industry sometimes even five years ahead. Over 25 million searchable images exist for garnering design inspiration. And color swatches are not just limited to Pan- tone, but natural color system (NCS) and Archroma color libraries where over 4,300 cotton poplin swatches serve as piecemeal to imagine a new collection.
Reaching for wovens, knits or perhaps natural fibers indicating cotton, silk or wool and protein, each fabric indicates a different hand whereby luster and smoothness are supreme. Natural fibers aside, manufactured synthetics are another choice for designers. Artificial silk is regenerated as rayon, while lyocell mimics denim. The skilled designer can navigate them all, but the very skilled designer sticks to their specialty.
Except for Fur?
Outside of run-of-the-mill fabrics, natural fur serves as a long-standing pillar of luxury and appreciation of craft – and another fabrication of choice for designers. In 2017, fur retail sales worldwide were
$23.5 billion as reported by the Fur Information Council of America, indicating a strong consumer supported fur industry.
As with the goal of blogs such as Fur Insider, promoting “fashion focused and fur friendly” reading, real fur has long denoted luxury, sophistication and elegance. But with choice inundation and free expression comes great volatility and competing political agenda. The choice in fabrication doesn’t seem so easy. History Lesson on Fur Expression As recently as two years ago, matching the ascendance of the animal activists’ protest proclamations, the runway became a stage for greater defamation and the margin for free choice diminished. Although chosen when promoting a sustainable agenda and preference for longevity, the choice for designing with fur is not sanctioned as other fabrication choices.
Fur has long-been a fabrication of transformation in the minds of the designer and the consumer. Numerous namesake designers such as Zac Posen, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de laRenta, Karl Lagerfeld for Fendi, all elect a choice in using fur in their designs.
More designers, appearing in the fur salons of Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus back up the use of real fur, includ- ing Monique Lhuillier and Bibhu Moha- patra, who polished his skills at French furrier J.Mendel and Halston before launching his namesake label and creating custom couture evening gowns and furs for an international clientele.
As designers utilize fur in their innovative and creative designs, consumers delight in the myriad of fur fashion options available. The voice of a small but vocal contingent of naysayers attempt to remove the freedom of choice between real or faux.
At one point fur dictated a conservative edge, as it appeared in WWD in December 1930, “the choice of fur is conservative, but more freedom of expression occurs in the styling,” – yet still, the choice to design and wear fur is met with much animosity.
Two words: fur bikini, and Racquel Welch in 1966 “One Million Years B.C.” extended reign from primitive Queen of the Shell People to international sex symbol as Rocky-Loana. As reported in an interview with the actress in WWD in May 1967, “wearing cunning lava-lava made from oh-so caressable “mastodon” (the author’s figurative mention of a distant primitive relative of the elephant) fur”
– Welch makes fur lascivious and alluring. As choice exists as a matter of opinion, so does the impression of fur change in regards to its use. But final mood aside, certain elements remain fixed, such as sustainability and commitment to longevity.
Real Versus Fake
Fake fur and real fur is often depicted in jarring disunion, a chess game with tit for tat gains every time a fashion house makes animal activism or pro-fur claims. For designers, the choice to use natural fur is just that – a choice.
Often “fur-free” announcements by fashion brands wedge the divide further: with Michael Kors, Diane Von Furstenberg, Jean Paul Gaultier and more – joining the fur-free movement. The fur community doesn’t wish for a padded space in the fashion industry to exist with- out criticism. And it doesn’t chastise those using faux fur, but it does want to draw attention to the fact both shearling and leather are animal sourced too. But the fur community, reiterating a $40 billion valuation of the fur trade sector according to the FICA, does seek equal regard for natural fur as a choice in material.
Not to be confused with animal rights, wherein animals have a facsimile of rights independent of people, animal welfare is the “idea that animals should ideally be free from suffering and that the responsibility for this rests with human beings,” as it is defined by the International Fur Federation (IFF).
According to Mark Oaten, chief exec- utive officer of IFF, “Fur farming also has some of the most stringent controls for animal welfare found in any industry worldwide.” And it is a “responsible choice” when weighed for its sustainable properties. Fake fur is a synthetic, manufactured to mimic natural fur. But because it is plastic based, fake fur does not biodegrade.
As IFF indicates, real fur is eco-friendly and lasts for decades meaning wearability over a lifetime enables the passing down of fur coats and accessories. It’s a heritage item. And before that coat even gets to the end user, the fur farming process details a host of benefits such as the use of bio-ma- terial waste in feed and fur farm waste being turned into bio-fuels and fertilizers. “Many top designers continue to use the natural material, and the International Fur Federation (IFF) is working with the most respected fashion houses in the world to develop boundary-push- ing techniques to create haute couture and every day fashion,” stated Oaten on
WeAreFur.com last February.
Millennials and Gen Zers are increasingly compelled to seek out sustainable alternatives when buying their clothing, and designing with fur satiates an unfulfilled need. Looking at the inundation of choices for designers involved in garment creation, when it comes to fabrication, faux fur doesn’t mean “no” to real fur. But in an industry ruled by choice, the freedom to choose does warrant equal application.