Last year was a momentous one for designer labels vowing to go fur-free. Michael Kors, Gucci, Burberry and Versace are among the ones that did so. Whether the trend continues into 2019 is a matter up for debate — as is the entire “fur” or “no fur” issue.
Last month, Chanel joined the antifur brigade — although the brand’s use of fur has always been minimal — and also pledged to stop using exotic skins. Before its pre-fall Métiers d’Art show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chanel said it would “no longer use exotic skins in our future creations.”
The exotic skins in question include crocodile, lizard, snake and stingray. Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel fashion and president of Chanel SAS, said, “The future of high-end products will come from the know-how of what our atelier is able to do.”
Michael Kors Inc. — now called Capri Holdings — was one of the leading brands that agreed to go fur-free in 2017 along with Jimmy Choo, which Kors also owns. Kors had been targeted by animal rights activists over the years (most noticeably during a Q&A with the designer in June at the Metropolitan Museum). Versace, Burberry, Maison Margiela, Diane von Furstenberg and Jean Paul Gaultier are among the designer labels that were honored last month by PETA France for going fur-free at its PETA Vegan Fashion Prize awards. Gaultier has yet to officially confirm his position, while several other brands continue to use shearling even as they have dropped other fur.
After the Prada Group was targeted by animal protection activists in an international campaign in September, the company responded by highlighting its “gradual and concrete reduction” of fur products and played up its use of man-made fibers such as nylon. Prada executives had no further updates last week.
Fur advocates, however, remain committed to the sector. The fur trade is valued at $40 billion, with retail sales accounting for $35.8 million and farming comprising $7.8 billion, according to the Fur Information Council of America. Employment in the industry is more than 1 million people, according to FICA.
With many Millennials and Gen Zers favoring sustainable fashion, some might argue that vintage fur would qualify as such. Fur advocates, meanwhile, insist that natural fur is more sustainable whereas fake fur is not. The International Fur Federation’s chief executive officer Mark Oaten has stated that banning fur makes no sense in terms of sustainability. IFF claims that natural fur is sustainable at every stage of its production and will last for decades if professionally cared for, “unlike chemical-based fake fur that ends up in landfill sites often after a single season.”
How this will play out with less traditional, younger shoppers remains a question mark. Many do seem to be animal-friendly — with 57 million 18- to 39-year-old pet owners accounting for 41 percent of all adult pet owners, according to a Packaged Facts survey.
In September, Los Angeles became the largest city in the U.S. to be taking steps to ban the sale of fur, although a specific timetable has not yet been set. Last year, San Francisco also announced plans to ban the sale of fur, starting January 1. City officials in West Hollywood and Berkeley also voted to go fur-free.
Maison Atia’s Chloe Mendel, who cofounded her company with Gustave Maisonrouge, trained in the atelier of her furrier father Gilles and collaborated on his first couture collection. The Maison Atia cofounders plan to expand reusing all scraps to create small, fun items such as new scarves, bags and signature slap bracelets. Maisonrouge said, “Having more brands such as Chanel and Gucci going fur-free brings more attention to our unique approach of elevating faux fur material to a luxury status, by using techniques that our cofounder and artistic director Chloe Mendel learned in her family business.” As a sign of consumers’ interest in faux-fur options, Julie Gilhart moderated a “Fashion’s Fur-Free Future” talk with House of Fluff’s Kym Canter and the Humane Society’s PJ Smith last month at an event hosted by The RealReal in New York.