LONDON — Fur is still flying and the surge in popularity of faux varieties — from buzzy brands including Shrimps and longstanding suppliers such as Steiff — has done little to dampen demand, according to Saga Furs, which is holding its first auction of fully sustainable mink in Finland this week.
“There’s been solid demand for fur at least from 2014; 70 percent, sometimes up to 80 percent, of the brands sell fur on the runway,” said company’s business director Tia Matthews in an interview.
Saga focuses on fox, finnraccoon and mink sourced from Europe, and has been working on sustainability initiatives for more than 10 years after the brands demanded increased visibility in the supply chain.
In 2005, Saga created a certification program in order to ensure that animal welfare standards were being monitored, by introducing farmer training, environmental controls and frequent farm inspections.
“We work very closely with the fashion industry and in our conversations with brands, we learned they were not only looking for the quality of our skins, but they were also looking for the quality of our supply chain,” said Charlie Ross, head of sustainability at Saga Furs.
He said the partnership with the brands has led to a focus on developing a certification program, which he calls “the leading edge” of animal welfare standards.
“Our fox and finnraccoon has been 100 percent certified already for five years, so (the auction) is historical because for the first time in the history of any of the auction houses we are able to sell a mink coat that is 100 percent certified.”
Ross believes the certification program will give the company “a license to operate” and enable better communication with the design industry and governments around the world.
Saga said it’s already building on a strong base with demand fueled by the Kering and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned labels, and interest in North America also picking up. Fendi was the first buyer of light mink sold on March 6, the first day of the weeklong auction, while the house’s clients include brands such as Burberry, Fendi and Gucci.
“Fendi’s buyers bought the furs and then explained that they want to support this program and give back the premium to the farmers who are 100 percent certified. It’s a great cooperation between Fendi and our vision of certification and sustainability,” said Ross.
Ross also argues out that Saga Furs’ product offer is far more in line with sustainability standards than faux fur, which is not biodegradable.
“From a sustainability point of view, (faux fur) is a petroleum-based product that does not biodegrade. Our sustainability program is based upon zero negative effect on the environment. We, as an industry, use all the products, putting nothing in landfills,” said Ross.
“So I think that faux fur is a great complement to our products and we really appreciate that the young consumer could buy an imitation fur and when their finances change or the age goes up, (we hope) they would naturally and easily plan to buy real fur.”
The company has also been conducting a study on animal welfare, called Welfur, which aims to assess animal welfare, and will be incorporated in its certification criteria in the future to enhance the strength of the program.