Fur may have started as the only warm covering for early man, but over the centuries, it became synonymous with fashion. Here’s why we condemn real fur.
Real fur screams high fashion. At a glance, 9 out of 10 winter fashion campaigns showcase real fur and leather in garments or accessories – either whole or used for trimmings and accents. Also, take a look at any winter magazine cover or celebrity photo-shoot, and you’re more likely than not to spot real fur. It’s like you cannot think of winter clothing without fur.
Fur is indeed one of the earliest materials used in clothing.
And so, it is difficult to say exactly when it became a high fashion trend. Perhaps its use in couture is as old as the concept of couture itself.
And it’s not just about fur coats or leather bags. Dress trimmings, belts, gloves and even earrings and iPhone covers come covered in fur, leather or real feathers. Elephants, foxes, minks, cheetah – most land animals suffer from the clothing industry.
While some designers and fashion houses like Gucci and Marc Jacobs have embraced faux fur in their designs, others still use real fur in all winter collections. Karl Lagerfeld is one famous designer who participated in the fur controversy quite ballsily. “In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags, the discussion of fur is childish,” is one of his most famous quotes!
The iconic designer behind Chanel, Fendi and his own label, Karl Lagerfeld, quoted in an interview to New York Times after being criticized for ‘haute horreur‘ fur-use by PETA, “It’s very easy to say no fur, no fur, no fur, but it’s an industry. Who will pay for all the unemployment of the people if you suppress the industry of the fur?” The designer, 75, does not wear fur himself and has also used faux-fur (or funny fur) in his own label.
Faux-fur coat and bag from the Karl Lagerfeld label
Why then, am I so against it?
I don’t identify as a religious person. However, the thought of killing animals for an old practice that can easily be avoided in today’s technology era brings me to tears. “As you read this, another innocent animal is being abused, neglected or forced to fight,” writes ASPCA.
Coming from a religious, Hindu family, I was raised as a vegetarian, with the belief that animal cruelty is a sin. When I became an adult, I traveled the world and got the opportunity to see many different cultures, and lived with roommates, most of whom are meat-eating and/or fur-wearing! And slowly, being a vegetarian became a personal choice for me, not a family compulsion.
It’s easy to have those values when you come from a wheat and vegetable producing fertile country where cows freely strut the roads! And that’s why, being a meat-eater is sometimes the only option for a lot of other parts of the world. That, perhaps, is how the world became a fur-wearer, too. How else would you expect the Stone Age lady to keep herself warm? Plus there were all the tigers she had to fight!
But that has changed now. Most of us don’t have lives involving daily tiger fights or rhino kicking. Many of the animals killed cruelly for leather and fur are harmless, like rabbits and minks, who cannot fight back, and are farm-bred for fur-killing. Wiki defines animal abuse as “the intentional infliction by humans of suffering or harm upon any non-human animal, regardless of whether the act is against the law.”
The faux-fur industry has already advanced to the level that one can’t distinguish between imitation and real fur. And technology always has a way of reshaping all industries. You call it “forcing people out of their jobs,” but innovators call it advancement. When a new industry is better, cheaper and more convenient, it slowly takes over the old ones, making them archaic. It doesn’t happen overnight, but most of the times, it makes the world a better place.
So what can we all do against animal cruelty? Identifying the problem is the first part of solving it. If you’re a shopper, look for faux-fur and imitation leather alternatives when you go shopping. If you’re a fashion designer, suggest your ateliers or merchandisers to use the alternatives. Encourage the textile industry to invest in faux-fur, feather and leather creation and advancement.
Uber taught traditional cabbies to use the apps. The hard disk industry taught floppy-makers to innovate and learn. Publishers learned to embrace e-books. So can we resist buying real fur to encourage the faux-fur industry?
If we can, maybe within a couple of decades, fake fur can be as glam, warm and accessible as real fur!
Shilpa Ahuja a designer and entrepreneur. She is the editor-in-chief of ShilpaAhuja.com, which she founded with the goal of inspiring confidence in the modern working woman through fashion.
Fashion has traditionally been for the rich, white, thin woman. That’s how it evolved over centuries and that’s how it’s been represented in fashion media. But Shilpa believes that with the changing role of women in the society, fashion has changed, too. She believes that fashion is for everyone, regardless of their age, gender, color, body type and background. So she translates runway fashion into easy style advice that one can incorporate into their daily lives.
Shilpa’s work has been published in the University of Fashion blog and Jet Airways magazine. She is also an artist, illustrator and cartoonist. She is also the creator of Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She enjoys creative writing and world travel. Her art has been exhibited at Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh and been published in Chandigarh Times.
Originally from Chandigarh, Shilpa also has a professional degree in architecture and has worked in interior project management. She is also the author of the book “Designing a Chinese Cultural Center in India”. Shilpa has a Masters in Design Studies degree from Harvard University. For feedback and questions, please email [email protected]