Every year, fashion week brings a sense of excitement and wonder. The new lines, the beautiful people, the PETA protests.Ria Wolstenholme explores the truth behind faux and real fur.
Let’s be real, the world of fashion is very firmly divided when it comes to the topic of fur. Real versus faux, you’ll have arguments for either side, from some of the most unexpected people. People will jump at the chance to defend the world and its adorable furry creatures. How dare we put them in our clothes and adorn them like trophies. But, you know, a steak doesn’t matter. Because those animals are meant for that.
There’s a chink in the armour with this theory. This idea that using an animal’s skin and fur to make our clothes is barbaric; but slaughtering them on a mass scale and selling their flesh in a supermarket is OK? Something doesn’t add up.
That said, those eco friendly save the earth types should think twice when they put on a faux fur piece in protest of the real deal. Faux fur is commonly made with petroleum, a non-renewable compound that will not biodegrade. The warmth and breathability isn’t the same, the colours not as vivid or realistic and it is just very obviously fake.
The worst thing for faux lovers is that they’re not always being told the truth about what level of faux their garments are. High street stores in the UK carry fur-free policies, not supporting the fur industry at all. However, due to labelling laws and guidelines, only 80% of the materials used in the product have to be declared. This means that certain adornments such as pompoms, fur trims and embellishments could actually be real animal fur.
The fast fashion industry we are all accustomed to means that each season brings new things and trends to buy in to. This throw away mentality means that many people buy faux fur products, keep them for a year or so and get rid of them. They end up in land fills, unable to degrade. Real fur, on the other hand, biodegrades naturally in six months to a year.
That’s not to say that the fur industry is an angel. There have been reports of foxes being forcefully grown to unnatural sizes, not moving from pens in order for them to grow as much fur as possible to harvest. Ferrets, minks and rabbits have been reportedly skinned alive without being stunned or killed before their pelts were removed. We’ve all seen the horrific Facebook videos, the PETA campaigns and the protests. The torture some animals are going through just for us to wear is honestly disturbing, and never justified.
Studies have shown that making a mink fur coat has an economical impact that’s three to ten times higher than making a faux fur coat. Supposedly a larger carbon footprint is being left by those who are choosing to wear the ‘natural’ option. But further research into this industry shows a different light that those strongly against it are portraying.
Fur farms have been banned completely in the UK for some time now, which reflects the general population’s feelings that wearing real fur is wrong morally and ethically. However, with the amount of anti-fur protests, animal welfare warfare between brands and activist, the fur industry has been forced to become more organised and open.
Furriers of fashion houses buy their fur at specific fur auctions. These auctions are under government control, following strict protocol and not kept under wraps. With each purchase of pelt, a certificate detailing which farm the fur originated, who it was sold by and the seal of approval by European and American government control is handed to the new owner.
The fur industry has stopped trying to tell us it’s all about fashion, and have held their hands up to the fact that stricter control and more information about the fur they are using is a necessity.
Now, this isn’t to say you should be pro real fur, or you should be against it. But being able to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake, so you yourself know what you are purchasing without having to do extensive research of the brand and item, comes down to the product itself.
If you separate the fur so you can see the base of the garment, you’ll be able to see what’s real. Real fur will be attached to skin, and visibly resembling that of an animal’s pelt. Fake fur is attached to a sort of webbing, that is very obviously synthetic. Another way to tell is to set it alight. Clip off some of the fibres or hairs of the garment, and set it on fire. If it melts, like plastic, it’s fake fur. If it burns and smells like burning hair, it’s real. If it does a bit of both, you could potentially have a mix of both fake and real fur that hasn’t been disclosed.
High street stores in the UK are a lot hotter on the strict no fur policies. Where you have to watch out is independent retailers, independent online stores and sellers or in market stalls. The trims and embellishments could be made of rabbit, fox, dog, raccoon or mink without you knowing or even being told. So it’s always best to enquire if you’re unsure.
Enjoying fashion is of course something we all like doing. But whether you are pro or anti real fur, you must first do your research. My opinion has changed dramatically just from researching the industry for this article. Keep in mind that not everything you’re shown or told is the truth. Find out for yourself which side of the furry fence you stand on without being influenced by anybody else.