By International Fur Federation CEO, Mark Oaten
Fashion brand Gucci has announced plans to go fur-free from 2018 and will instead be looking into alternatives, including fake plastic fur.
Now, I’m the last person to prevent a business or individual from making up their own mind about fur and employing freedom of choice (a stance sadly not shared by the bullies and closed-minded activists of PETA and the like), but I find this move rather mystifying because of the main argument used.
Specifically, chief executive Marco Bizzarri said the move was due to the brand’s commitment to ‘sustainability’.
I of course applaud such a viewpoint. But in this case, unfortunately, it’s utterly misguided. The truth is that banning real fur makes absolutely no sense in terms of sustainability. Petrol-based fake plastic fur is extremely harmful to the environment, isn’t biodegradable and negatively impacts wildlife thanks to the petroleum and plastics used to produce it.
By comparison, real fur can last for generations compared to the synthetic, environmentally-damaging alternatives. Fur garments can be kept for decades and are completely biodegradable when they are eventually discarded. Plastic fakes on the other hand are thrown away regularly and end up polluting landfills.
That’s hardly the type of behaviour to appeal to environmentally-conscious millennials.
Frankly, it’s both surprising and disappointing that a major fashion brand would want to “do better for the environment” by seriously considering working with plastic fur. Bear in mind as well that when you wash those items, hundreds of thousands of tiny plastic lint fibres are released into waste water, end up in oceans and get eaten by fish, mammals and sea birds.
At the same time, Mr Bizzarri’s other comments left me rather bemused. For one, saying that fur is “not modern” is unfounded. More than two-thirds of recent international catwalks featured fur in fresh and exciting forms. Real fur can be cut, dyed and crafted in ways that synthetic, petrol-based plastic fur can only dream of.
He also said that Gucci was planning to auction off its remaining fur supplies and give the profits to animal rights groups. If buying fur is as unethical as he seems to think, one wonders who he expects to bid on it?
The truth is that many top designers continue to use the natural material, and the IFF is working with the most respected fashion houses in the world to develop boundary-pushing techniques to create haute couture and every day fashion. It also ensures the fur industry worldwide produces the most sustainable, ethically-sourced pelts possible.
And lest we forget, if sustainability is indeed the name of the game, the sale of wild fur both provides vital income for remote indigenous communities and helps toward managing their local environments. In addition, farmed fur animals eat food prepared from the waste products of the meat, fish and dairy processing industries – a much more sustainable and ethical alternative to dumping this excess.
Waste from fur farms can produce other environmental benefits too. These include the production of biofuel to reduce the demand for fossil fuels and the production of agricultural fertilisers to replace high-energy manufactured ones. Fur farming also has some of the most stringent controls for animal welfare found in any industry worldwide.
So if sustainability is the goal, don’t be fooled into thinking negatively about fur. We will always welcome Gucci back to fur in the future, and hope that it and all other fashion brands see that real fur is the only truly sustainable option.