Fur: To wear or not to wear

Fur is one of the earliest materials worn by humans dwelling in cold climates. Since the Middle Ages, it has always been a status symbol, being used on coats, scarves, hats and gloves (e.g., Game of ThronesDownton Abbey and Mad Men). In the 1960s, the fur industry suffered a backlash from animal rights movements. The textile industry also renders the necessity of fur obsolete. Yet, it maintains a loyal following and has been shown consistently in designer collections (e.g., Fall Winter 2012/13).

In order to mitigate opposition from protest groups, organizations and individuals have turned to endorse cruelty-free fur and other alternatives.

Sustainable, cruelty-free

The Fur Council of Canada assures, in its Fur is Green brochure, that “fur is a natural, renewable and sustainable resource.” Through trapping regulations, the council is committed to maintaining an ecological balance of wildlife and natural habitat. It claims that there are as many beavers, muskrats, raccoons, coyotes and foxes in North America there were when Europeans first arrived on the continent.

The fur trade has launched an Origin Assured label that provides consumers with information about the source of the fur they are buying. Buyers may feel more comfortable to know that their fur was produced in a place with trapping regulations and humane treatment of animals. In 2010, US President Obama signed the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, which obliges manufacturers to reveal whether the fur is real or fake. Before this came in effect, only products that cost more than $150 had to be truthfully labeled.

Types of fur

Guilt-free

In 2010, Oscar de la Renta and Michael Kors opted for guilt-free fur by using nutria, a type of rat that devastates the wetlands of Louisiana. Former first lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, says she doesn’t “buy, wear or own fur.” But she is fine with using leather from the skin of animals that were raised for feeding purposes.

Faux fur

Karl Lagerfeld put faux fur trim on Chanel coats, boots, skirts, pants and bags in the 2010 Fall Winter collection. He said he didn’t want to compete with Fendi, who does real furs so well. He also added: “Technical advances are so perfect you can hardly tell fake fur from the real thing. Fake is not chic — we have got a new Chanel tweed to stop copies — but fake fur is.”

Celebrities like Elle MacPherson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Richie have all been spotted wearing trendy faux fur coats and vests.

Vintage fur

Another way to make fur sustainable is by reusing and recycling it. Inherit a valuable coat from your grandmother that is not your style? Determine its value and sell it back at a vintage store. Likewise, make sure you check out vintage stores and outlets when it comes to your own fur-hunting quest.

Hopefully you take away good tips for sporting fur this winter.

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