In the world of modern fashion, in which animal products such as fur and leather can be recreated and are easily available, some might argue that the real equivalents are no longer necessary.
But this argument is quickly complicated when we think about second-hand or vintage garments, perhaps inherited from an ancestor, or picked up as a bargain in a charity shop. With major designer labels such as Gucci, Burberry and Versace opting to go fur-free over the last couple of years, the ethics of fur is undoubtedly a subject hotly up for debate amongst leaders in the fashion industry.
Despite the recent move towards faux fur products in recent years, not to mention many years of campaigns against fur in the fashion industry; today, many consumers still prefer genuine fur. It is conceivable that the appearance and luxury of real fur is the reason for its enduring popularity; in particular the warmth, quality and softness of, for example a fur coat, compared to a man-made alternative. It is also worth mentioning that a fur coat, if properly cared for and stored, can be worn and loved for many generations – without the need for purchasing replacements and hence harming any more animals.
However, organisations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) argue that ultimately, fur garments advocate animal cruelty, and hence they are refusing to backdown in their fight for a fur-free fashion industry. PETA argue that the same principles should apply to both vintage and new fur: ‘whether the animals were killed yesterday or 50 years ago, vintage fur sends the same unacceptable message as new fur’ (see more here). Whilst campaigners argue that fur of any kind is fundamentally cruel, they also see vintage fur as perpetuating the trend as a whole.
As topics surrounding plastic pollution and the environment come into focus in the UK, fresh arguments emerge surrounding the vintage versus faux fur debate. The production of faux fur has been criticised for using non-renewable sources, and these garments are also said to wear much quicker than real fur, thus increasing the need to replace the whole garment. Faux fur is also not capable of decomposing, and hence often ends up in landfill, in contrast to real fur which can be treated and restored.
With British shoppers buying more new clothes every year than other European countries, we might ask whether buying second-hand is the solution, or if it is environmentally friendly to throw old furs to landfill?
If you are still unsure of the ethical and sustainable question marks over vintage fur, you might consider donating garments to PETA for them to use as part of their campaign efforts, or to a local charity shop for someone else to enjoy.
Whatever your take is on vintage or faux fur, it’s important to consider the ethical and environmental costs of our fashion choices, and to reuse and repurpose garments wherever possible.