• Mon, Mar 17 - 9:04 am ET

Big Fur Is Manipulating Young People Into Wearing Dead Animals, And It’s Working

fendi-fur-coat

It can be tough for a non-vegan to figure out where she stands on the ethics of wearing fur. Complicating matters even further is the fact that the fur industry is a giant business that for decades has been making a concerted effort to convince young people fur is cool. Judging by the backs of many of our young friends, it’s working.

For a while, we thought fur might really be heading out of fashion for good. We still saw fur on the runways and the streets of Aspen, and Anna Wintour certainly never stopped wearing it, but the young fashion writers and bloggers we followed were having none of it. We assumed at the time that in the next five to 10 years those voices would become the establishment, and more big magazines and fashion authorities would be coming down hard on the wearing of animals.

But the ‘90s and early 2000s sentiment didn’t stick around the way we thought it would. Eventually the insiders stopped talking about it, the “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” supermodels like Naomi Campbell started wearing fur again, and the anti-fur push seemed to retreat back to the realm vegan blogs and PETA posters. Meanwhile, fur started showing up even more often on street style blogs and fashion runways. It was everywhere, and the ubiquity made it seem like fur might be OK. If Rihanna likes it, it can’t be all bad. Right?

According to the Daily Mail, 70 percent of 2014 runway shows used fur, and that’s not just a coincidence. Furriers have been supplying designers with pelts as part of a decades-long campaign to rebrand fur as fashionable after it started to pick up a whiff of being “the preserve of elderly dowagers.”

The fur industry has fought back, rebranding itself as ‘ethical’ and ‘luxurious’ with a stealthy, sustained and, some might say, deeply cynical campaign aimed at young women. If the swing in attitudes among the new generation is anything to judge by, it’s working. A 2013 YouGov poll found just 58 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds believed it wrong to use fur compared to 77 per cent of over-55s.

That’s still more than half of young people in the U.K. that think fur is unacceptable, but the swing in perspective has been enough for fur sales to skyrocket. According to the Daily Mail, the fur industry has grown 70 percent in a decade, to nearly $15 billion.

One fur company has taken to targeting the designers of the future by sponsoring an annual competition for fashion students. The company gives free fur to students, who often struggle to pay for the costs of fabric and would happily accept a pile of free supplies from anybody. It even sponsors some of the students’ collections.

“This is their way of getting their foot in the door,” said Shelly Asquith, president of the students’ union at the London College of Fashion. “It normalizes the use of fur with students who will be showing at London Fashion Week in the years to come.”

With the designers in their corner, Big Fur just needs the consumers on their side, and that turned out to be pretty easy to do. A big part of making fur seem acceptable to young people has been giving it out for free to fashionable celebrities. Rihanna, Cara Delevingne, Kate Moss, and Lily Allen are among the celebrities cited as being given free or steeply discounted furs, and we suspect many other celebrities are also receiving free coats, stoles, and other fur accessories.

Everyone has to make up their own mind about whether or not it’s OK to wear fur, including whether or not one will make exceptions for vintage fur, and how they feel about eating meat and wearing leather. It can be very complicated. But it’s important to remember when looking at Instagram photos of celebrities in fat fur jackets that there’s a big industry behind it. Your favorite celebrity could well be wearing that fur because someone gave it to her for free, specifically in the hopes that seeing her in it would make you want a fur of your own. Yours might not be chinchilla, but the furriers would still like to sell you some rabbits. Or some cats.

(Photo: Wenn)

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  • Samantha Escobar

    When I went to FW, this is my least favorite thing I saw. So, so many people wearing fur and seemingly not remotely caring about how it became…a thing they can wear. Agh.

  • Jess

    Sorry, up where I live fur is not vanity, just smart. And anyone who says other things are just as warm has never lived in the far North. City people!

    • S

      Sorry, that’s just incorrect. It’s 2014, we can make manmade materials that are warmer. Arctic explorers don’t wear fur, they wear synthetic materials, so I don’t care how far north you are, there’s no reason you have to wear fur to be “smart.” (Also, the I’m-better-than-you attitude? That’s not any cuter coming from rural people toward city people than it is the other way around.)

      There are plenty of reasonable arguments for fur – it’s no different than leather, most anti-fur people still eat meat, etc. – but sorry, this is not one of them.

    • CMJ

      While I get what you’re saying, I would like to point out that arctic explorers have the money and means to purchase clothing items made out of synthetic material.

    • NYCNanny

      I would like to point out that fur is WAYYYYYY more expensive than any synthetic material you can buy from North Face or another outfitter.

    • Samantha Escobar

      This.

    • CMJ

      Yes, I understand that – but up way up north, people probably make their own fur coats. I am just pointing that out because S said “I don’t care how far north you are.”

      And arctic explorers don’t just have a coat from North Face. So yes, I understand what S is saying but in certain areas, it might actually matter how far north you are.

    • NYCNanny

      Probably not. It takes anywhere from 10-200 animals to make a fur coat. I don’t think in 2014, people are going out and hunting dozens of animals, skinning them, and sewing them into coats. Just go to Amazon.com and order a synthetic jacket for $100 and it’ll be delivered in 2 days.

    • NYCNanny

      And another thing… c’mon!!! We aren’t talking about arctic natives who hunt and fish and live “off the land.” This article is about high fashion, models, and fur being promoted as fashionable… The people buying these furs are not hurting for $$.

    • CMJ

      I’m just saying that S’s analogy is a little flawed. Geeze.

      I don’t wear fur. I’m not even advocating for fur. I was just pointing out that it could, in fact, matter how far north you live.

    • S

      How did we get from “really cold” to Jack-London-story-fight-for-survival? If the chick (dude?) has an Internet connection, I’m pretty sure she/he is not skinning wildlife to make his/her own coats.

    • CMJ

      It was mostly because of “how far north” and arctic explorers.

    • NYCNanny

      Lol, exactly!!!!

    • S

      I mean, that’s true, and it would be a great point if fur were comparatively cheap, but it’s not. The whole reason fur is a luxury item and a status symbol is because it’s expensive. Real Arctic gear isn’t cheap either, but it’s less pricy than fur.

      For a quick comparison, according to Google the average mid-range but nice fur coat will cost you between 2 and 3 thousand; the best of the best synthetic Arctic coats will run you a little under 1 thousand. So.

    • CMJ

      I really was just talking about indigenous people and people in the middle of nowhere. I totally get it.

      I’m not talking about the fur industry.

    • Samantha Escobar

      There aren’t synthetic replacements for fur where you live? Online shopping is wonderful for finding great substitutes!

  • Elizabeth

    “It can be tough for a non-vegan to figure out where she stands on the ethics of wearing fur.”

    Yeah, I feel this. I eat meat and wear leather, so it does sometimes strike me as odd that I draw the line at fur. If I eat beef and lamb, and I wear leather, should I have a problem with cowhide and sheepskin? And I don’t think I do, but there’s something off-putting about buying newly made fur of other sorts.

    But at the same time, I’ve been to plenty of estate sales where they were selling fur, and I probably would have bought it if I’d had the money. I recognize the hypocrisy.

    • NYCNanny

      You’re being honest, which I appreciate. As a veg*n who doesn’t buy leather anymore (I will not throw away my older leather purses and shoes I bought years ago), I think the difference between fur/meat/leather is the cruelty. The cruelty that goes into skinning animals is atrocious…

    • Samantha Escobar

      My logic: I only consume meat and dairy from free-range, humane farms that practice terror-free slaughter (“organic” isn’t an issue, IMO, but free range and humane killing is, especially since I went kosher). I believe that eating animals is okay; I just don’t believe in keeping them in tiny cages or pens, or literally throwing dairy cows away when they’re done producing milk. And I’d rather support those types of farmers, which will hopefully encourage more farmers to do the same and give them the market to do so.

      The leather and fur industries, on the other hand, have next-to-no humane dealers and, in reality, very little necessity for most of their regular customers, who can likely afford alternatives.

      [/self-righteous rant]

    • NYCNanny

      Totally correct… the leather and fur industries are the CRUELEST industries.

      *Side note… (don’t take this in an asshole way, please)… read up on “free-range” and “humane” farms and the legalities in advertising products as such. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but “free range” and “cage free” is allowed to be put on a container of eggs if the chicken has something like 1cm of space. These terms don’t necessarily mean what we think they mean.*
      :)

    • Samantha Escobar

      Guh, that is definitely true. Somebody actually pointed that out to me last year (so thank you for doing so again, because I DO think people should spread that info!). I get my meat primarily from here, though, and I really trust their business practices:
      http://growandbehold.com/

    • NYCNanny

      Cool. The company looks great. I don’t eat meat, but will pass this to a friend who is looking for Kosher local meat. :)

    • Colleen

      You might want to talk to a trapper before stating that there are “next-to-no humane dealers”. There are entire fur industry associations who dedicate a lot of time to educating the public on modern-day humane trapping methods. I can’t speak to farmed fur, but the wild fur industry is overall very humane and very conservationist. By properly maintaining their traplines, they can ensure their trapline is sustainable not only for themselves, but for future generations (many can be passed down by family lines).

    • NYCNanny

      85% of our fur comes from captive animals living on “fur farms” (aka steel cages.)
      So yes… at MOST 15% of our fur comes from “humane” dealers. (Except killing animals for their skin can never be “humane”, so that’s also BS.)

  • Courtney Cohen

    Singling out the fur industry for providing their product to
    celebrities is a bit disingenuous. Designers do it, jewelers do it, and cell phone manufacturers do it. It is a widespread practice, an integral component of branding today. At the end of the day the individual still has to make the choice, whether offered to them for free or not, to wear it or not. And for the rest of us, it is up to us to make the choice to buy it or not. The fact is, celebrities and many other people are choosing to wear fur and they are choosing to buy fur just as designers are choosing to use fur in their designs and retailers are choosing to sell fur. The truth is evident in the images we see, in the designs on the runways, in the product on the stores and in the sales results. The consumer is exercising their freedom of choice and for a broad range of good reasons, they are choosing fur!

    • arnaud

      I am not sure “freedom of choice” can be used in this case when we talk about living creatures. To me “freedom of choice” ends when it harms other, otherwise our world would be hell (At least in our modern societies), so no, for animals it is probably more a dictatorship.

  • Fashion is Forever

    Ignorance is not bliss and it may do Ms. Elizabeth Licata a good to do further
    research before she imparts false truths regarding the fur industry. I am
    baffled that the author has a problem with a widely held marketing “phenomenon”
    called product placement and uses this to vilify the Fur Industry. Every brand
    worth their salt does it. You know, the coke or diet coke you guzzle at lunch,
    the branded car you get back and forth in, or any number of other items you
    consume or utilize in your daily travels–it’s called celebrity endorsement
    through product placement. Don’t cast dispersion on the fur industry for
    marketing to their target customers. In my world that’s called doing your homework
    and building a brand. Fur is warm, fur is fashionable and fur hits every
    fashion trend that consumers could want, plus fur is a great wardrobe investment
    when looking to purchase an item that will last for decades. Come on people,
    don’t believe the hype, the fur industry is one of the most highly
    self-regulated industries there is. If they are such geniuses as the author has
    stated, wouldn’t it also lead one to believe that they’ve also got the good
    sense to make sure their industry adheres to certain standards and practices?
    Celebrities are here to stay and so is fur. Fur is timeless and really
    compliments a wardrobe, and yes it’s warm as hell. We say if it looks good to
    you wear it, and if you choose not to don’t, but please don’t be hypocritical
    and judgmental…there was only one Mr. Blackwell and he’s dead as far as we
    can remember!

    • NYCNanny

      You’re joking, right? The fur industry is one of the most UNregulated industries out there. 50% of our fur comes from China, where there are literally NO (practiced) laws when it comes to fur. Cats, dogs, rats, whatever… They’ll skin them all. ALIVE. I’ve been to China multiple times and have seen with my own eyes the awful conditions these animals are kept in. I have heard these dogs SCREAMING as people RIP their skin off. They are tasered and partially paralyzed, but can still feel pain. F China’s animal laws. F fur. F everyone who wears it.

    • Colleen

      I have a wolf pelt hanging on my wall, as a gift from my trapper uncle. So I guess F me, too.
      It would be nice if people were a lot less violent towards other people and we could have a good discourse on the issues of the day, without it devolving into obscenity-filled rants.

    • NYCNanny

      It would also be nice if people were a lot less violent towards animals.

    • NYCNanny

      Fashionable, huh?

    • arnaud

      Lol ! do you work for Saga furs or the International fur federation ? we already know about that same old litany….

  • Biovedic India

    animals should not be killed for the furs!!

  • http://erikabogner.com/ E.Bogner

    The little guy here on the left is a white Raccoon Dog (photo lifted from web). Since the 1970′s white and brown Raccoon Dogs have been largely the animals that make up your hood collars, glove trimming, boot liners and more – including being passed as other furs, sheep shearling and even faux fur – with major retailers such as Macy’s and Neiman Marcus found to carry products marked as other or faux but actually being Raccoon Dog (over 70% of fur in the US, per the HSUS in 2008), or as called when used on clothing, “murmansky” fur.

    While U.S. law prohibits the import and sale of dog and cat fur products, a legal loophole prevents our laws from protecting Raccoon Dogs although a member of the canine family. Canada doesn’t require the fur type to be labeled, just that it’s fur. One figure estimates over 80% of fur comes from China – which does not have any policies addressing animal rights – go ahead and youtube that one.

    And you’ll also notice your standard fare of domesticated dog and cat breeds being slaughtered in the China trade (all pet owners worldwide should know the term “Bunchers” – if you love your dog, google it; it’s not just in China and it’s not just for fur).

    I own and wear multiple pre-70′s furs, though I personally see little reason to buy most any clothing “brand-new”. Aside from the poor craftsmanship and carbon footprint, the overseas garment manufacturing industries lack of worker and environmental rights is reason enough. Consuming pre-existing, American or fairly-made (ie, not third world sweatshop) items is pretty much a free-for-all on the guilt meter. Keep it local, with charity shops = no adverse impact.

    Also see the Gomata leather trade in which India’s Sacred Cows are moved out of India for slaughter in whatever means possible for leather export abroad. Many die of exhaustion, dehydration and/or abuse before reaching their gruesome slaughter.

    • Sarah

      Awwww. That picture. :(

  • arnaud

    it is pretty sad that the fur industry is now so big and I am personnaly involved in campaigns for a more human fashion. We are not inuits, we do not need fur. It is a frivolous thing that no animals should endure. I’m all about recycling, creating new materials, green alternatives, smart textile that are warmer and do not implie the death of animals. And it is not even about being a vegetarian or not….( I am VG) even if you are a meat eater, not wearing fur will help spare the lives of 75 Milions of animals. Many people in the fashion industry have been literally brainwashed by the fur industry ! they only read informations and “studies” provided by the industry and have been told not to trust independant experts or web site.

  • Sarah

    This is so sad. :(