Designers Are Crazy for Fur

Designers Are Crazy for Fur

Susan Cosier
Published: 04/16/2010
A collar trimmed with mink, cuffs circled in fox, or a vest made from coyote, fur is no longer a faux pas as designers, wooed by furriers and tempted by texture, integrate it into their lines, helping the industry make a strong comeback. Most environmentalists would still opt for fleece, it seems, but others may wonder whether fur is really that bad.
 
Fur does biodegrade, unlike a number of other fabrics made from oil products, like nylon and polyester, yet, according to Grist’s Umbra, “Today's furs are mostly from fur farms. Blameless animals are held in cramped cages until their early and gruesome deaths, when their skins are peeled off and their carcasses dumped. Mink, fox, rabbits, sables, and ferrets are usually cage-raised. These cage operations can have similar ecological impacts to animal confinement operations for food -- water pollution, odor, and disease. A few animals are hard to raise in confinement and are still trapped in the wild, including lynx and bobcat. Being caught in a trap is no party time either, and although trapping won't produce confinement-associated runoff, non-target animals are caught in the traps, injured, and then killed or released. Including: house cats.”
 
So, unless you’re buying vintage fur or receive a fur coat, shrug, or shawl as a gift, buying it (and wearing it) doesn't seem chic at all. So why, one might ask, have designers begun to include it in their new garments?
 
“Several of those designers are too young to remember the vicious battles over fur in the 1980s and ’90s, when a PETA member tossed a dead raccoon onto the plate of Anna Wintour while she was dining at the Four Seasons; another tossed a tofu cream pie in Mr. de la Renta’s face. But some remain sheepish on the subject,” writes Eric Wilson in The New York Times. “Thakoon Panichgul, for example, showed a coat in his fall collection with strips of fox bursting from the sleeves, but he declined to be interviewed for this article because of the controversy.”
 
Other designers, however, say that fur isn’t any worse than its alternatives. “You see so much leather and shearling being used this season, and no one is complaining about that,” Alexa Adams of Ohne Titel said in the story. “I don’t see the difference between using shearling and using fur.”
 
There is a difference, however, if you decide to invest in a fur made from nutria, a semiaquatic invasive species now found in the southeastern United States. One enterprising individual uses the animal’s pelt to make garments, Mother Jones’s Kiera Butler explains.
 
No matter the source, fur is on its way back. As of 2006, it was a $1.8 billion dollar industry in this country, according to Fur Information Council of America figures, up from under $1 billion just 15 years before. Have environmentalists fur-gotten about the issue?