A recent spate of luxury brands have announced that they will no longer use real fur in their collections, which has once again brought the hot-button issue to the forefront of fashion and sustainability. Both Versace and Furla have committed to abandoning fur moving forward and as such have joined a growing list of designer brands who no longer use fur in their products such as Giorgio Armani, Michael Kors and Gucci, as well as retailers like Net-a-Porter and Selfridges.
When explaining their decision to forgo the material, most of these brands cite a combination of the following three main reasons: technological advances in fabrications that allow them to create ethical, luxe-fur alternatives, recognizing an awareness from consumers and their attitudes towards cruel fur practices, and taking part in a wider sustainability plan for the whole company.
Technological Advances In Fabrications
While many fashion brands in the past have used synthetic fur in their products for many years, large luxury companies have been slower to experiment with and evolve their use of materials that can emulate the traditionally “luxe” properties of real animal fur. Michael Kors Holdings Limited only last year announced their decision to stop working with real fur, and that all fur currently in production will be phased out by the end of this year. “Due to technological advances in fabrications, we now have the ability to create a luxe aesthetic using non-animal fur,” noted the company at the time. For global brands like Michael Kors which have employed the use of animal fur for so long, the decision demonstrates that companies with both large and small supply chains are more than capable of halting fur production with immediate effect. (The policy is also in effect for Jimmy Choo, which it bought last year.) Givenchy also showcased a range of dramatic, exotic-looking fur coats for fall 2018 that to many onlookers looked quite real LVMH, which owns Givenchy, has left the decision to use real or fake fur to its individual brands including Fendi, which specializes in using mink and fox fur.
Consumer Attitudes Towards Cruel Animal Fur Practices
With organizations like PETA and the Fur Free Alliance getting more involved in the fashion industry’s business practices, some companies have been listening to their efforts and examining their fur policies. But coupled with the rise of social media and growing number of users who voice their distaste with the material, more and more brands are under pressure to keep up with the shift in attitudes towards real fur, a material that has come under scrutiny for a rising awareness of many cruel practices that are now more transparent. When Giorgio Armani announced their decision in 2016 to eliminate fur, it recognized that the step was part of their “reflecting our attention to the critical issues of protecting and caring for the environment and animals,” and that cruel practices towards animals were “unnecessary.”Accessories brand Furla also voiced their commitment to the safety of animals, but also that they were responding to “the growing request for ethical products by consumers who are more and more aware and attentive to these themes.” If the comments section of any brand’s post depicting real fur is of any indicator, anti-fur consumer behavior is not slowing down anytime soon.
Company-wide Sustainability Plans
As environmental transparency and eco-friendly business practices continue to gather steam, sustainability efforts have only increased in urgency and importance. The implementation of company-wide sustainability plans have spread considerably fast across sectors, but fashion, in particular, has been quick to respond. Companies like Kering, H&M and Everlane have all made strides toward sustainable business models, but the question over whether synthetic fur is a sustainable material brings mixed reactions. Versace CEO Jonathan Akeroyd said in a release when announcing their decision to ban fur that this “commitment is part of a broader, sustainable innovation program the company is pursuing, that includes not only a strong commitment to work across our entire supply chain but also a strong and deep cultural shift that will benefit all employees.” Gucci also outlined their sustainability model when it announced their fur ban last year, further integrating the “fur is not sustainable” approach to the company’s other eco-friendly initiatives. Fellow Kering-owned brand Stella McCartney has always stuck to her company’s mission of sustainability and has long voiced her viewpoints on the matter that fur and leather do more harm to the environment than other alternative materials.
Of course, not all luxury fashion brands share these same values. A recent piece here on Forbes about furrier Yves Salomon demonstrates that the issue remains divided and that there is still a customer segment that is devoted to purchasing natural fur from luxury houses in all parts of the world. However, as these brands continue to adapt to modern forces shaping the fashion industry, it’s worth understanding how these changes can have far-reaching consequences that affect all levels of company policy and business practices.