As temperatures drop below freezing, people are beginning to don their winter jackets. Nowadays, many people are turning to fur jackets to keep them warm, some perhaps buying new, others second-hand. The spike in sales comes as the fashion industry is touting fur trims in their collection and from associations touting fur as natural, renewable and fashionable.
Fur has been worn for as long as humans have been around and the fur trade has been international for many centuries. Recent figures fromt the British Fur Trade show that in 2008, worldwide fur sales totaled $13 billion, employing nearly 1 million people worldwide.
Hong Kong remains the center of the fur trade, leading in the import and export of fine fur garments that brings in a total of $320 million annually. This is a bit surprising, as even now there are many rallies against the fur trade.
In fact, earlier in 2010, Israel had debated banning fur trade altogether. While fur only accounts for about $1 million of the textile trade in Israel, the bill would have sent a strong message to the fur company as well as other countries.
Other countries in Europe, such as Spain, have protested recently against fur as well holding a naked demonstration in Barcelona’s Plaza Sant Jaume. Even the US, while not banning fur altogether, is taking a stance on making sure fur is accurately labeled by passing the “Truth in Fur Labeling” legislation. This requires fur producers to properly label all the fur, including those whose value does not exceed $150.
Reportedly, China has been skinning domestic cats and dogs and using the fur to trim various clothes without claiming the material as fur due to the value loophole. According to the Humane Society of the United States, nearly 96 percent of fur-trimmed jackets were found to contain domestic dog, wolf or raccoon fur and were mislabeled or not labeled at all.
Despite these hits against fur, the trade has remained steady, even through economic instability. This is due to the reintroduction of fur as an extremely fashionable commodity. The Paris, New York and Milan Fashion Week all featured some form of fur. Nearly half of all the designers in the Fall 2010 fashion show included some form of fur: Carolina Herrara used fox, sable and mink, Marc Jacobs added fur fringe to bags and Zac Posen had his models wearing fur coats.
Unlike the bygone era of the ’20s and ’30s, fur has become increasingly available to a broader, less formal spectrum and more readily available to younger populations around the world. It has become something chic yet fun with the introduction of various techniques like knitted fur, laser-cutting and precision dying. Many who would otherwise not buy new have begun buying vintage not for the price, but because it offers a “guilt-free” exception.
For some people, while the fur trade might be considered barbaric, with vintage coats, the animal is already dead, and thus, in a way, buying vintage is simply reusing something that would otherwise go to waste. The British Fur Trade is touting natural fur as a responsible choice, citing that properly farmed and manufactured fur does less damage to the environment than faux fur. Properly maintained fur, like leather, can also last much longer than faux fur as it retains its durability and can be restyled over the years.
Even politicians are openly wearing fur, including Justin Trudeau (a Liberal MP from Montreal) who was shown with his entire family wearing fur-lined coats, covered in a fur blanket (made from coyote). While Trudeau states that the picture was not meant to be controversial, PETA immediately rebuffed the politician, citing the cruelty of the fur trade.
While there are many debates on both sides of the fur trade spectrum, the fact remains that in many countries, the manufacturing of fur can be incredibly cruel (PETA claims that in China the animals are skinned alive) and that overtrapping can lead to the endangering and sometimes extinction of these hunted animals.
While many trappers point out that some of these animals need to be hunted in order to fight against overpopulation, it is difficult to truly predict the ecological impact of trapping in the wild or even farm-raising animals for fur.
Photo credit: The Star