As a vegan and animal rights activist, I have always sided with materials that don’t originate from the animal, but what exactly are the main differences of real and fake fur, and what kind of impact do each of them have?
Mindset – Before we get into the pros and cons of real verses fake, it’s important to understand the mindset certain people may have towards fur. As somebody who works around the fashion industry, I know many people who are both for and against fur, and therefore have given me a good understanding of how some people perceive it.
Fur: For many people who wear fur, there are generally three main things that are present in their mindset, and they are: Exclusiveness, the fact the fur is generally regarded as premium, luxury or expensive and worn by only a select few. Rarity, the fact the animal in question may have in fact been difficult to acquire. And lastly, Statement, whether good or bad, the garment in question can attract a certain attention.
Faux: Some people believe fake fur to be a more ethical alternative whilst keeping the luxury ideals real fur possesses. Some believe faux to be more reasonably priced without loosing the key features of real fur. Or in some cases, they may feel as though they are making do, until they can afford the real thing, which is generally more expensive.
Environment – Surprisingly, the fur industry has recently changed its tune when it comes to the environment, generally to adhere more so the current trends and awareness most of it’s customers have. These days the fur industry will use terms such as “ethical, natural and responsible.” But let’s look at some of the pros and cons.
Fur Pros: Fur is generally considered natural as it can be sauced from the wild. It is also seen as a renewable resource, since the animal can breed naturally. Real fur has also been known to decompose very quickly if not over treated with preservatives, usually taking around up to six months.
Fur Cons: The fur industry still uses many harmful chemicals in the preservation process, such as formaldehyde, which can be toxic, especially when around the face. Contrary to belief, there have so far been no hard evidence to suggest that using trapped wild animals has any significant effect on population control. As is with the meat industry, land must be demolished for farmed fur to supply space for 1. The animals, 2. The food needed to keep them fed, and 3. To store the animal waste, which comes with it’s own set of problems. In order to keep farmed animals healthy during their short lives, antibiotics are used to help with this, though can increase the likelihood of antibiotic resistance and new strains of infections and viruses
Faux Pros: Wildlife is kept out of the equation and no animal is used in the production.
Faux Cons: As it is made from petroleum oil, fake fur can still be considered as a highly polluting material due to its production methods. The apparel Coalition places Acrylics as one of the top ten most polluting materials in production. Fake fur has also been known to take nearly 1000 years to decompose, and can even release plastic particles and chemicals into the oceans after each wash.
Ethics – As many of us know, Ethics are one of the most obvious aspects of the fur industry. But as always, these things have pros and cons.
Fur Pros: Though it is very much debatable, the use of fur has been linked to the control of pests to both wildlife and business owners.
Fur Cons: No matter how it’s done, an animal, whether considered a pest or not, has had to die for the sole reason of fashion. If companies really cared about ethics in the way they describe, they would not make it their priority to create clothing from pelts. Animals are treated viciously and are in most cases killed painfully to preserve the coat, usually by electrocuting or gassing.
Faux Pros: Fake fur has saved millions of animals’ lives since its creation. It can be argued also that the creation of faux has led to a new workforce requirement, and led to many new jobs both in production and design.
Faux Cons: As it is still rather polluting, much of the fake fur production comes from less developed countries, and therefore the jobs it has created can be considered underpaying and often unsuitable for health reasons.
Style and Material – A the end of the day, fur or faux, it all comes down to the final product, how it is worn and how it wears over time.
Fur Pros: Looks plush, full bodied and bouncy. Hair filaments appear thin, pointed and are abundant. Filaments lie uniformly and do not bend. Fur has a natural sway and retains its original form in most cases. Snow is less likely to melt and cause irregular body temperature. Can be easily died shaped.
Fur Cons: The hide can dry out and crack if not kept within an appropriate non-cedar wardrobe at a very specific temperature and darkness. Filaments can malt over time and create bald spots. Perfume odours can permanently stain the hide and create a rancid stench. Professional fur cleaners are required annually. Must be seen by a specialist immediately in the event of becoming too wet.
Faux Pros: Many cheap colour and texture options. Can easily be sewn into many garments. Is impervious to moths, and does not require cold storage to prevent deterioration. Many fake furs can be made from wool and sewn to other fabrics for a more natural look, though wool poses many of its own controversies.
Faux Cons: Can have a plastic-like shine. Mats easily and can clump and tangle. Flattens quickly and looses its fullness. Can look dry and stiff. Can look unnecessarily layered. Filaments lie sporadically and have a flat cut-off look at their ends. Not that insulating and does not allow the skin to breath well. Snow can seep to the base of filaments before it has a chance to refreeze, and can therefore interrupt body temperature regulation.
It seems there will always be arguments surrounded by that one little word fur. It creates controversy in many areas, and is always the centre of debate among the fashion lovers, the arctic explorers and the animal activists.
For vegans, such as myself, it is important to know about the pros and cons of both real and fake, as it helps to broaden the understanding of why the material is as popular as it is, and help to navigate the sometimes treacherous territory of a fur-loving world.