Supporters call it "natural" and "sustainable." Opposers say it's cruel and inhumane. But whichever side you fall on, there's no denying that fur had a major presence on the fall 2013 runways this past month, being hailed as one of the biggest trends for next season.
Striped, dyed, embossed, and manipulated, the sheer amount of real animal fur we saw this fashion month was more overwhelming than we remembered from seasons past. We scoured through every single photo of every single collection that walked this season and found that a startling 70% of the designers who showed during fashion month used fur in at least one look. Several collections, including those by Altuzarra, Marc Jacobs, and Louis Vuitton, incorporated fur into over 20 looks. Others still, like J.Mendel, Marni, and Giambattista Valli, used fur in more than 30.
And then there was Fendi. Karl Lagerfeld apparently had some fuzzy vision happening while designing the Italian label's fall line: Every single look from the 40+ piece collection featured multiple instances of fur usage, including (but certainly not limited to) coats, handbags, sunglasses, shoes, and even mohawk-esque hair pieces made of dyed fox. Needless to say, there were zero PETA pie-ings reported.
So is it safe to say that fur has finally fallen back into favor? Wearing fur has always been a hot button issue. Once considered the most regal and luxurious of materials, the animal rights movement first brought attention to the alleged wrongdoings of the fur trade in the late 1970s. In that same vein, the Internet age has beckoned an onslaught of viral anti-fur videos showing the horrific living (and dying) conditions of innocent animals skinned alive for their pelts--inspiring a new generation to think anti-fur. Veganism, more prevalent than ever amongst health-freaks and animals lovers alike (see: Anne Hathaway), promotes a lifestyle completely devoid of eating--or wearing--anything that once had a face. Not to mention the city of West Hollywood, California's historic ban on the selling of fur products, slated to go into effect this September.
According to Keith Kaplan, executive director of the Fur Information Council of America, the case against fur is due mostly to a lack of education--and the fashion world is at the forefront of changing those misconceptions. "Designers have done their homework," he told us via email. "They have come to recognize that the fur industry is committed to the humane and responsible treatment of animals and that no industry is more highly regulated at local, national, and international levels."
Kaplan went on to describe fur as an eco-friendly option, calling it a "natural, renewable, biodegradable resource"--and thus a smarter choice than synthetic fur, which he says is petroleum-based, non-renewable, and manufactured in such a manner that "releases harmful chemicals into the atmosphere."
Furthermore, "fur has a unique and unparalleled richness and texture that even the best of faux cannot replicate," says Kaplan--which may explain why Marc Jacobs chose to show almost cartoon-like, stuffed animal-looking stoles for fall, made of very real animal fur.
Of course Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour has made no secret of her penchant for the real stuff and is often credited with introducing it back into fashion. Countless verbal and physical attacks from anti-fur protesters (including a raccoon carcass-bombing during dinner) haven't dissuaded the first lady of fashion from using it in her editorials since she began her rein in the late '80s.
But were the fall runways a sign of the fashion industry going green, or something more sinister? PETA's Danielle Katz told us that fur-friendly designers, such as Karl Lagerfeld, "use dead animals for shock value" and that, as far as the general public is concerned, "fur remains as popular as a cold sore."
Katz could be on the right track about the latter. After all, it was our shock at the prevalence of fur at shows like Lagerfeld's Fendi that lead us to investigate fur's current social standing in the first place. As for the public's opinion, is the general populace really looking for a tube of Abreva big enough to wipe out the fur industry--or is the fashion industry simply responding to society's fever for fur?
We consulted data polling site Gallup.com for the cold, hard, fur facts. Gallup's most recent survey on the subject, conducted in May 2012, asked participants whether they considered wearing fur morally acceptable. Of the 1024 people included, a resounding 60% saw fur as morally acceptable--a 4% increase from the same poll taken one year earlier. However, in 2012, only 35% believed fur to be morally wrong--a 4% decrease from the 39% who were totally anti-fur in 2011.
There are of course, as with any poll, various factors at play here, including the age, education, and income of the participants. But if these numbers say anything, it's that fur's approval rating has only increased in the past year--and the fashion industry, per usual, is totally in tune.
But what say you? Will you be clamoring for real-fur everything next season and turn your cheek at your house pets' third cousins, or would you rather save the animals but potentially upset Mother Nature in doing so? Can there ever be a middle-ground when it comes to fur in fashion? We want to hear what you think.
Click through for a by the numbers breakdown of fur shown on the fall runways.
Fall 2013 Fur by the Numbers
• Most fur in a show: Moncler Gamme Rouge, 47 of 48 looks total • Second place: Fendi, 41 out of 41 looks • Most furry fashion week: Milan, 86% of shows • Least furry fashion week: London, 61% of shows • Number of collections showing giant fur mittens: 2 (Alexander Wang and Altuzarra) • Most unusual fur: Kangaroo, Cushnie et Ochs • Most Easter-friendly fur: Lamb and rabbit fur blend, Tribune Standard