Written by Felicia Roberts
Once upon a time people wore animal products because that was all they had to work with, later mink coats and fox fur scarves indicated wealth and status, and even now we tap around the office in pony skin mules to attract looks of approval from our colleagues.
Society’s love of furry fashion has always told a story of who we are, where we come from and who we want to be. How has that changed through the ages, and how do we see fashion and animals today?
Fur in fashion has proved to be a strong trend throughout history as it showed status and privilege, but as we’re having to ditch the fur to save the planet, has society’s perspective changed?
Fur coats and scarves have been a symbol of wealth for decades but that doesn’t mean it has always gone without criticism. As a young child I concluded wearing animals was wrong as I watched well-known Disney character Cruella de Vil (an evil entrepreneur who was costumed in fur) plan to trap and skin dogs for coats.
In the 1990s models, musicians and actresses would pose for PETA’s “Rather go naked than wear fur” campaign, yet once again we’re seeing a rise in popularity of animal fibres being used on catwalks and promoted by celebrities. This is surprising as both fast fashion and unethical materials have come up in regular debate now that consumers are more conscious with their buying habits.
At a time when global warming is rocketing and human activity is almost always detrimental governments are striving towards a more energy efficient world. For example, the Californian government have decided to ban fur to combat the continuous droughts in North America. As of the year 2023 selling and making garments or accessories that contain fur of animals will be illegal, carrying fines from 500 dollars and up.
According to the vegan society there were 600,000 vegans in the UK in 2018, that is 4 times more than in 2014. Data also showed that demand for meat free food increased by 987% in 2017.
With veganism on the rise animal friendly values are impacting the fashion industry too. Meaning more and more brands are ditching animal skins from their collections and finding new sustainable materials to work with. For example, Carmen Hijosa pioneered the idea of using pineapple waste to make a plant based alternative to leather that’s 100% better for the world because it is a by-product. By recycling and reusing natural substances we can save the fashion industry, the world and the animals.
This is a huge win for animal rights activists. It shows customers have a voice and are using it to protect animals from exploitation. One brand that brought out a vegan line is Dr Martens, since then the company has seen a 70% margin growth. These statistics reveal that veganism has a definite place in fashion which can no longer be ignored.
As fashion manufacturers are experimenting with innovative new ways to recreate the texture of animal fur and skin; which materials and techniques will become industry standard? Will it be the cheaper options like plastics that are harmful to the environment or will it be pineapple waste? We need to explore all options and find ways to make truly sustainable fashion accessible to everyone.