Consumer approval of fur has waxed and waned over recent decades but some developments in 2017 suggest that it could finally have been dealt a death blow. I say could rather anything more definite because, after all, we’ve seen fur fade before now, only to mount a comeback. Clever marketing directly to designers by fur producers, and an ultra-luxury sector run riot, created a much more sympathetic environment for fur earlier this century.
But in 2017, Gucci announced it would go fur-free, as did Michael Kors. The move from those two labels is particularly significant, as the most influential of today’s influencer labels, anything Gucci does is big news. Its about-face is an example of an ultra-luxe brand completely turning its back on a continuing revenue stream and so shows just how much the industry’s thinking has changed in a relatively short period of time.
Meanwhile the decision from a name as big as Michael Kors is also headline-grabbing and certainly makes good commercial sense. Certainly, Kors, along with its new baby Jimmy Choo, makes ultra-luxe fashion for a customer who we might assume is really OK with fur. But it’s a business much more focused (through its bags and watches) on the average-income Millennial consumer who’s resolutely anti-fur.
There’s another point to note too. In announcing Gucci’s fur-free policy, CEO Marco Bizzarri mentioned the recent improvements in faux fur materials. Let’s face it, faux fur used to be, well, pretty crap. Today though, there are fully synthetic options and natural materials such as mohair that do a great job of making faux feel fabulous. Prada showed that this winter with its fur-trimmed coats that were available with either a real or faux fur trim. The faux versions certainly didn’t feel like second best (and at £3k+ they weren’t priced as second best either).
So where does that leave fur/faux fur for pre-fall 18? Very much in the spotlight, it seems. Yes, there’s some real fur around but those labels showing it are under siege and with high-profile luxury peers saying they can do very well thank you without it, the pressure’s on. Don’t expect Fendi to go fur-free any time soon (it’s a fur specialist after all) but we can look forward to many more fur-free announcements from other big names in the year ahead.
We can also look forward to fur fashion statements that are all about faux. Most of the fur headlines for pre-season are being grabbed by faux and the more fake the better. It may be ironic that just as faux materials do a much better job of looking real, the trend is for them to look a lot more like fun imitation furs. In fact, even some furs that might just be real are doing a very good impression of synthetics this time, perhaps subconsciously tapping into the anti-fur trend that’s currently riding high.
Does this leave the likes of Peta anything left to protest about when it comes to fashion? Of course it does. Campaigns are ongoing around ‘exotic’ skins, such as snake and crocodile, and frankly, the alternatives to these are even more convincing than faux fur is. Watch this space…