As temperatures plummet in many parts of the Northern hemisphere, it is time to focus on one of the more controversial and divisive topics: whether it is green to wear fur.
When I was growing up in Russia, wearing fur was simply what everyone did in winter. As a little girl I had a fur coat – a modest one made out of sheepskin. By the time I was finishing high school, I was dreaming of a mink or sable number as seen on glamorous ladies like Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago.
It wasn’t until I moved to Switzerland in my twenties that my by then two furry possessions – a short white coat and a vintage stole – got banished to the back of the wardrobe.
Thanks to highly publicized animal rights campaigns like PETA’s ‘Rather Go Naked’, featuring a host of celebrities, fur was a big no-no and wearing it would instantly turn one into a Cruella de Vil.
In her 2009 interview with The Guardian, PETA president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk asks: “If you stop seeing animals as handbags, hamburgers or amusements, if you see them as fellow animals and you know that they feel joy and pain and all the same things we feel, how can you kill them for fur?”.
Besides, by then I started working for a highly respected international environmental organisation. Surely, wearing fur was incompatible with being green?
Well, the answer depends on what exactly your interpretation of ‘green’ is.
If you object to wearing fur for moral reasons, that is a choice I totally respect. In this case, I would also suggest that you be consistent and avoid leather shoes and bags, and become a vegetarian, or even a vegan.
If, however, you accept that humankind can kill animals – be it for food or for fashion, as long as animals are treated humanely, then you are mostly concerned with animal welfare and the so-called sustainable use principle, which ensures that species we consume do not go extinct in the wild.
According to the International Fur Trade Federation, the majority of fur is farmed and around 15% comes from abundant wild populations. Since 2006, the Origin Assured™ label is given to fur producers that have demonstrated a commitment to transparency and high standards of animal welfare.
Finally, if you are among the so-called zero-carbonistas, consumers primarily concerned about the impact of their choices on our planet’s climate, then real fur does seem to be a more climate-friendly option than fake fur, which is made essentially from oil. For the pros and cons of real vs fake fur, read this wonderful blog by The Green Lantern.
So as fur is making a major fashion comeback, where do I stand on the issue?
Ideally, I would like to see someone follow in the footsteps of UK’s Suzanne Lee who last year invented a “vegetable leather” fabric made using bacteria, green tea, sugar and yeast, and to come up with an equally glam-and-green idea for fur.
In the meantime, I don’t think I will be buying any new real, or fake, fur garments this season. However, I will take my vintage fur stole for a professional clean. Just in case.