Glamorous, luxurious, tactile, warm, beautiful… no wonder we want to wrap ourselves in fur when the weather takes a turn for the arctic. Many of us prefer our fur to be faux, but the fashion for real fur waxes and wanes as debates about cruelty and ethics continue. Most of us eat meat and wear leather, after all. And what about vintage fur, isn’t it a shame to let it all go to waste? What of shearling and sheepskin, which seem exempt in general from the horror and scrutiny that other animal skins excite?
Modern faux fur does such a good job of recreating the real thing – and arguably improving on it, so sumptuously soft, warm and luxurious are many pieces, even on the High Street now – that there seems no need for animals to die for fashion in 2016.
Without doubt, fur is the fashion industry’s most divisive subject, especially at the top level – the international runways. From fox to mink, Milan was awash with fur for autumn/winter, from labels including MaxMara, Cavalli, Prada and especially Fendi. In contrast with Milan, London Fashion Week saw much less real fur, with 86 per cent of designers not using it, according to anti-fur campaigners Peta.
Having said that, LFW designers who did use real fur included Alexander McQueen, Amanda Wakeley, Anya Hindmarch, Burberry, Christopher Kane and Roksanda. Designers who used faux fur or no fur included Shrimps, Simone Rocha, Topshop Unique and Paul Costello. Interestingly, internationally, menswear seems to be using more real fur.
It’s difficult to understand why real fur is still being walked out on runways, although there are those who point out that at least some real fur these days is produced with ethics in mind, for example, in “kind” conditions or as a food industry by-product.
And there is debate, too, surrounding faux fur, which is often made of non-biodegradable synthetics such as nylon and polyester.
However, faux fur has come a very long way since the ’90s cheap and shiny fun fur atrocities. The label Shrimps uses a plush modacrylic blend to make its offbeat and ultra-cool coats, as seen on the likes of Alexa Chung. Across the High Street, faux fur trims have appeared on parkas, coats, jackets and knitwear, adding a real (okay, faux) touch of luxury to the season in a cool and contemporary way.
Faux fur is also being used to create impossibly glamorous and gorgeous looking old-school capes, jackets, coats and stoles. The only problem with them is that they do look like the real thing and therefore have the potential to cause looks of disgust as well as admiration.
As for sheepskin and shearling, well, perhaps because they are considered to be by-products of the meat industry, they don’t attract the same degree of controversy that, say, fox does. And it’s hard to argue with the cosy softness a chic sheepskin hat or opulent coat can bring on a chilly day. Especially if you’re just about to head off for a lamb Sunday roast.