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Fashion goes fur free: is France falling behind the times?

By Céline Vautard


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Faced with increasing opposition to fur from the general public, more and more brands are withdrawing it from their collections, the most recent of these being Olivier Rousteing, artistic director at Balmain, who announced the brand was scrapping the animal product. But has France fallen behind its European neighbours on the subject?

According to a survey carried out in February 2019 by European research firm IFOP (Institut français d'opinion publique), 91 percent of French people said they were against selling fur. While fur it is still considered by many as being warm, luxurious and one of the most durable materials on earth, on the catwalk the question appears to be reaching a point of no-return with the withdrawal of fur from increasingly more collections.

The non-fur movement in the fashion industry

In particular, this new commitment for the fashion world echoes the increasing opposition by the general public to fur and to the cruel practices from which it often comes: the capture and gassing, electrocution or clubbing to death of animals on breeding farms. Some animals are also killed using metal clamp traps - a method that Canada Goose has been accused of using to trap coyotes for their fur used to embellish the collars of the parka coats of the Canada Goose brand. Many animals killed in this way day slowly of blood loss.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the United States recently told the association People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in the United States that, further to a complaint by the association relating to the advertising practices of Canada Goose, the latter had ceased to claim that its standards “ensure” that its suppliers do not mistreat the animals. At the heart of the design process, traceability is in fact not always possible.

Shocking images and videos, petitions, demonstrations by PETA, have been like electric shocks that for around three years have created a tidal wave movement in favour of the protection of animals in the fashion industry. As a result, Burberry, Chanel, Gucci, Versace, Maison Margela, Giorgio Armani among others, have all stated that they have stopped using fur.

A further addition to this long list is Olivier Rousteing, artistic director of Balmain, who recently announced in Vogue that the brand had put an end to the use of animal fur in its collections. “I took this decision about eighteen months ago. I had seen so many documentaries and reached a point at which I could no longer pretend that I did not know,” Rousteing said in a statement. “Now, suppliers are trying to ensure that false fur resembles real fur, and it’s crazy what they can create.”

French brands struggle to give up fur

In France, however, there are still very few big luxury brands that have taken a position on the subject. Synonymous with luxury, know-how and craftsmanship, in Paris fur still had a strong presence on catwalks in the Autumn-Winter 2019 collections. The following brands used fur:

Chanel, Dior, Guy Laroche, Hermès, Isabel Marant, Lanvin, Leonard Paris, Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent (according to the list released by the Centre National d’Information sur la Fourrure, the National Centre for Information on Fur).

With regard to animals being bred for their fur, no real figures seem to be available. “In France, there are a dozen mink-breeding farms as well as 25 rabbit fur breeding farms,” said PETA France. According to the Fourrure Française (French fur) website, certain furs, such as rabbit or lamb, come directly from animals that are consumed for their meat.

The powerful voice of French luxury fashion

Aimed at the luxury industry and supported by high fashion houses in France, the French fur sector is still important and has earned “300 million euros in revenue, a figure that remains stable,” according to Pierre-Philippe Frieh, spokesman for the Fédération Française des Métiers de la Fourrure (FFMF, French Federation for the Fur Profession), contacted by BFMTV.com in April 2019. “Exports alone represent 100 million euros, a figure that has been constantly increasing for 5 years,” he added. Although France is not a large producer of fur in the global scene, it nevertheless remains a leading light in the luxury world.

And what if the country, following the example of Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the Republic of Macedonia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Serbia and Slovenia, ended the production of fur? The message to the fashion world would certainly have an impact.

There still remains the matter of false fur. Is it a sustainable alternative? Produced from petrochemicals, it is still a big pollutant and is already posing some serious problems relating to biodegradability. And what if the wearing of fur in any form whatsoever was simply banned?

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR. Translated and edited by Huw Hughes.

Photos: Lanvin Silhouette, AH Collection 2019 (website) - "Wearefur" communication campaign, Fur Now 2019.

Faux fur
Luxury fashion
Sustainable Fashion