Luxury and Fur: Who’s In and Who’s Out?
Fur was once considered one of the most luxurious materials in the world. Today, for a growing number of high-end brands, it is out of fashion.
Last week, Moncler and Dolce & Gabbana joined a growing list of big brands that have introduced fur bans since 2016. Gucci declared the material “obsolete” in 2017, a statement that echoed the wave of commitments without fur. who followed. Gucci’s parent company, Kering, announced a group-wide fur-free policy in September, by which time Saint Laurent and Brioni were the only brands in its stable still using the material.
It’s a trend playing on broad market shifts, with falling demand, government bans and significant protests from animal rights activists making the decision easier. For many large companies, which often only used small volumes of fur anyway, the decision to ban the material is an easy public relations victory that dovetails with growing consumer interest in companies focused on on values and more concerned with sustainability.
Many big brands that haven’t implemented fur bans have a strong heritage linking them to the material.
At Kering rival LVMH, Stella McCartney is the only brand to have an explicit no-fur policy. His stablemates within the group include Rome-based Fendi, which started as a furrier in 1925, as well as Dior and Louis Vuitton, which regularly feature fur in their collections.
Yet the number of luxury brands taking a stand against fur is growing. A BoF analysis of 25 major luxury houses found only seven have yet to officially announce fur bans. Nearly half have proclaimed their commitment to ditch the hardware in the past five years.
Fashion’s relationship with fur has been complicated for a while. The high-profile activism and provocative campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s led by organizations such as the animal rights group PETA created a dominant dynamic around the anti-fur movement. Calvin Klein was one of the first names in fashion to announce a no-fur policy, banning the material in 1994 following targeted protests from PETA. Stella McCartney launched her label in 2001 with a cruelty-free fashion policy, i.e. without leather or fur, while major American brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren banned the material in the mid-2000s.
The latest wave began around 2016, fueled by shifting visions of what luxury meant. “It was no longer about tradition, it was more about being sustainable, ethical and innovative,” said PJ Smith, director of fashion policy at the Humane Society, a US charity for good. -being animals, which has worked with brands such as Dolce & Gabbana. , Gucci and Michael Kors are developing fur-free policies.
Retailers and regulators helped provide momentum. Department stores, including Nordstrom, Selfridges and Macy’s Inc., have all implemented a fur-free policy. California became the first US state to ban the sale of fur products in October 2019, and Israel the first country in June last year. Links between Covid-19 and mink farming led to a government-mandated cull in Denmark, one of the world’s largest producers of mink skins, which effectively wiped out production in the country.
In some cases, fur-free policies have been integrated into broader sustainability commitments. Burberry’s in 2018 was part of its response to public controversy surrounding its practice of destroying unsold products. Chanel banned fur that same year alongside a broader pledge to stop using exotic skins, citing difficulty in sourcing materials that meet ethical standards as the main reason.
Many companies that still use fur are seeking to combat negative perceptions around the material by increasing their efforts to make their fur supply chains more traceable and highlighting the potential sustainability benefits of the material (fur is natural and biodegradable, while fake alternatives are generally not, and some wild sources of fur, including coyote and beaver, are culled for conservation reasons).
LVMH said it aims “to provide a customer who wants to wear fur with a product that is made in the most responsible and ethical way possible.”
And while many other household brands have moved away from fur in the name of a new, modern approach to luxury, fur trade advocates say the material aligns with current consumer values like durability, lasting value and durability.
“If you talk about what matters today, for the consumer and for brands, they want to create qualitative things, they go back to classic investment pieces,” said Jean-Pierre Rouphael, fashion director at the International Fur Federation. “They don’t want to overproduce, they want to look at their archives and see what they can extract…and reuse.”
Disclosure: LVMH is part of a group of investors who together hold a minority stake in The Business of Fashion. All investors have signed shareholder documentation guaranteeing the complete editorial independence of BoF.