Can you greenwash fur?

AA Gill, a journalist who likes to give the appearance of courting controversy whenever he possibly can, has been to Denmark and looked into the resurgent fur trade.  His article in June 26th’s Sunday Times Magazine is not suitable for the sensitive animal lover.  Gill isn’t fond of mink as a creature and is somewhat graphic about the killing and skinning part of the process.

Whatever you feel about animal welfare in recent months its becoming apparent that we are clearly witnessing a clever campaign on the behalf of the fur industry finally to stage a turnaround in the world of fashion as far as fur is concerned.

Fur has suffered in the UK.  It went from a highly desirable status symbol to a garment people feared to wear in case someone threw something at them.  The turning point of the anti-fur lobby’s campaign was the well publicised film made in the mid eighties with the slogan “It takes over 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat, but only one to wear it”.

Quietly though it seems to be making a comeback. 

I personally don’t wear real fur.  I do wear leather and eat meat.  I don’t want to get into the arguments on morals or ethics of any of that here, but rather to look at the marketing effort.

The pro-fur lobby is producing a range of arguments about the fur.  They include that it is possible to farm mink commercially and responsibly, subject to veterinary guidelines ie compliance.  That nothing is more desirable than of real fur ie sensory.  That mankind has been wearing fur for millennia ie authenticity. 

The most interesting and unexpected twist is the greenwash argument – some would say propaganda.  The fur lobby is explaining to the world that compared to fake fur, real fur is biodegradeable, doesn’t involve as many chemical processes and is therefore much more ecologically friendly.

Whilst I don’t believe anyone is proposing a return to the wearing of the fur of rare animals (I haven’t seen mention anywhere of real leopard in any of the arguments), there is a softening of attitudes of all generations certainly visible in the media.  Many high end designers are using fur again, and the fur lobby is providing fashion colleges with the raw materials to encourage them to experiment.

The Sunday Times article says that global fur sales reached $14bn in 2010, up 71% since the end of the 1990s.   These are big numbers although with the average price of a new fur coat at several thousand dollars this isn’t as many units worldwide as it might sound.

If the trend continues it will be one of the most complete marketing turnarounds.  Google is the place to watch I think.  Search for “fur coat” online today and faux fur dominates the rankings.  Nothing from the anti-fur lobby is visible.  Let’s watch this space and see if real fur does enter the UK mainstream.

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