More Than Material
Updated: Feb 13, 2021
Fur: The Perfect Valentine's Day Gift
by Maurice Alexander
Image courtesy of Yaroslav Domnitsky
The biting chill of the January wind cause us to cling to embrace of coats and jackets of all materials; nylon padding, wool, goose-feathers- none of which compare to the warmth provided by fur. Fur was the fabric of choice for most of our history, from animal pelts utilised by pre-historic hunter-gatherers for protection against the elements, appearing in royal portraiture in the form of ermine capes and is typically an integral part of a nation’s traditional outfits, as with the sporran in Scottish highland dress. However, despite this continuous presence in our historical wardrobe, few, if any, will be wearing fur is one was to peer into window displays or glance at the clothing of commuters on the Highstreet.
The Recent Decline of Fur
The absence of this gorgeous material originates in the creative exhaustion of the world’s fashion houses paired with the activities of anti-fur activists in the mid-to-late 20th century. With fur falling out of fashion, people were neutral whether articles of clothing did or did not feature fur, allowing fur to be tossed out of our wardrobes via banning and restrictive legislation ushered in through emotive political motivations. However, the year 2020 marks two decades since we emerged from that century and it is time we leave to it the stigmas surrounding fur.
Perpetrated by the media, these negative connotations have been planted and flourished within peoples mind long after their relevancy. The principal stigma that needs addressing is the supposed misery that animals subjected to during their captivity in the fur-farming process. Again, I bring to your attention that we are live in the year 2020 in which the industries of developed nations are thickly laid with regulation to safeguard the quality of rights all involved.
Fur in the Modern Market
The British Fur Trade Association is working alongside ‘The International Fur Federation’ to launch a new industry standard of quality titled ‘FURMARK’, guaranteeing the fur supply chain is replete with animal welfare enforcement, using globally recognised standards of welfare and environmental sustainability. Integrity of the FURMARK programme is buoyed by three principals; science-based evidence being the motives for further industry protocols, third-party inspections independent of the governing fur-industry authority, the place of inspection or any other individual/institution who may have financial interests in omitting from the report activities incongruent to the FURMARK award standards, with the report itself being made publicly available for all to view. In essence, the 2020 FURMARK award programme aims to secure consumer confidence when purchasing fur products by fostering independent animal-welfare standards in the accomplishment and maintenance of fur traceability alongside full operational transparency in the supply chain.
The Double Standards of Critics
The moral argument against the use of fur as a clothing material because it results in the death of an animal. However, the death of an animal for our pleasure is not an outlandish proposal and is a part of our everyday lives. Despite the extensive media coverage of veganism, ‘The Vegan Society’ reports that the United Kingdom’s vegan population is composed of only six-hundred-thousand people. Not even 1% of the total population, this means that just over sixty-five-million people in Britain consume animal-derived products irrespective of overt media attention and tacit promotion. My rebuttal to the anti-fur moral argument that fur usage causes an animal’s death is that we rebuff these emotional concerns like we do with deaths resulting from our consumption of meat. End the double standard and indulge in all our fashion pursuits just as we do with our culinary desires.
A final word in the proposal of a fur-lined wardrobe is fur’s sustainability. Through measured and responsible breeding, fur is a purely natural resource produced independently of fossil-fuel chemicals like polyester, allowing products to last generations. Fur coats continue to be gifted from one generation to another, with coats and other articles of clothing from the Victorian era still capable of being worn today, permitting proper care and maintenance. As lustrous and soft from 1820 to 2020, fur is an environmentalist hidden ally. When your fur clothing eventually takes on a tired, hackneyed appearance warranting disposal, feel at ease that it naturally degrades into the ground unlike faux-fur, which is an enormous contributor to the micro-plastic epidemic. Fur ticks all the boxes for a resource that can provide a solution to the pressing issues of fast-fashion, oil-dependent materials and environmental pollution. These issues combined with faux-furs popularity in present fashion, now is the perfect time to make the leap from the faux to authentic.
Where and What to Buy
Fur on a student budget seems like an impossibility, but its all about knowing where to shop. Listed below are three items offered by Fursource, an online retailer providing a variety of garments incorporating American and Canadian fur of the highest quality with prices lower than typical European vendors. When visiting their website, www.fursource.com, ignore the garish, brightly dyed pieces. A general rule I have for fur is that it must be undyed and in possession of the natural hues of the animal in question. For myself, dyeing a coat, for which over twenty foxes perished, hot pink, electric blue or luminous yellow is disrespectful to those animals and the craft of a furrier. Let us now explore your soon-to-be favourite garments.
Red Fox Stroller Jacket
It is impossible to think of fur clothing and not promptly envision a stroller jacket. Shoulders swathed in blood-orange, the coat is a cascade of red fur flowing down to the wearer’s ankle. Its magnificence absorbs all the attention of the room; timeless, classy and luxurious, the sunset extravagance of this piece will make you memorable to everyone when attending events, parties and celebrations. Priced at £3,000, in the approach of Valentine’s Day, this ravishing coat would make the most fantastic gift for the one you love. A heart-warming backstory to her new wearable family-heirloom.
Leather mittens coated in a thick cloud of a rabbit fur. These are juxtaposed to the previous item, as fur is typically associated with luxury and the high prices items this commercial realm commands. With the historical status, popular media and quality of the material, it is understandable that this is stereotype persists. In actuality, fur accessories like these mittens are very accessible to the average person. Fur-lined products will always be priced higher than their synthetic equivalents, but you pay a higher price for fur’s lasting appeal and durability. Priced at £54, these hazel or silver rabbit-fur mittens would be the perfect gift for him; subtle, tame and exuding quality.
Eucalan Fur Cleaner and Brush Kit
Despite the wondrous, unsung qualities of fur, it does require a degree of low-level maintenance. This kit is an essential complementary purchase for all fur products and at £15, there is no excuse to not throw this in along with your newly purchased garments. The cleaning elixir is enriched with lanolin, a secretion made by wool-bearing animals, to promote health of the garment’s fur. Following the instructions, mix with water within the included spray bottle for ease of application before rinsing with warm water, brushing with the included brush and allowing to dry. The wire brush is designed to add volume to the fur’s fibres, ridding them dirt particles to keep the fur blossoming with health and vigour.
Image photographed by the author
Lastly, you do not have to seek out specialist vendors for fur clothing. You can augment any wardrobe item with a single animal pelt and the skill of a tailor. Speaking from experience, I purchased a standard, dark-brown, faux-leather jacket during the post-Xmas sales for £30. It came with a detachable collar made of felt in identical colour to the leather. Searching eBay ‘fox pelts’, I was presented with a bank of pelts to choose from. I purchased one from Lithuania for £35 and, upon its arrival, I brought both the jacket and the pelt to local Aberdeen tailor, ‘King’s Stitch’ of 326 King Street. The seamstress here possesses over thirty years of experience in the European fashion industry and her wealth of ability shows in her skilful alteration of clothing. I explained to her that I wanted the felt of the detachable collar to be replaced with the fox fur. A small fee of £18 and a three days wait, I was the owner of a jacket whose collar is a luxurious frame of vibrant reds and oranges. A total cost of £83, a fox pelt and the work a master seamstress have combined to provide me a beautiful faux-leather jacket, which due the inclusion of real fur, everyone assumes to be of real leather, and therefore appears much more expensive than my actual investment.
Image photographed by the author
Do not be put off clothes alteration by having to employ the talent and skill of a seamstress on the grounds of price. Most people never think of having clothes altered because of the impression that alteration is so costly that it is not worth contemplating. However, as you can see by my own example, clothes modification is very affordable, even for students, with the addition of fur to a garment to add a lasting impression of elite wear. Alterations are typically around the £15 range and if you were to procure a price list of tailors local to you, I am sure you would be surprised by the affordability.
Providing this brief history of fur, its numerous environmental benefits, updates on the present developments of the industry, showcasing of a few modern fur clothing items, and explanation on using pelts in reviving the appearance of your everyday clothing, I hope that this article functions as the start of your wonderful adventure in the world of fur.