London Fashion Week drops fur for first time

Un-fur-tunate: 85% of fur used for clothes comes from animals reared in fur farms. © Getty

Should wearing fur be banned? Today, models and designers from around the world will arrive in the capital city for London Fashion Week. For the first time ever, the event will be fur-free.

Fuzzy hats, dramatic scarves and coats to make Cruella de Vil swoon. On Friday, elite designers from across the world will descend on the capital for London Fashion Week. Unlike previous events, the British Fashion Council (BFC) says not a scrap of real fur will be seen on the runway in a world first.

Last week, Burberry became the latest in a line of major fashion houses to go fur-free. Gucci and Versace have made similar pledges.

While fur farming has been banned in the UK since 2000, it remains legal to import and sell fur goods. However, this summer two separate petitions calling for an outright ban attracted more than 500,000 signatures.

More than one billion animals — mostly rabbits, minks and foxes — are killed in fur farms each year. They are usually kept in small cages for all of their lives before being killed with gas or by electrocution.

This may sound like a lot, but the number of animals killed for fur is dwarfed by the estimated 56 billion farm animals killed for their meat every year, many of which live in dire conditions.

There is a growing push to use invasive species for fur. American minks are being culled in Scotland and huge rabbit populations have led to the extinction of several native species in Australia.

Some commentators argue that real fur is more sustainable than the alternatives. Faux fur is made from plastic spun into thread, which can take 1,000 years or more to biodegrade, often ending up in oceans and rivers where it harms marine life.

Once bought, a fur coat typically lasts for 30 years and may be handed down for generations. Faux fur, on the other hand, is likely to only last a few years before it needs replacing.

While fur is a luxury item, cheap fashion typically relies on foreign, low-paid workers. Sweatshop workers in Bangladesh can be paid as little as one US cent per hour to work 100 hour weeks in hot conditions with poor air quality.

As models prepare to don their faux fur for fashion week, should wearing fur be banned outright?

Not fur me

Of course, say some. The fur industry is monstrous. Animals are crammed into tiny cages and there is strong evidence that some are skinned alive, particularly in China. Now that humane alternatives exist there is no reason for the fashion industry to promote fur, especially as 95% of women say they wouldn’t buy it. There’s nothing beautiful about cruelty.

The anti-fur brigade is hypocritical, argue others. What is the difference between wearing fur and eating meat, or sitting on leather seats? Battery chickens and dairy cows, for example, suffer at least as much as the average animal farmed for fur. Besides, the environmental impact of faux fur could be disastrous. At least real fur is natural.

You Decide

  1. Should there be a blanket ban on fur?
  2. When is it wrong to kill animals?

Activities

  1. Draw your own outfit for London Fashion week, labelled with the fabrics you would use. Underneath, write a paragraph on why you would choose to use fur, faux fur, leather or no animal products at all.
  2. Write two letters. One from an anti-fur campaigner encouraging the government to introduce a total ban on fur. The other from someone who is pro-fur defending the fur trade.

Some People Say...

“There is no better designer than nature.”

Alexander McQueen

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The British Fashion Council has confirmed that London Fashion Week, which begins on Friday, will be completely fur-free for the first time. Fur farming is illegal in the UK, but the sale and wearing of fur is not. MPs called for a ban on the sale of real fur to be considered in July after it emerged that some high street retailers were selling real fur wrongly labelled as fake.
What do we not know?
It is difficult to know the truth about practices in the fur farming industry because most statistics come from either trade groups that rely on fur or animal rights groups like PETA, both of which can be biased. There are reports of cruelty to animals, such as live skinning, but supporters say the reports are exaggerated by animal activists.

Word Watch

London Fashion Week
Takes place twice a year in February and September. It is where designers showcase their creations for the following year.
Scrap
The BFC surveyed designers and found that none who are attending the fashion week are including fur in their designs.
Dire conditions
Chickens make up the vast majority of farmed animals. Free-range accounts for just 5% and organic for 1% of UK chicken meat production. The rest are intensively farmed in huge sheds with roughly 17 chickens per square metre. Dairy cows are artificially inseminated every year so they are constantly producing milk, but their calves are removed and often killed for veal meat.
Invasive
A species that has entered an area it is not native to, and whose introduction disrupts the local ecosystem and threatens native species.
Plastic
Typically made from polymeric fibers that are processed, dyed and cut to match a specific fur texture and colour.
Sweatshop
A factory or workshop, especially in the clothing industry, where manual workers are employed at very low wages for long hours and under poor conditions.

Subjects