5 Observations of the Fur Industry

fur, mifur, milan, pelts, italy, fur industry, designers, fashion

Cobalt blue pelts on sale at Mifur.

If you read the blog on Friday or you follow me on social media, then you may know that I was in Milan two weeks ago for the Mifur tradeshow. I love being involved in the fur industry and this trip was confirmation of how amazing it is, but the trip also allowed me to gain a deeper insight into the fur world. Here are a few observations.

fur, mifur, milan, pelts, italy, fur industry, designers, fashion

New fur designers Emily Oldroyd (left) and Austin Louis Perry (right) had work on display at the IFTF stand.

1. There’s not enough young talent actively working in the field. The finalists of the Remix competition (see photos here) made garments that were innovative and interesting, but we don’t see enough of that on the shop floor. Of the brands selling at Mifur, there were a few with some interesting shapes (and blogger Lady Fur’s collection was all in all outstanding) but generally the garments were still targeting a more conservative consumer. Yes, I know that most people who buy fur are rich, and therefore not normally twenty year olds who wear trendy stuff, but I feel like the industry needs to really push young talent and innovation. I’d like to see the Remix competition finalists in jobs with the big furriers. That’s the only way we are going to get a younger consumer, and I believe it is possible to do that. If Saint Laurent can sell cheap looking dresses to young women for $2,000, a great furrier can sell a $4,000 fur/fabric jacket to a twenty-something. Well done to the IFTF for promoting the young talent through Remix and the designers on display on their stand, now the industry needs to integrate them.

fur, mifur, milan, pelts, italy, fur industry, designers, fashion

Ernesto Hinojosa’s gorgeous fur shoes.

2. There is still a fear of wearing fur. When I did my 100 Days of Fur experiment, I set out to prove that you aren’t going to get harassed if you wear fur. And I was right. But for some reason, there are people who still think they are going to get attacked if you wear real fur. I’d like to reassure you that this does not happen frequently. In fact, almost never. In my years working with the fur industry, I’ve only ever met two people who say they were bothered (verbal insults, nothing more), and they were both wearing foxes with heads on them. People need to understand that it is safe (and warm) to wear fur.

fur, mifur, milan, pelts, italy, fur industry, designers, fashion

Left: bright coloured fox pelts, and right, Pimp my Coat winner Nikoline Liv Andersen’s incredible fur detailing.

3. The pro-fur campaigners’ message is not as loud as it should be. In a day and age where people want to choose natural, local, and environmentally friendly products, fur is a great choice of material. Every time I sit down with students and talk to them about fur, they always leave with a more positive view of the industry. But there is still so much negativity. The positive message is getting out slowly, but I feel we are a long way off educating people about the benefits of fur. It boggles my mind how many people haven’t even considered the fact that it is hypocritical to eat meat and leather, and to be anti-fur. I should note that the industry has made great strides in the past decade, to educate people and promote fur in a positive light, but we still have a long way to go before people can accept wearing a mink is the same as wearing a sheep.

fur, mifur, milan, pelts, italy, fur industry, designers, fashion

Some modern fur jacket shapes I found at the tradeshow.

4. Fur is expensive. And it is worth it as it is an expensive material to produce and labour intensive to manufacture. But I feel that fashion brands (and note I didn’t say fur brands, because I feel this needs to come from fashion people) need to start using more economical fur techniques in order to integrate it into the industry at a more affordable price. Sure, we all love a chinchilla coat, but it is not practical and it is very, very expensive. There needs to be a middle ground between Canada Goose (which uses small amounts of fur and creates a very practical garment) and the big designer brands, who do beautiful, fashion forward fur pieces but at exorbitant price tags. I look forward to seeing innovation in this area and I want fur to find its way into people’s every day wardrobes.

fur, mifur, milan, pelts, italy, fur industry, designers, fashion

The must-have fur piece of the season: the chinchilla turtle.

5. The fur industry is small and friendly. This is rare in fashion. Working in a sector that is tight knit has been a wonderful experience. Both my trips to Milan and Copenhagen were fun and people welcome you with open arms. All of my time spent with the team of the Fur Council of Canada was amazing. From the farmers to the dyers to the manufacturers, this is a small industry made up of family businesses who support each other. I’m so happy to be a part of this.

P.S. If you are a young designer or in the fashion industry and keen on getting involved in fur, then you must join Fur Futures. It is a great resource and there are bursaries available for people wanting to do a fur related project or collection. Read more about Fur Futures and how to join here.

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  • ACH369

    So teaching students that “eating meat and leather (don’t think people eat leather, but they definitely do use it!) is hypocritical when they are also anti-fur…good for them, maybe they THINK about the end result of the fur industry, which is death…and maybe, hopefully, one day they will turn away from the use in any form of all animals. And why in the world do you think it’s okay to kill fur-bearing animals??? Do they have any less right to life than you???

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Lol – sorry, yes, you are right. People don’t eat leather. As for the rest of your comment, I’m sorry but I don’t think it is bad to use animals if it is done responsibly and humanely. I’m not interested in leading a vegan life, and I think that using the resources from the earth is fine as long as we don’t waste them and as long as we do it sustainably and without cruelty. 97% of North Americans consume animals in one way or another, and I am one of them.

  • ACH369

    Hello, Alexandra…thank you for your reply…I do wish that you would answer the questions I asked of you…why do you think it’s okay to kill fur-bearing animals, and do they have any less right to life than you? The issue here wasn’t about being vegan, but about the unnecessary use of fur from an animal that owes us nothing…I know you think differently, but I think it’s extremely cruel to take a life just so we can wear the animals fur…and in this blog, wearing fur ONLY has to do with fashion, as I see it. Regardless of what percentage of people consume animals, killing one for greed and vanity is absolutely not right. Please explain to me why it is that you feel the way you do…I don’t mean this in a bad way to you, I just really want to know from someone who feels as you do. Thanks!

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    You are right that this is a fashion blog, but we all need to wear clothes and one of the themes I sometimes explore is the ethics and sustainability around the clothing we wear. Everyone who lives in a seasonal country where it gets cold NEEDS cold weather clothing. What can you wear? Wool? That is from animals (who are not treated very well.) Synthetics? Made from oil. Fur? Dead animals – yes – but a very sustainable, eco-friendly, and often local industry. Needing a coat for winter is not vanity or greed. We need to keep warm when it is cold, and that’s why I wear fur and wool over petroleum based synthetics.

  • alan

    In response to your comment (#3) that the fur trade’s messages about responsible use of nature are not being heard, check out the brand-new North American fur-trade portal: http://www.TruthAboutFur.com.