THE EVOLUTION FROM FUR TO FAUX
Retailers desire new innovation that yields the greatest profit. The simple concept is the driving force for retailers to shift towards the elimination of real fur products. Companies hope that switching to faux fur will contribute to sustainability efforts and spark the demand for furless fashion.
Initiatives towards using alternatives to fur are becoming more common. Ethical brands are eager to transition to these products. The sustainability efforts draw the attention, and sales, of mindful consumers. Both luxury and accessible brands shifting to faux fur put pressure on other companies to follow suit. Without Armani’s decision to go faux, perhaps Gucci may never have followed. Such a ripple effect is a powerful force for industry-wide changes. Needless to say, the most basic of faux fur coats begin below $100, while real fur ceases to offer accessibility. When it comes to authentic animal fur, it is luxury or bust, meaning a large price tag.
Besides shifting brand ambition, even faux fur itself is evolving. The fur fabric itself is composed of yarn, but its manufacturing varies greatly. Recent innovations in the development of synthetic fur allow for faux coats that directly resemble luxurious real furs. To most, distinguishing between an ethically sourced alternative fur and true fur is nearly impossible. Faux fur resembles both the look and feel of real fur. Without appearance-based incentives to purchase real fur, consumers are left with a luxury feel and social purpose.
Brands like Gucci are leading the way with their efforts. Marco Bizarri, the current CEO of Gucci, noted “technology is now available, [which] means you don’t need to use fur. The alternatives are luxurious.” The change in brand thinking is integral in driving luxury towards sustainability. Put simply, there is no need for animal fur. Gucci’s prioritization of safe business practices over their bottom line is noteworthy. “Being socially responsible is one of Gucci’s core values” noted Bizarri upon the release of their first furless launch in the Spring-Summer Collection of 2018.
Despite Gucci’s dominating revenue for French group Kering, they were one of many luxury labels in the wake of its impact. By closing their storefronts and production facilities while continuing to pay employees, the virus delivered a direct hit to their sales. In the first quarter alone, they faced a 23% revenue decrease. As 37% of Gucci’s sales come from Asia, this is no surprise. In the early months that compose 2020’s first quarter, the Coronavirus devastated the Asain economy. It challenges the prior $10 billion estimate by the end of 2020, though it is too soon to evaluate firm revenue estimates. Gucci’s decision was tactical. They lost short term sales due to a decrease in both international tourism and national health. It was the price paid to sustain their ethical message – and their brand too. The health of their employees is crucial for a smooth recovery from financial turmoil, while factory closures satisfy mandatory protocol. Their decision to promote faux fur, even given the dilemmas of Covid-19 speaks volumes about the company’s ethical commitments. Even in the hardest of times they consistently prioritize their brand’s values.
Celebrities have recently been publicly supporting luxury labels in their mission to eliminate fur from their brand. This January, Lizzo appeared in a dreamy white monochromatic look at the Grammys. Alongside her $2 million Lorraine Schwartz jewels and crystal Versace gown, she wore no other than faux fur. Standing on the global stage she unapologetically supported this faux fur ensemble. The sparkling diamond jewelry proved finances were clearly no object; she elected to accent her look with alternative fur because of the ethical implications. Her choice is a further testament to faux fur’s recent desirability. Celebrities like Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, and Bella Hadid also have been supporting the trend, incorporating alternative fur in their street style looks.
Accessible brands are also engaging in conscious fur practices. Zara and the Inditex group adopted sustainable fur in 2015, and they are accompanied by countless others. For Joshua Schulman, CEO of Coach, “the decision to go fur-free [was] a truly meaningful milestone for the brand”. Baby steps towards sustainability – often beginning with ruling out fur use – provide a refreshing sense of hope for the rest of the fast fashion industry.
I, for one, applaud luxury labels for their fresh spin on fur. A positive movement that not only generates profit, but has an incredible real-world impact. Ironically, the fashion powerhouses that previously anchored their industries to obsolete standards are driving competition in a new direction. With a new generation of buyers, shoppers, and a positive-business minded youth, the future is looking upward. Covid-19 has given many brands the opportunity to consider their ethical impact. Many brands continue to use their positive influence as they redefine fur – and eco-conscious – space on a global scale. Gucci, Coach, Zara, keep it up!