Sustainable Style

Farewell to Fur

Should you ever buy fur, and if so, what kind? Let us ponder the questions.

By - Mar 5th, 2014 11:49 am
Vintage fur vest. Photo by Corleen Heidgerken (

Vintage fur vest. Photo by Corleen Heidgerken

I recently had a planning meeting for my next fashion event, and I mentioned to my team that I would be transforming vintage fur coats into various accessories for the show. Knowing I am an environmentalist who tries to always stress sustainability in my studio practices, a collaborator asked, “Why fur?” He saw right through me, leaving me to worry, am I turning into one of those materialistic people? OH NO!

So I posed the question to my Facebook friends through the infamous “group survey Facebook status.” The answers were terrific and informative and came in from hunters, fashion designers, animal activists, and more. I have an eccentric collection of friends. Here are some thoughts and opinions I formulated from their suggestions.

I support fur in a few capacities, for hunting, vintage fur, and cold weather clothing. As for hunting itself, a story in Forbes recently note that  “The rapidly rising population of white-tailed deer pose a more significant threat to forest habitats across the eastern United States than global warming, according to a new study by The Nature Conservancy (TNC).” Other overpopulating species are rabbits and raccoons. That certainly makes a case for hunting, but the origin of over population is the fact that humans largely reduced animal habitat and various predators of these species. So is the solution to a problem we’ve created to slaughter yet another species or to reintroduce timber wolves into their native habitats and replant the forests? A complicated question. So, while I myself am not wielding a gun, thank goodness, I don’t have a better solution other then allowing hunters to be a part of it. I’m going to stay neutral and scratch my head until a better answer comes along.

Fur Covered shoe from repurposed fur coat. Photo by Corleen Heidgerken (

Fur covered shoe from repurposed fur coat. Photo by Corleen Heidgerken

As the temperature plummets, the question arises, is fur a necessity when it comes to truly insulated clothing? One alternative is synthetic materials, but I am trying to purge my life of them. This is a New Year’s resolution of mine. Probably 50 percent of my t-shirts still contain synthetics, but I promise I’m trying. So the struggle becomes synthetic durable shell jacket vs. skin of an animal, decisions, decisions. “Cotton and wool are the best solutions,” I say as I zip up my Patagonia 100 percent polyester winter coat. I’m working on a hypocrite tattoo…

Back to fur. Animal rights activists support faux fur as a replacement. As Ashley Palmer of PETA puts it, “In my mind, buying faux fur sends the message that there is a market for that particular product, and buying it may encourage designers to incorporate faux—rather than real—fur into their collections.”

But here’s the problem with faux fur: unless it is 100 percent cotton faux fur, you’re a supporter of synthetic fur, which implies fossil fuel and plastic consumption through production, packaging, shipping, and merchandising. This directly leads to the further contamination of natural water habitats. Which means in a long convoluted way that in supporting synthetic fur you are a supporter of poisoning aquatic life, which seams very hypocritical for PETA. It isn’t easy living inside of my brain. Buying cereal I ask myself, “How many people had to die for you to have a little Snap Crackle Pop in the morning?” But I digress. What Ashley actually meant was “100 percent cotton faux fur.” The eco-fashion writer Green Gretchen does an INCREDIBLE job discussing “cotton fur” and even gives a few great trendy items that have this lovely material. You can read her article here.

Fur collar re-purposed trim from fur coat. Photo by Abe Van Dyke (

Fur collar re-purposed trim from fur coat. Photo by Abe Van Dyke

I worry about the “cycle of influence” on the fashion industry that can occur. If self-loathing fur lovers like me crack under the pressure and involve themselves with vintage fur, and other less worried individuals take the side of faux fur, this sends a message to high-end designers that fur is trending, quite possibly pushing them to incorporate real fur or faux fur into their collections. Then this will trickle back down to street fashion.

So what is the solution in all of this furry nonsense? Donate all of your vintage fur to the humane society. That’s right. They can use it for cages for young animals they are rehabilitating. It makes them feel safe and calm. When their scent transfers to the fur they will think they are with their parents. (Let’s all take a moment to collectively sigh a sigh of adorableness.)

As for me, my next show will be the last hurrah for the incorporation of fur in my projects. It’s vintage I promise.

As for you, dear reader, maybe you don’t care. If you do, I’d like to hear what you do with your fur, how you feel about it. Should we just be done with it?

My recommendation would be if you like fur and don’t want to stop wearing it, make any future purchases of 100 percent cotton fur. And share the word. The world can change one step — or one less fur, real or synthetic — at a time.

0 thoughts on “Sustainable Style: Farewell to Fur”

  1. Anonymous says:

    two plus decades ago, I bought a spectacular stroller length coat fashioned from skins of multiple racoons. Trimmed in beaver, it has a huge stand up collar to guard against wind and wicked weather.this winter, I have hardly had it off (even considered sleeping in it!. do I feel guilt about wearing it? R U kidding Timmy? I hope to be buried in it. Oh here’s a funny story for all you “vintage” fur fans. Two years ago I bought a silver fox coat at a resale shop. Made in Petosky, Michigan, believe it or not, the initials stitched to the inside lining, we my initials too..JAM. Long story short. I wasn’t out of the resale shop for ten minutes when it began shedding mountains of silver fox hair. I learned later that silver fox is the worst fur shedder of all. One website suggested that anyone owning a silver fox fur should store it in their refrigerator. Don’t you love it??

  2. Anonymous says:

    One more fur you Timmy…a friend of mine is from a family of Wisconsin mink ranchers. He says the Chinese pay $100.00 per pelt and prefer white mink pelts that can be dyed. Also speaking of PETA…they raided a mink ranch a few years back and released the mink into the surrounding countryside, where they likely died from exposure and starvation.

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