The ethical battle over fur has finally hit menswear labels

Fur has become a divisive issue in fashion. Now, it's menswear that has become the latest ethical battleground among luxury brands.

Way back in 1994, Calvin Klein was well-ahead of the curve when they announced they would go fur free. Nearly 30 years later, other brands adopting a similar stance.

Last October, Gucci and Michael Kors announced they were quitting fur. They joined other luxury fashion houses who refuse to use including Armani, Bottega Veneta, Hugo Boss, Lacoste and Vivienne Westwood, all severing ties with the traditional fabric.  

Furla and Maison Margiela's Creative Director John Galliano recently pledged they will quit fur, but it has still appeared in recent collections.

Supply and demand

On the other end of the spectrum, brands who show no sign of giving fur up include Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, and Dolce & Gabbana – where the animal fur is a mighty force in their winter storytelling and this season is no exception. Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger have also disassociated, but but Silvia Venturini Fendi, says the Fendi brand (who's double 'F' motif stands for fun fur), is undecided.

"It really is a complicated issue, mainly ethically, but also because there is a large industry at stake," she confessed in an interview in 2016.

"Perhaps one day the entire world will become vegan, and we won't do fur anymore. Maybe one day we will change our habits. Why not? But when people still eat meat and wear leather…"

But brands alone aren't to blame when there is an audience to wear it, with some of the most prominent men in the world rocking the odd mink, including 50 Cent, Kanye West and Jay Z.

Faux claims

Burberry now has a disclaimer on its site regarding the use of fur – indicating it is sourced without cruelty (for example animals aren't awake when skinned and they say no to industrial farming), but for organisations like PETA that's not good enough.  

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Designer Tom Ford, who apparently became vegan last year, says he's more drawn to using fake fur in collections but hasn't committed to fur free just yet.

"I'm also very torn about this because fake fur is terrible for the environment," he told The Independent recently.

"People think of fake fur as a disposable thing. They buy it, they wear it a few seasons, they throw it away, it doesn't biodegrade. It's a petroleum product. It is highly toxic.

"A fur coat gets recycled. People wear them for 30 years, they give them to their kids, then they turn them into throw pillows."

Since he took over as creative director at Gucci in 2015, Alessandro Michele declared the fashion house would go fur-free from SS18. Gucci now joins the Fur Free Alliance which focuses on the deprivation and cruelty suffered by fur bearing animals both in wild trapping and industrial fur farming.

They've also promised to charity auction remaining animal fur items with proceeds to benefit Italian animal welfare group LAV and the Humane Society.

At store level

These days you'd be hard pressed to find fur in department stores like Myer and David Jones – it's simply not stocked in men's or women's collections in Australia. Online retailer Mr Porter have snubbed it but luxury second hand sites like Vestiaire Collective and The Real Real do sell it in abundance.

According to Harrolds Managing Director Ross Poulakis, there's less demand for fur in Australia and more interest in exotic skins– with crocodile, python and watersnake the most popular.

"We find that exotic leather goods perform really well across the men's side of the business," says Poulakis who says Tom Ford and Stefano Ricci are the ones to watch for menswear in AW18.

"Years ago, we would have a one-off fur piece on offer due to the exquisite quality of the garment, however, in menswear I don't believe there is a demand for it particularly given our warm climate," says Poulakis.

What's to come

With such a large number of designer's turning their back on fur, Poulakis says it means faux could ultimately take its place.

"With new technologies being developed, faux furs are being created in a very high quality where the difference between that and the real thing are barely noticeable," he says.

"Stella McCartney is definitely the driver of this, but you will be seeing these pieces from Tom Ford next season as well."