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Farewell, Fur: Why Fur Fashion Is Going Extinct

[RETHINK Retail] — For those who follow fashion choices from the Royal Family, Queen Elizabeth II has made a firm wardrobe decision. According to her senior dresser, Angela Kelly, who has worked for the Royal Family household for approximately 25 years, “If Her Majesty is due to attend an engagement in particularly cold weather, from 2019 onward, fake fur will be used to make sure she stays warm.”

Considering she is the Queen of the United Kingdom, one of the first countries to ban fur farming, this makes quite a bit of sense. In the U.K., fur was banned in 2000. Then came Austria’s fur ban in 2004. Even the European Union’s second largest mink producer, the Netherlands, plans to phase fur out by 2024. And other parts of the world are slowly lowering their demand for fur, too, including the United States.


Is the fur farm ban becoming the new norm?

In the United States, California enforces housing requirements for mink and foxes that make the costs of fur farming prohibitive. Additionally, New York State passed a law against the electrocution of fur animals. But even these trends were fairly recent: California, the first state to ban fur sales, didn’t happen until October 2019. The statewide legislation prohibiting both sales and production will start in 2023.

This came after West Hollywood became the first city worldwide to ban the sale of fur in 2011. Seven years later, San Francisco became the second city to do so. So it’s not surprising that California is the first state to ban all fur sales and production of new fur paraphernalia by 2023. (They voted to ban fur sales last month.) And judging from the attitudes of New Yorkers in a Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy poll this year, New York could be on its way to a fur ban, too.

So what does this mean for fur retail stores across the rest of the United States? While fur boutiques may be harder to find around town, local department stores may already be selling coats, gloves, hats and shoes made from the fur of foxes, rabbits, raccoon dogs and mink. In 2015, more than 4 million animals were killed in North America for their fur. But in places that the United States is trading with, that number shoots up significantly. One example of that is China, which was responsible for the killing of 60 million mink, 13 million foxes and 14 million raccoon dogs on fur farms in 2014.

While a map of fur locations may seem few and far between, there are still fur shops in states such as Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Texas and Wisconsin. So what happens once the fur ban is complete? Will faux fur become the go-to and get a significant sales uprising? It turns out that it already has.


How the faux fur market has changed retail 

Finding faux fur is not hard to come by. The who’s who in retail already sell faux fur at department stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus. And they’re doing it even though mink jackets could make as much as $8,000 each, fox-fur trim capes could sell for $4,000 each and a chinchilla jacket costs about $14,000.

According to the New York Times, the dismissal of fur sales means 34 fur vaults at Macy’s and 22 Maximilian Fur salons at Bloomingdale’s will permanently close by early 2021. Popular name brands such as Gucci already waved goodbye to fur in 2018 and signed up for the Fur Free Alliance, an international coalition of more than 40 animal protection organizations that work together to end the exploitation and killing of animals for fur. Michael Kors also made a similar decision last year, and Prada confirmed it will only sell what’s left of its fur collection and be done with fur sales, too.

But that doesn’t mean shoppers must give up the “look” of fur.

In a quote from Fur Free Alliance, designer Michael Kors stated, “Due to technological advances in fabrications, we now have the ability to create a luxe aesthetic using non-animal fur.”

And according to Gucci’s chief executive and president Marco Bizzarri: “Creativity can jump in many different directions instead of using furs.”

But are these department stores, brand names and state regulations making consumers’ decisions for them, or are they all generally on the same page? It seems to be the latter.


How the public views the fur ban

There is an internal argument going on that wearing faux fur still makes real fur seem fashionable. But that line of thinking just opens up a larger argument regarding “fake” items in general, including the popularity of “fake meat.” This year, there has been a major rise in sales for the Impossible burger, thanks to Burger King and White Castle’s. Some are elated about these vegan-friendly options coming to retail and restaurants, while others are not so impressed.

What cannot be disputed about either the food and fashion industry embracing faux fur and fake meat is this means less animal agriculture. In turn, this lowers the single largest source of methane emissions, which affects the environment. This will win over both animal-friendly consumers and eco-friendly consumers.

But for consumers who are still on the fence about owning something “real” versus something “faux,” the bigger deal is creating attractive, warm clothing and outerwear. And if quality faux fur can win over customers the way cruelty-free cosmetics is doing, that may be all it takes.