Jessica Scott-Reid is a Winnipeg-based writer and animal advocate. She is also a co-host of Canadian animal law podcast, Paw & Order, produced by Animal Justice.
Marissa Freed has been immersed in the fashion world for as long as she can remember. She grew up on the factory floor of Freed & Freed International Ltd., a 100-year-old Winnipeg-based outerwear company of which she is now CEO and creative director. Since taking over the leadership role formerly held by her father, grandfather and great-grandfathers, Ms. Freed has ushered the company into a new age of fashion. For the mother of three, who now lives in Toronto, that means no longer using real fur in her signature line. “I think fur is over,” she says. “I hope fur is over.”
I think fur is over, too. And we’re not the only ones.
In 2018, Donatella Versace told The Economist’s 1843 magazine that her brand would cease using fur. “Fur? I am out of that,” she is quoted as saying. “I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.” The brand made good on that statement by the following year.
Over the past five years, fur fashion has grown increasingly unpopular in the Western world, as consumers become more aware of the cruelty involved in its production, and as faux fur products greatly improve in look and warmth. High-end designers such as Gucci, Prada and Giorgio Armani, along with major retailers such as Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bloomingdales, have all made public commitments to ditch real fur. The state of California even passed a ban on the sale of new fur products, effective 2023.
Then in late June, after years of pressure from grassroots animal activists around the world and groups such as PETA, Direction Action Everywhere and Animal Justice, outerwear brand Canada Goose finally jumped on the bandwagon. The company announced it would cease selling items with fur – including its signature coyote-trimmed hood, produced by trapping coyotes in painful leg-hold traps – by the end of 2022. On the same day, Canadian retailer Holt Renfrew announced it too would phase out selling fur. Soon after, Neiman Marcus Group also committed to eliminating fur products, as did the outerwear brand Moose Knuckles Canada.
“There is so much momentum now, like I have never seen before,” says Lesley Fox, executive director of The Fur-Bearers, a Canadian charity that works to protect fur-bearing animals in the wild and in confinement. “It just makes sense that companies are adapting to the demands of younger generations who care greatly about the world they inherited. Young people are keen to change outdated systems that negatively impact animals, our environment and other people,” she says. “It’s a smart business move if nothing else.”
For Ms. Freed, who now sells a line of luxurious faux fur coats, her motivation to stop using real fur came not only from evolving consumer demands, but also a place of personal compassion. “When I adopted Henry,” she says, speaking of her dog rescued from northern Manitoba several years ago, “my sensitivity and my empathy toward animals was specifically affected.” But ultimately, she says the final decision to ditch her formerly fur-trimmed wool parkas in favour of all-faux, “was directly related to being a mother, about making sure I can in some way make the world and the environment better for my kids.”
As activists continue to shine a light on the torture that animals endure when they are farmed, hunted or trapped for their fur, the environmental implications of removing animals from ecosystems – and on the public-health implications of holding wild animals captive – consumers will keep demanding that brands do better. And more designers like Ms. Freed are sure to continue heeding that call. “There is really, truthfully, no reason to have real fur in the fashion industry any more,” she says. “What we once desired from real fur fashion can now be replaced. We can find a way to ensure that we reach the same level of warmth, and find a way to express our individuality from a fashion standpoint, without harming animals.”
And with that comes cultural change.
“Fur has officially lost its status as a luxury or high-end product,” Ms. Fox says. “It is in the same category as the rotary phone, CD-ROMs, cassette tapes and the Yellow Pages. It’s not controversial, it’s just over.”
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