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  • Melissa Evatt

Sustainable Fashion: Leather or no leather?

By Melissa Evatt

Sustainable fashion has recently become an additional way of tackling the ever-increasing issue of climate change. When it comes down to the faux fur vs fur debate, it seems simple, we are told that by buying products that don’t derive from animals, we are inevitably saving the planet. The increase in environmental awareness has led to huge fashion brands such as Chanel, Gucci, Versace, Michael Kors, and Jimmy Choo, who have all previously popularised fur clothing, to follow suit of more animal friendly clothing, using synthetic versions.

The merits and ideals of faux fur could be one of the many reasons' consumers make the swap from real to faux. We’re promised, as part of this swap, that no animals are harmed in the making of these faux fur products.

The Pros of Faux Fur:

  • Does not derive from animals.

  • More accessible than its genuine counterpart.

  • Produces fewer toxic emissions.

  • Reduces the fashion industry’s reliance on animal-derived fabrics.

Faux fur does not derive from animals, instead it is made from synthetic plastics, using a blend of acrylic and polyester fibres, and is sometimes infused with wool and/or cotton. Due to its creation via man-made plastics, animal fur is not involved in the process what-so-ever, making this an eco-friendly and animal friendly purchase. Whilst fur is not exactly hard to come by, it is considered a luxurious item, which is why faux fur is more accessible. Mass production of synthetic fibres allow the quick creation of faux fur clothing which greatly benefits both the fashion industry and the consumer as the clothing is not only made quicker than genuine fur clothing, but also much cheaper too.

Since faux fur retracts the need for animal products, it subsequently steers from controversial practices such as intensive fur farms. Fur farming has been banned in 10 countries and has been banned in the UK under the Fur Farming Prohibition Bill which was passed Wednesday 19th July 2000. Whilst illegal practices of fur farming still continue, there are still frequent investigations, carried out by NGOs (non-government organisations) and charitable efforts being made to abolish such factories.

According to the HIGG Material Sustainability Index, which scores textiles on their environmental costs of production, synthetics (specifically acrylic and polyester) have a less negative impact than any other fabrics, making this a better alternative to genuine fur. The Pro-Faux study showed that producing one kilogram of mink fur has a higher negative environmental impact; it takes 4 times more energy to produce a real fur coat than a faux one.

The Cons of Faux Fur:

  • Created by non-renewable fabrics.

  • Much of the production comes from lower income countries, creating ethical issues for workers.

  • An aesthetic and quality difference.

Synthetics are a non-renewable fabric, meaning they are difficult to be recycled and re-used again for another purpose. Synthetics are generally non-biodegradable and can take up to approximately 450 years to biodegrade. With every wash, millions of plastic and synthetic fibre particles come off faux fur clothing and end up in the wastewater, which eventually ends up in our oceans where it is absorbed by fish, birds, seals and many more wildlife. Studies suggest that each washing cycle could release more than 700,000 microscopic plastic fibres into the environment, which are toxic to wildlife and humans which can accumulate throughout our food.

With the mass production of synthetics, especially in lower income countries there come an assortment of ethical issues. Whilst the products may be animal friendly, we cannot guarantee the quality a good working environment and pay for those who produce these items in mass quantities.

Whilst faux fur may prove to have its pros and cons, it is up to the consumer to decipher its individual and environmental benefits. As an alternative to fur, the fashion industry and huge fashion houses have benefitted from the introduction of faux fur. The use of animals in the production of clothing is becoming less prominent as the world steers towards more environmental means of eating, manufacturing, travelling and more.

Here’s a solution in response to the faux fur vs fur debate. Buying faux fur or genuine fur products and/or clothing from charity shops not only supports charity and small businesses but supports the recycling of non-renewable fabrics which is not only good for the environment, it is good for your wardrobe too!


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