Faux Fur Faux Friendly?
What is Faux Fur, and how eco-friendly is it?
We all know the images: fashionistas dripping in diamonds and draped in fur leaving Dolce and Gabbana with their latest purchase only to be daubed in red paint by a protestor in hemp trousers and a man-bun.
Camera flashes go off, scuffles follow, chaos ensues and almost that alone is a good enough reason not to buy real fur.
For those who must dress themselves up in animal skins but have an aversion to flying paint, an artificial imitation that mimics the look of fur but comes with a lot less animal cruelty is available.
More commonly known as faux fur, this material has been championed by animal rights protestors and PETA alike as the ethical alternative. But is the debate so black and white? Here we take a look at faux fur and see just how eco-friendly it actually is.
What is Faux Fur Made of?
Faux Fur (pronounced as “fo fur”) has gone through many iterations, but in its current form today is very much the product of a chemical process, made from a dozen kinds of plastic such as polyester, acrylic and modacrylic blended together into a synthetic fabric.
What’s the Problem with Faux Fur?
Essentially being spun plastic, this creates the first difficulty with buying faux.
The chemicals in these fibers are ultimately derived from substances (such as petroleum) harmful to the environment and then subsequently turned into fibers that are also detrimental to our planet.
The synthetics they are made of shed microfibers into the water supply when washed, and evade any possible filtration at a processing plant. Eventually they end up polluting our waterways and oceans, killing marine life and damaging the marine environment for years to come.
Not only that, but once these synthetic coats end up on the landfill, that’s where they will stay for a thousand years to come.
When one compares this to real fur that biodegrades naturally within six month to a year, the black and white of the debate becomes distinctly grey.
We just want to draw attention to the fact that switching to faux fur is not necessarily the answer if one is looking for the clear eco-friendly choice.
It is true that in most cases “faux fur” labelled clothes are less cruel to animals than their natural counterparts, however, the flip side is that they could be far more damaging to the environment.
Real “Faux Fur”
I say “in most cases” because there are some reports of “faux fur” garments turning out to be the real thing anyway.
A few years previously, an investigation by the charity Humane Society International found that numerous stores in Britain were selling “faux fur” that was actually animal in origin:
- Tesco: a pompom keyring was made from rabbit fur
- Fat Face: gloves also made from rabbit fur
- Boots: “faux fur” hair clips were made of mink
Many stores purchase “faux fur” from China, where it can be cheaper to just use real animal pelts rather than synthetically created materials. In any case here are three quick tips so that you have a better chance of identifying a “faux” faux fur:
Inspect the Base
Faux furs will have their synthetic hairs woven into the base of the material, so look for the seam that indicates evidence of stitching.
Inspect the Tips
Real fur will have the ends of their tips pointy, whereas faux fur will have had the tips cut in a straight line off the factory floor.
Burn It (lightly and outside!)
Fake fur will tend to melt and give off an acrid smoke due to the plastic content in the materials. Real fur will only singe.
DO NOT ATTEMPT IN STORE OR INSIDE. Please.
Of course if you want to avoid genuine fur but find a faux fur that looks real and makes you unsure if it really is a fake mink for instance, the best thing to do is walk away.
The Most Eco-Friendly “Fur” Alternatives Out there
So: genuine animal fur is cruel to animals, faux fur can kill the planet, and sometimes you even have one masquerading as the other. What is the consumer supposed to do?!
Well luckily these days it doesn’t have to be a case of “pick your poison”. There are plenty of “fur” alternatives cognizant of what it actually means to be eco-friendly. Here we look at some exciting offerings:
At the heart of this emerging brand is sustainable textiles, looking at the use of plant-based materials like hemp, straw and pine needles that (when treated correctly) can create the most realistic faux fur, in its look and soft textures.
This Italian designer won the Mercedes Benz Fashion Price for Emerging Talent, so he is clearly set on the right path.
House of Fluff
This cult label still aims for that luxury feel and luxury look whilst maintaining its earth-friendly ethos.
Their clothes are manufactured locally at a fair trade factory in New York from textiles the company has personally developed to be non-toxic to the environment, and colored with naturally occurring dyes, such as berries, flowers and plant bark.
Plans are underway to make compostable textiles, but in the meantime all materials surplus to requirement are turned into Scrappys (a collection of chic fluffy toys) so you know waste is being limited.
House of Dagmar
This is a slightly different entry to the above, as they do use real fur.
However, this Swedish brand uses the term “animal friendly fur” to describe their garments, with the goal of minimizing damage to both the animal and the environment.
They have developed a gentle shaving technique harmless to the animal (goat, alpaca, lamb – i.e. animals that lose their coats anyway), resulting in a material biodegradable to the environment.
Conclusion – is faux fur worth it?
It’s really not that faux fur is bad – the concept comes from a good place, and as techniques are developed and faux fur moves away from synthetics to sustainable materials, the outlook only becomes brighter.
Before things change, maybe think about purchasing less for longer, and instead of having that faux fur only for a season, you make it a long-lasting investment for both your wardrobe and the planet.
Featured image source: Spirithoods