Lori Anderson: Fashion means being dressed to kill – literally

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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CELEBRITIES may set the trend by wearing mink, but does that mean it’s acceptable, asks Lori Anderson

A few years ago, while stepping out in five metres and £99 worth of jagged acrylic fake fur, I stopped to pat an adorable angelic-faced long haired dachshund. My hand had barely reached his soft velvety ears when his owner tugged him back, almost lynching him, while yelping: “He doesn’t take kindly to those wearing his own kin.” I was so annoyed at her cheek that I took recourse in snark and said: “Really, are his kin sold by the metre? If I don’t put on rubber boots when Iwear this coat I spark like a Catherine wheel.”

My pavement adversary should have cause for concern today as there seems to be a wind of change blowing along the catwalk and out onto the streets, the whirling zeitgeist seems to be carrying away the old prejudices against the wearing of fur.

Look around – some of the most stylish and successful women are swathing themselves in mink and sable. Kate Moss has just been seen strutting through Notting Hill in a duck egg blue, three-quarter length Fendi mink coat. Lady Gaga, who previously insisted on a chat show that she would never wear fur, recently spent £130,000 on two fur coats while shopping in Moscow then tweeted to her 20 million followers that it was, effectively real fur: “For those press and such who are writing about whether or not my fur is actually real please don’t forget to credit the designer Hermes.” Hermes does not trade in fakes. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kim Kardashian and Beyonce are also getting under the collars of protestors.

They are not alone. For every celebrity wrapping themselves in animal pelts, there are tens of thousands of members of the public.

Since the year 2000, the global fur market has increased from £5.7 billion to £9.4bn. In the UK, fur sales increased by more than 30 per cent between 2010 and 2011 and annual sales of farmed fur now reach £1.2bn in the EU. High street chains are using rabbit fur, which is accessibly priced, and sourced from vast rabbit farms in eastern Europe, where the meat helps to feed the population while the pelts are exported. It has been reported that rabbit pelt prices are so low as to be cheaper than their artificial counterpart with the result that some perfidious manufacturers are now using real pelts but branding them as fake.

For those of us who remember the 1990’s campaign in which supermodels such as Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell declared “I would rather go naked than wear fur”, these are changed days. I also remember the 1980’s advert directed by David Bailey in which gracile models dragged furs down a catwalk runway and when they turned, splattered the audience with blood. The slogan was: “It takes over 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat, but only one to wear it.”

Campbell was the first turncoat to attract the ire of Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) when she broke a contract she signed with the animal rights organisation promising never to model fur, and instead strutted down the Milan catwalk in a Prada mink. As she said afterwards: “I respect people’s beliefs against fur but I don’t like the way that particular organisation do their promotions. I like fur but I don’t wear it a lot and I’d never wear the fur of an endangered species.” So that’s all right then, or is it?

The modern argument in favour of wearing fur is that many of us already wear the hides of animals, we just don’t tend to think of them in the same way as a cuddly, furry creature. Anyone who strides around in leather shoes, or owns a leather jacket is wearing the hide of a cow. So why is it acceptable to wear the hide of a cow, but not the hide of a mink? One could argue that we view cows differently. Hindus aside, we perceive them as creatures born to be consumed. We drink their milk and eat their flesh and eventually wear their skin.

I do not include those vegans and vegetarians who believe it is wrong to eat any animal. I am more interested in those, such as myself, who view the consumption and use of the skins of animals on a sliding scale. If the majority of us believe it is acceptable to kill animals and utilise their carcasses for our use, why not wear their skins? This is the principal argument of the fur trade in the western world. It argues that most consumers are interested in how the animals are treated while alive, not what happens to their bodies after death.

It also argues that real fur is more environmentally-friendly than artificial furs, which when discarded clog our landfills, along with all the other man-made fibres, while natural fur is biodegradable. I can think of few environmentalists, however, who would advocate the wholesale killing of animals for their coats as a means of saving the planet.

Today the fur trade insists it invests millions in animal welfare research, develops new animal husbandry technology and runs a closely monitored certification programme to ensure the fair treatment of livestock. This is far from the case in China, from where many furs come and where conditions are dirty and cramped and cruelty is rife. Yet, however the fur lobby frames its argument and however many people are deciding today that it is now fashionable and acceptable to wear fur, I find it morally reprehensible.

I make an exception for vintage furs which were created in a time when society had a different attitude towards animal welfare, but I think that any woman going out to buy herself a fur coat today needs to take a good long look at herself. She needs to think about the provenance of the pelts she will soon be wearing on her back and if she is really comfortable with the reality that dozens of animals have been slaughtered, not to nourish her body, but simply to satisfy her vanity and perceived social status.