This year a high street investigation was conducted by Sky News into the use of real fur in apparent ‘faux fur’ products. House of Fraser and Missguided were both revealed to have stocked, unknowingly, products which contained real animal fur. Both outlets have ‘fur free’ policies, which threw a sharp spotlight in the sourcing and origin locations for the products that they stock. Both have pledged to take greater care in the items that they sell, with more rigorous checks in ensuring faux fur is just that: fake.
This, if you asked the average shopper, seems a reasonable conclusion. Even to a meat eater, fur is a wasteful use of animal life when there are so many credible alternatives. However, this attitude does not extend to every facet of society. The growth of businesses like Canada Goose and Ugg implying that, even with many people shunning real fur, animal-based fashion products don’t seem to be on the decline.
I should, perhaps, own up to having a pair of Ugg boots myself. As a birthday present, their animal origins have not stopped me from wearing them daily to go to lectures in the freezing conditions that we call home. However, with the increasing transparency that these ‘faux fur’ investigations have brought about, it is time that we became more invested in where our clothing comes from. I now understand, with the use of viable alternatives, that I would not purchase another pair again. However, does that negate their use as they have already been bought?
Beyond the question of the labour itself, which is a vastly under addressed topic that is sadly beyond me here, the origin of materials seems to be ignored. I now recognise the actual life that has gone into items I own, throwing into sharp contrast the true value of luxury fashion.
By luxury, I mean the object of paying a premium for high quality, an established reputation or even the name of the specific designer. However, with a wealth of international students and diverse backgrounds, it is interesting to see the prevalence of so many luxury fashion brands in St. Andrews. Uggs, Barbour and Hunter all contribute to the realm of luxury fashion – with their products tried and tested by generations of students.
Another of St. Andrews favourite brands is the Canada Goose jacket. At around £700+ per jacket, they are a true investment piece which are built to last decades. Until coming to University, I had never seen nor heard of them. However, their existence is controversial and it remains a love/hate item. There have been accusations of using Coyote Pelt and other forms of wildlife for the fur trimmed hoods which make the jackets so distinctive. This is the debate which should be brought to the forefront. Not only in the ethics of the use of animal materials, but in the transparency of their use.
Purists argue that the use of animal materials is to ensure the best quality, and warmth, which is built to withstand the freezing arctic temperatures of North Canada. Others argue that it is a wasteful use of animal life which should not be given for a jacket.
One thing is for certain in this debate: the origin and specification of materials should be made clear to purchasers, even when on the browsing screens of these fashion sites. With a society that is so fixated on organic, wholesome food – why is the same not said for the clothing we wear? By acknowledging the high cost of luxury items – monetary and in the materials – it should not be unacceptable for the market to demand me. Just as House of Fraser has promised to be more transparent in its sale of faux fur only, it is essential that these brands are realistic and open about what goes into the making of their luxury products.
This is not supposed to be a narrative of the ethics of animals used in fashion. However, it is important to analyse exactly where our clothing comes from. If, like me, you are ignorant of the world of Canada Goose, researching iconic brand and ensuring that they fulfil your standards is important. Ultimately, we need to take responsibility for the cost of our clothing – as it is not just the wear they have on our lives, but on others.