Am I Fur Real, Fur Faux, or Fur Vintage?

In the last 9 years, across Europe, countries like Sweden, England and Wales and The Netherlands have either banned or are phasing out, fur farming. This month our own government confirmed that it would phase out fur farming in Ireland within the next three years. Where many of us feel morally conflicted with the idea of the wearing and farming of fur, I had a bit of an episode today that made me re-consider wearing it…

I admit it, I came this close to buying a vintage fur coat today… literally this close, but I didn’t do it. I wouldn’t have considered buying it had it been brand new and sitting in the window of furrier shop, but the fact was, I knew the animal that died to make this coat was killed a long time ago. Long before it was ethically debatable to kill animals solely for their pelt. The coat itself was beautiful, it was a classic 3/4 length, with full-length sleeves a plain collar and single clasp in front but it was something else that made me debate buying it.

It was being sold for around €30 and I couldn’t help thinking what a terrible waste it was that an animal died to make a coat that may never be worn again if I didn’t buy it. From fashion designers to animal activists, everyone has an opinion about the killing of animals for the sole purpose of using their fur for fashion. I’m not here to preach mine, but simply put a question to you. Is it more acceptable to wear vintage / second-hand fur, which is bought from a vendor with no connections to the fur-trade, than it is to buy new? Let me just make myself clear, when I say fur I’m talking about fur garments made from animals that are solely used for that purpose. Animals like fox and mink etc.. not endangered animals, like leopard and tiger nor animals that are used for other purposes, like rabbit and goat. It’s a strange phenomenon, blog readers and writers and even friends of mine will say, “yeah, I wear fur, but only vintage…”

In Europe, there is a law against the sale and importation / exportation of ivory. It is banned outright which means it is illegal to ‘deal’ in it unless it is a proven antique. If it is worked, i.e. carved, it has to be pre June 1st, 1947, if un-worked; it must be over 200 years old. I have no desire to own something that once belonged to a now endangered species, but there is something relevant to the fur issue here. Should there be a specific date agreed, which would specify that a garment made of fur is vintage? Ivory is dated as such because it was banned then, fox and mink fur is not illegal nor does it come from endangered animals so how could a date be decided? The difference is that the debate is solely a moral one; should animals be made to suffer in appalling and debilitating conditions just so that we can wear a nice coat? Of course not.

The fact is that both the fur coats and the ivory art already exist, they were made and have survived. Should they be destroyed or in the case of fur, worn and enjoyed for as long as possible?  Some may argue that wearing a vintage fur may encourage other people to buy new furs, I’m not sure that I agree with this theory. If I saw someone wearing vintage fur it may make me consider wearing vintage fur, but that’s it. I’m still unsure what I feel about this debate; would I buy vintage fur? I know I didn’t today but I’m not sure that I never will.

The other option is to leave vintage fox and mink alone and go for one of these instead:

Fur coats

Clockwise from top left: Rue du mail by Martine Sitbone rabbit fur jacket £2755, net-a-porter.com. Preen Aztec Shearling coat £1855, net-a-porter.com. Burberry Prorsum rabbit and goat fur jacket £2495, net-a-porter.com. Faux fur coat £50 newlook.co.uk. Big foot fur coat £150 frenchconnection.co.uk. Vintage style faux fur coat £120 topshop.com.


15 Responses to “Am I Fur Real, Fur Faux, or Fur Vintage?”

  1. October 29, 2009 at 12:34 am

    I’m of the vintage persuasion myself. I just can’t warm to faux fur, if you’ll excuse the pun, and I eat meat so I’m not that against animals dying for us (circle of life, and so on). Rather my issue is with the way they die, which is hideously, so that the fur can be removed in as close to a perfect condition as possible, and I’m not really willing to let that happen so that I can be clothed. So I will buy and wear vintage fur.

    (Then again, there is a valid argument that wearing any fur increases its fashionability and creates a demand for it, so it could very well be a lose-lose situation. I wouldn’t agree with outlawing anything, in general, but I would encourage stringent conditions for fur farming.)

    • 2 whisty
      November 6, 2009 at 11:50 pm

      It’s great to hear that you will buy and wear vintage fur. I like the idea of buying it from a charity shop especially as it’s giving something back at the same time. As for increasing the, as you say, fashionability of fur, I could think of nothing worse than us wearing vintage would encourage someone to buy new. It would go completely against the idea of wearing vintage in the first place.

  2. October 29, 2009 at 9:34 am

    my Grandmother gave me the most beautiful vintage fur – its amazing but I havent been able to bring myself to wear it. I think its more about the fact that the coat would be wearing me!

    A couple of years ago I found a ton of vintage furs in the St. Vincent de Paul on Camden street – they were all less than €20 and my mam couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t buy a few.

  3. October 29, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Yeah – I’d agree with Rosemary. I don’t actually own any fur myself but I think I’d feel ok about wearing vintage fur. I wouldn’t wear new fur and faux fur can be fairly realistic these days anyway.

  4. 6 sarah
    October 29, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Hey just found your site! great post. I had the same predicament. the waste of people not wanting to wear
    vintage fur totally gets me too. I think I’d follow in my mothers footsteps on the issue, buy them to preserve them ( if they are being sold off insanely cheaply e.g. in charity shop, where my mother finds a lot of beautifully tailored coats ) but dont’ wear them because somehow that is glorifying them. Also I think
    the more people wear them both vintage and new makes it more acceptable and soon enough people
    will be saying “well since the animal died and suffered” etc.

    Also faux fur is becoming more and more realistic so no reason really to wear the real.

    • 7 whisty
      November 6, 2009 at 11:46 pm

      It really is hard to make a decision on this one isn’t it? I just think that it so awful that an animal died to make a coat that would end up being destroyed anyway. I have a tonne of faux fur but it always goes matted or greasy looking and kind of separates. It just looks too fake, you know? I really am not keen on it.

  5. October 30, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    iv got my eye on an M&S number

    • 9 whisty
      November 2, 2009 at 11:26 pm

      So you’re going for faux! If it’s M&S i bet it’s great quality. Every time I’ve bought faux it’s gone all sort of greasy looking after a few wears… Let me know how you get on with the M&S one though! x

  6. November 1, 2009 at 12:19 am

    One of the things nobody mentions about real vintage fur is the smell! It’s always musty and a bit unpleasant so all the arguments about killing animals aside ( not that they aren’t important) the whiff of long dead animal skins is just not nice.
    Ps I’ve tried Febreez and some of my best perfumes but they don’t work for long enough

    • 11 whisty
      November 2, 2009 at 11:23 pm

      I know what you mean. I remember the first time I wore vintage fur, I was a little concious of the musky smell. I son got used to it though, I think some furs obviously smell worse than other! Did you try airing the coats outside for 24 hrs or so before you wear them?

  7. 12 Leeza
    November 5, 2009 at 1:51 am

    Interesting timing. Today as I wore my vintage fur coat on the subway, I was angrily shouted at by a woman who cried out, “torture fashion!”. Here is the thing. My coat is 60 years old. Well taken care of, it can last another 30 years. I live in Canada, and this coat was originally fashioned by a craftsperson who likely took pride in its creation. The woman shouting at me was wearing a down-filled nylon coat which is production made in China. The ethics of fashion are complex. I do not support new fur production, but I actually think more awareness of the longevity of vintage could ease demand for new fur, not fuel it.

    • 13 whisty
      November 6, 2009 at 11:40 pm

      Leeza you made some great points here, not least the ethics of fair trade and child labour. I really like your point that more awareness of vintage could serve to ease demand for new. I would love this to be the case and it is certainly worth thinking about.

  8. 14 Terry
    June 2, 2011 at 3:06 am

    Here’s the thing, I’m reading all your bulls**t about not wanting to kill animals with fur, and it just makes me sick to think that all of you are not vegans. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not a vegan, you CANNOT preach about being cruel to an animal for its fur. Every time you bite into a hamburger or a steak, some innocent animal has died viciously for your enjoyment! There is no reason for anyone to be a meat eater, so, if you are, you have no say in this discussion. I wear fur, and I’m going to keep wearing it, as long as people eat meat. If everyone in the world becomes a vegan, then, I would stop wearing fur.

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