Fur bans may make designers think twice

With a 3-1 vote Monday night, the West Hollywood City Council approved a local ordinance that officially bans the sales of fur within city boundaries. The new piece of legislation is the first of it's kind in the United States, and prohibits the sale of clothing made from the skin or pelt of animals with hair, wool or fur. It's yet to be determined how this will affect retail in the area, which boasts a high number of luxury boutiques, many which carry designs that incorporate fur or pelts. This also raises a bigger question for designers: If this type of ban becomes more popular causing their list of fur-approving retailers becomes shorter and shorter, is it really worth it to continue using the material?

Individual designers have their own personal philosophies when it comes to the ethics of fur use. In 2009 Karl Lagerfeld famously defended his use of fur, saying "In a meat-eating world. wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags, the discussion of fur is childish," alluding to hunters who "make a living having learnt nothing else than hunting, killing those beats who would kill us if they could." This prompted spokespeople for PETA to call Lagerfeld a "fashion dinosaur", "out of style", and "particularly delusional… When was the last time a person's life was threatened by a mink or rabbit?" The designer appeared to have a change of heart the next year, when his 2010 Chanel collection used fake fur "because fake fur changed so much and became so great now that you can hardly see the difference."
Michael Kors Fall 2011

Gucci Fall 2011

Other designers still embrace the durability that real fur provides, as well as the sentimental value a piece creates. Canadian designer and fashion journalist Adrian Mainella, whose design partner Izzy Camilleri is best known for the red fox fur coat she designed for Meryl Streep's character in "The Devil Wears Prada", argues in favor of fur, saying "People keep it for a lifetime typically. A synthetic coat gets donated or thrown away."  Mainella also pointed out that fur trade is an important part of North America, particularly Canada's, history, where the trapping and trading of beavers and their pelts helped discover and colonize the cold tundra. The designers see both history and expression in their fur pieces, and Mainella said "I certainly respect people’s positions. I’m not here to suggest lovers of animals don’t have a right to voice their concerns and protests. That’s the great thing about our country we’re allowed to speak our mind. And I’m trying to do the same."

Jewelry designer Julia deVille uses taxidermy in many of her pieces, but doesn't see it as simply a fashion statement; it's a way to honor the animal and its body. The designer, who only uses animals who died of natural causes, says, "I consider my taxidermy to be a celebration of life, a preservation of something beautiful." She's a designer who uses animals, but is also an activist for their rights. "I feel strongly about the fair and just treatment of animals," which is why she doesn't use animals that were killed for the purpose of fashion like other designers who use farmed furs.

Julia deVille

The decision to wear fur is ultimately up to the consumer and rests in where they stand on the issue. With the advances in synthetic fur, which is often more consistent in texture easier to work with, a person does not have to sacrifice trend or style because they do or do not think it is ethical to use animal pelts in clothing. However, with bans like the one in California, some designers may be forced to make the decision for them.