Posted by the Fashion Junior at Large

Just before Christmas, when the first blanket of snow fell across London, I fell in love with a vintage coat. It was knee length, duck egg blue, with four big antique buttons down the front. Beautiful. But the element that made it really special was paradoxically also the thing that stopped me from buying said coat. It had a real fur collar. As the Fashion Editor at Large pointed out in her rather controversial previous post I am a vegetarian, so it goes without saying that I am against wearing fur. No matter how lovely the coat is I simply can’t help but see that fur collar for what it once was.

Other trendy gals about London town hold no such reservations. I’ve seen women of all ages wearing real fur again as if it were the most natural thing in the world (which, if we hark back to the practices of primitive humans, one might argue it is). And with paparazzi shots of Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham draped in fox appearing regularly in the media (see below), it seems the last taboo has broken down and fur is making a brazen return to mainstream fashion.

What happened to the days when fur was a dirty word, and women harboured their grandmother’s antique fur coats at the back of their closets as if they were guilty of some unspeakable crime? How are these women reconciling their morals with their thirst for fur? Well, my theory is, the women wearing it believe they’ve found a fashion loophole – vintage.

A shop assistant from Beyond Retro (home of the fabulous fur collar coat) told me that they had seen a huge resurgence of people buying vintage stoles, coats, bomber jackets and hats this winter. ‘Younger, more fashion conscious women are accessorising with vintage fur. It’s a real trend item at the moment’, she said.

A friend of mine, who purchased a rabbit fur coat uncomfortably close to her purchase of a pet rabbit, is one such woman. ‘I just love the way it feels’ she explained to me, ‘Fur is very tactile and I think people are inexplicably drawn to it’. Fur is undeniably luxuriant, sexy and ultra-soft, and although my friend admits she’s not 100% comfortable wearing it out in public, she generally falls into the Georgina Langford camp of thought.

Well, animal rights protestors are quick to insinuate that the wearing of vintage fur promotes the consumption of new fur, forming a loop rather than a loophole. PETA spokeswomen Sam Glover is keen to disperse the rationale that old fur is fair game; ‘Whether they were killed yesterday or 50 years ago, animals are not ours to wear. It doesn’t make their suffering any more forgivable or the cruelty any less hardhearted’.

On the catwalk I see more designers using fur – Fendi, Gaultier, Macdonald – than not – step forward lone star Stella McCartney.

Back to my dilemma. The fabulous fur collar coat had no labels inside. I have no idea how it was produced, but I assume it wasn’t a pleasant process for the animal. How could it be? And whilst many of us may be making a conscious effort to consume food, coffee and clothing that is ethically produced, how can we be sure that the fur industry is being monitored appropriately?

In the case of new fur items the Origin Assured label supposedly indicates the garment’s country of origin. Only furs produced in countries with strict regulations in favour of animal welfare are allowed to carry the label, thus ensuring atrocities like those made explicit by PETA (whose undercover video footage of fur farms in China shows foxes being skinned alive. F-ing HORENDOUS!) are minimised. Of course none of this can be said for vintage, much of which is produced long before these regulations were introduced, so don't go thinking it's ok!

Andy Lenhart, the chairman of International Fur Trade Federation, who introduced the labelling programme believes it will help the fur debate to mature; ‘For years there has been a misperception of our industry, but the fur industry is a responsible industry. IFTF and its members deplore cruelty to animals and promote strict codes of practice that meet or exceed established and accepted standards for animal welfare’. Hmmm.

Fifty quid is all I would have had to fork out for a duck egg blue coat with antique buttons and a fine mink fur collar. But at what cost to my moral conscience I ask!? Despite loving the coat, I could not put fashion before my morals. I eventually left Beyond Retro empty handed, and walked out onto Cheshire Street, bracing myself against the chill. Across the road running towards me was an urban fox. He had a healthy coat of auburn fur and a handsome fluffy tail (Shhh. Don’t tell Victoria Beckham).
I’m taking it as a sign...


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