Monday, 23 November 2009
After yesterday's Observer Women article I feel I should confess. I have a guilty secret...I love real fur. In fact I happily wear real fur and I don't really care what other people think about my choice.
It's warm, it's cosy, I like the style it adds to my outfits and I don't see much difference between fur and leather. Both involve the not so palatable fact that an animal died to accessorize your wardrobe, and with the way that cows are mass produced these days and the cost of leather has plummeted, both involve a certain amount of cruelty.
Before you write me off as the bastard child of Cruella DeVil with an utter disregard for all animal life, believe me when I say I'm not condoning cruelty. I would like to see all livestock farming become kinder to the creatures and the workers. I'm just not comfortable with the dichotomy that cows are OK to kill and ickle furry things aren't. I know there is a difference in that most cattle are raised for milk and meat, while animals for fur farming are generally only raised for the pelts, so it is intrinsically more wasteful, but I wonder how many people simply have a knee-jerk reaction that furry is their friend?
I also wonder how much of the reaction to even vintage fur is fashion in itself. From the 80s campaigns of Lynx to PETA today, it has become practically de rigeur for young nubile women to proclaim they "would rather go naked than wear fur" and appear scantily clad in the adverts that back this up. Sexualised human flesh has become acceptable, but animal skin is frowned upon. Obviously not everyone who dislikes fur is this easily swayed, but I wonder how much is simply going with the flow rather than strong opinions on the subject? Would they start to give a shit about how the milk in their cheese was farmed if celebrities started asking those questions whilst looking so glam?
I eat meat and dairy. Why should I be comfortable with these things, but not with wearing the packaging the animal came in? I do believe that no matter what part of the animal I eat or wear, I should try to be an ethical consumer and avoid giving my money to producers who wilfully mistreat animals or impact the environment unnecessarily.
I do this in part by wearing vintage fur, often pieces that are family heirlooms. I have a 1940s rabbit fur jacket that I have been wearing in cold weather for almost 6 years. It keeps me unbelievably toasty in cold weather and since it was bought cheaply on Ebay, it has kept me from modern mass farmed fur, which is poorly regulated and often plagued with rumour of unneeded cruelty. It has also deterred me from buying cheap, mass produced leather (or other winter coats) from stores like Primark, which may have been shipped all round the world, made by sweatshop workers and possibly created a toxic problem in its tanning.
I feel comfortable with vintage fur as lifestyle choice. I would be perfectly comfortable with contemporary fur if I could be sure of its provenance. The excellent Channel 4 documentary Kill it, Skin it, Wear it looks at the fur lover's dilemma in brutal detail.
I wouldn't criticise others for their choices, whether those be disposable fashion or haute couture even if I may disagree with them. I would appreciate the same and in return if someone is really upset by my wearing fur, I'll happily leave it at home that day. But I won't apologise for it.
I even promise not to be smug when I am almost uncomfortably warm at the bus stop on a windy winter's day in my fur coat. That might justify having red paint chucked over you...