Why Fur Is Making a Comeback

by Cynthia Stewart
Monday Mar 21, 2005
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Fashion is fickle. Long gone are the days when supermodels Christy, Cindy, Claudia, Elle, and Naomi decreed, “We’d rather go naked than wear fur.” The picketing of furriers and the boycotting of designers who used fur are now recalled with quaint nostalgia. Mercifully, the fringe fad of spraying unsuspecting fur coat wearers with red paint ended with the nineties. A new decade- a new century no less- has shed its skin and left the anti-fur attitudes passe and mostly discarded.

Designers are- once again- showcasing fur. Fendi, Gucci, Prada and Versace (among others) have made fur a central theme in their latest collections. Italian designer Alberta Ferretti even featured hamster fur in her latest show. Models are unabashedly donning animal pelts and strutting down the catwalk. Even Naomi has long since resumed modeling fur. Furriers are enjoying a surge in profits. Is this just a natural swing of the fashion pendulum?

We humans are such an egocentric lot. We raze the forests, pave the ground, pollute the environment and kill for sport and fashion. We think nothing of it. Well, we’re entitled, aren’t we? We’re the smartest. Well, at least the most ambitious. Besides, we eat animals, so why can’t we wear them? Nobody’s going to tell me what I can and cannot wear! This is the US of A!

The post 9/11 USA is a fear-based society. We have ‘evolved’ into increasingly paranoid xenophobes and our government has turned into a bigger and stronger war-mongering machine.

As citizens of (arguably) the most privileged and successful country in the world, Americans believe that we should be the strongest power on Earth. We believe it is our right, in the face of the perceived barbarism of the rest of the planet, to remain golden. The deep down scary part is that other superpowers have fallen, and we are on our way down too. The USA is no longer the safe harbor. We are losing control.

The political propaganda of today is fear-based: if we are strong enough and aggressive enough, we can beat the menace down . . if we don’t dominate, we will be dominated . . we’ll trap it in a corner and expect it not to bite . .

Animal domination is just another expression of perceived control. Wearing fur is symbolic. If you wear another animal’s fur, you are at the top of the pecking order. Additionally, with the middle-class buffer between the rich and the poor disappearing, fur is in vogue again as a status symbol. Using other animals to decorate yourself is again an acceptable form of posturing and conspicuous consumption. Powerful industries don’t give up their powers so easily, and the fur industry (like the meat industry) has proven it can afford to wait-out whims of fashion.

Animals- pets, that is- that have had the circumstantial good luck to adapt to living in our homes; have been spared- as a species- the fate of becoming clothing. Or have they?

Dog and cat hides from Europe and China are marketed as fox, rabbit, raccoon, and mink, and are showing up in clothing stores in the United States. The average consumer cannot tell the difference. So how is it that we can pet our cat and then slip on a mink stole? Simply put, we love our cat, and we don’t love the mink, at least not while it’s in it’s natural, non-mink coat form. We delight in furry fashion and meatful meals as long as they don’t come from Fluffy or Fido or their extended families . . and as long as the sacrificing animals don’t spark our collective interest in some other way.

Take the recent case of Bubba the lobster; a 22 lb. behemoth captured off the Massachusetts coast. Most people, endeared to his size, wanted to spare Bubba the typical caught-lobster fate. Dinner-ready lobsters typically weigh in at about 1 ½ lbs., and are about the size of one of Bubba’s claws. In the process of “rescuing” Bubba (that is, shipping him off to various artificial lobster environments where he could be “oohed” and “aahed” over) he died. Bubba wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last, overly large lobster that dies in spite of the well-intentioned “large means live” lobster fans. People are unable to just “throw it back.”

Humans haven’t learned how to behave in a world where other animals have a right to simply “be.” If you can’t pet it, ride it, keep it in a cage, experiment on it, make it do tricks, eat it or wear it, what good is it? The ego indulging “green” movement of the 90s and it’s various “Earth-friendly” campaigns were unfortunate examples of “too much, too soon”. Animal rights groups such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), ALF (Animal Liberation Front), and ELF (Earth Liberation Front) have alienated the very people they wished to impress with extreme and aggressive anti-fur campaigns. The “terrorist” label stuck, and has proven to be the worst association possible.

The predictable backlash has taken the form of self-indulgence and apathy. Yes, we’ll still sort our recyclables, but we just can’t be bothered with saving the entire world anymore. In a world gone crazy, we need our creature comforts, no matter what the cost.

Cynthia Stewart is a freelance writer, photographer, and model. She lives on the South Shore and travels frequently.


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