“The fur-free stance is perfectly in-line with the values of our company. We are moving full-steam ahead in the research for alternative materials in view of a greater attention to the environment for the upcoming collections.”
Global animal welfare organisation Four Paws, one of the drivers of the Fur Free Retailer program, said the move by Valentino is encouraging and proves that consumers have the power to drive an “ethical fashion revolution”.
“Over 1500 fashion labels have committed to fur free policies through the Fur Free Retailer global program, not only prioritising animal welfare and consumer demands, but also supporting an end to fur’s image as a ‘luxury’ item,” Elise Burgess, head of communications at Four Paws Australia, told Inside Retail.
“The leadership shown by high profile brands to move towards ethical fashion supply chains, and away from one of fashion’s most well-known cruel textiles, is encouraging. Ending the use and/or sale of fur is also being reflected at major fashion shows and at a government level.”
The growth of the faux fur market
As a result of growing customer sensitivity to animal rights and environmental issues, more and more brands are developing ethical alternatives to fur.
In fact, the artificial fur market is expected to post a compound annual growth rate of 19 per cent during the period 2019-2023, according to a report by Technavio.
Many manufacturers are turning to recycled plastic for the creation of artificial fur instead of traditional polymeric materials, which are non-biodegradable and can lead to environmental issues. Global faux fur textile and apparel manufacturer ECOPEL, for example, uses plastic collected from the oceans to create artificial fur.
Technavio said the increasing popularity of more sustainable methods is expected to have a positive impact on the market and contribute to its growth significantly.
“Other factors such as the increasing adoption of artificial fur made from natural fibres will have a significant impact on the growth of the artificial fur market value during the forecast period,” a senior analyst at Technavio said in the report.
Deception in retail
While faux fur is on the rise, it can often be difficult for consumers to tell the difference between what’s real and fake.
Burgess said real fur often appears as the trim on collars, hoods and hats or used for accessories in Australia and internationally.
“These items can be found at every price level, from market stalls to luxury brands. It is very difficult for consumers to distinguish real fur from that which is fake, as real fur is often sheared, dyed or offered as a mix of materials. Furthermore, real fur is frequently insufficiently declared on clothing labels or not declared at all,” she said.
In 2019 and 2020, Four Paws investigations found that real animal fur was being sold as ‘faux fur’ across several Victorian retail outlets.
“Four Paws teamed up with Victorian MP Andy Meddick for an investigation, and we were shocked and saddened at the results. One jacket, with a fur trim around the hood, was labelled as “100 per cent polyester made in China”, but testing confirmed the hairs were from an animal, most likely a dog or raccoon dog,” Burgess said.
Time for transparency
A 2019 YouGov survey commissioned by Four Paws found higher than expected levels of concern about animal protection in fashion, and that one in three Australians prefer fashion brands which prioritise animal welfare.
However, each year, over two billion animals end up in fashion and textiles from the fur, leather and wool industries alone, according to Four Paws research.
While ethical fashion has made big leaps in the protection of humans and the environment, Four Paws is eager to make animal protection the “third pillar in ethical fashion”.
“Most brands don’t know much about their animal-based supply chains, let alone ensure the welfare of the animals used within them. This needs to change,” Burgess said.
Four Paws’ Wear It Kind campaign was designed to change this by encouraging transparency and better standards of animal protection.
“To be transparent, a brand must ensure to label every product in some way, enabling consumers to know what standards of welfare the animals who produced it experienced, and what robust standard was used to certify this.
“In addition, brands must develop comprehensive animal welfare policies and make these publicly available online, these should include the organisation’s goals for traceability and address every animal-based textile used and the standard of care ensured.”