Should You Feel Guilty For Wearing Vintage Fur?

Finally, the voice of reason- it’s actually “green” to wear vintage fur!

(reprinted from the original article by Lisa Hix in Collectors Weekly)

It’s undeniable: Fur is back. At New York Fashion Week last month, this extravagant, expensive material was so abundant, it might have been everyday wool. Not just seen on coats, jackets, and stoles, designers fashioned furs into skirts, oversize mittens, dresses, blouses, and even hoodies. Most of the top designers, including Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Marc Jacobs, showed real fur in some form on the runway.

“People as a whole are never going to stop liking fur.”

In fact, it’s not unlike the 1930s, when Americans weathered the Great Depression, followed by the wartime-rationing of the 1940s. “The movies were about luxury, luxury, luxury,” says Samantha Davis of the New York City-based web retailer Sammy Davis Vintage.

“People would go into the cinema, and live in that scene. They’d get to feel like they were one of those wealthy people for a few hours, then go back home to their normal lives. The same can be said for fashion. You can see it as a voyeuristic experience.”

But this trend is causing dismay among animal-rights activists, who’ve spent the past three decades campaigning against the use of fur in fashion.

“Fur is one of the most egregiously cruel industries out there,” says Christy Griffin, special projects officer for In Defense of Animals, based in San Rafael, California. “Every year, over 50 million animals, including dogs and cats, are killed for their fur worldwide. Eighty-five percent of animals killed in the fur industry come from fur farms—dismal places where foxes, rabbits, minks, chinchilla, and other animals spend their entire short lives in these tiny, filthy metal cages. Then, they’re killed in really horrific ways, such as bludgeoning, neck-breaking, or electrocution.”

Top: Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, wore a vintage raccoon fur coat, in the first season of

Top: Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, wore a vintage raccoon fur coat, in the first season of “Sex and the City.” Above: Bustown Modern’s inventory includes this rare 1950s Lilli Ann trapeze coat with shaggy wool and a fox collar dyed powder blue. (Courtesy of Bustown Modern)

For fashionistas who both love animals and wearing fur, going vintage seems like a simple solution. Old furs don’t directly contribute to the profits of modern fur farms, and they’re less toxic to the environment than faux furs (shown by Anna Sui and Christian Siriano on the runway), which are made from petroleum. Fur coats and stoles from the ’50s and ’60s evoke the lux, decadent glamour of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, but vintage furs go for a fraction of the cost of their contemporary counterparts.

“Some coats I have are from the ’20s, so the animal has been gone for a very long time.”

But according to Griffin, vintage fur is actually to blame for the renewed appetite for fur fashions. In the 1980s, groups like IDA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Animal Liberation Front started drawing attention to the brutal reality of fur farming. By the late 1990s, their sometimes-controversial campaigns, featuring celebrities like Pamela Anderson and Alicia Silverstone, succeeded in creating public distaste for furs, so that they no longer appeared on fashion runways.

Then, in 1998, HBO introduced its iconic single-girl show, “Sex and the City,” spotlighting a fashion-obsessed sex columnist, Carrie Bradshaw, strolling around New York City in a vintage fur coat. Griffin says that Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour credits Carrie Bradshaw with bringing fur, old and new, back into fashion.

A black silk jersey stole trimmed with white fox fur sold for $49,946, along with this photo of Marilyn wearing the stole, at a December 2008 auction in London. (Christie's Images Ltd.)

A black silk jersey stole trimmed with white fox fur sold for $49,946, along with this photo of Marilyn wearing the stole, at a December 2008 auction in London. (Christie’s Images Ltd.)

But vintage dealers like Davis and Elizabeth Hine, of Hinesite Vintage in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, say certain women never stopped loving their furs—and nothing is going to change that.

“If you go to any city, like New York, or other places where it’s cold—people wear fur,” Hine says. “I would rather see somebody with a vintage coat on because it’s already made. Some of the coats I have are from the ’20s, so the animal has been gone for a very long time. At least they’re preserved in a coat.”

Davis, who just published on an e-book called The 100 Best Vintage Shops Online, says that vintage clothing in general is greener than the modern fashion industry, and that she would prefer if furriers repurposed old furs rather than kill living animals. One new fur coat, for example, uses as many as 55 minks, 100 chinchillas, or 125 ermines, according to IDA.

 

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