The Naked Truth: Innovation brought fur back big time

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Some 20 years ago the international fur industry was bleeding. Those were the days when fashion models still scored all the big contracts modelling for clothing brands and cosmetics rather than today’s faces who increasingly come from other parts of popular culture like film, TV and music.

It was the days of the supermodels, and the most super of them all agreed to pose in the “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” advertising campaign by animal rights group PETA. Global superstars like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer and Elle Macpherson added fame to their fame by posing in the rather innovative campaign. PETA certainly made an impact on the social acceptance of fur with their supermodels and their simple (but not so documented) messages like “fur is cruel”.

At the same time, the fur industry suffered from lack of material innovation. Fur coats were long, brown and quite grandmother-ish. And in between the granny image and fur being the mark of a social pariah, the fur sales went down, and production declined. I guess it would be fair to say that the international fur sector was in crisis. Yet today, everybody seems to want a piece of fur.

The global fur sales has never been higher (the sales rose by 70% between 2000 and 2010) and the presence of fur at the world leading fashion weeks quite frankly speaks for itself. At the recent fashion weeks In New York and London, nearly two-thirds of all collections showed fur. In Paris, 80% of designers provided fur creations; in Milan the figure was 86%, according to Saga Furs and fashionista.com.

So what happened? Well, fur made it back to the mainstream because of innovation. First and foremost the designers love fur for its creative opportunities. I have interviewed a number of designers over the years, and almost all of them will talk about the 3D-effect of the fur material – an effect other materials simply lack. As a material fur can do something other materials cannot, and I guess creative folks like designers are you just always looking for that little difference. Besides, the fur industry has gone to lengths to develop new fur techniques. I do not know exactly how many variations of crochet, knitting, sewing that has been developed in design centres like Kopenhagen Studio and Saga Furs Design Centre – but there are many, many techniques. On top of that there is a wide range of fur types to choose from, each of which comes in a number of colors (there are some 30 variations of Brown Mink alone!). Add to this that the modern use of fur often comes in combination with other materials, and you have an idea about the creative possibilities fur adds to the designers toolbox. CEO of the International Fur Trade Federation Mark Oaten was interviewed on the subject recently.

In March, Fur for Thought went to the international fur fair in Milan. Though it is not the commercially largest of the world’s fur fairs, Mifur is known to be trend-setting in terms of fur fashion and innovative use of fur. In Milan we met the team from Saga Design Centre and produced the little piece about creative use of fur that you can see in this video: 

Production-wise, sales-wise, fashion-wise – innovation has brought back fur big time. The supermodels are wearing fur too. Only Turlington has kept her promise, according to this op-ed. PETA however, is still running the same old campaign in which naked women are to sell message. So there is that.

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