Moncler is the latest fashion brand to declare it will stop using fur. Earlier this week, the Italian-French label pledged to phase out the material from all of its collections over the next two years.
It joins a long list of fashion brands that have recently given up on fur. Kering, a major luxury conglomerate that owns houses like Gucci and Balenciaga, said it would eliminate fur from all its brands, as well as Canada Goose, another supplier of expensive down jackets. Burberry, Prada, and others have also pledged to drop it.
With each new announcement, proponents of sustainability applaud the move as a step forward. But how far forward is it really?
At first Moncler and many of these brands barely used fur. A spokesperson for Moncler said the brand “makes limited use of fur in its garments mainly for trims, trims, collars”, refusing to provide detailed figures.
If Moncler, a brand that was built on the down jacket, had made a commitment to stop using down instead of fur, it would have achieved a much bigger victory for animal welfare. Feather processing is also linked to cruel practices, such as plucking. The same goes for leather, a material that requires mass slaughter but remains acceptable to mainstream fashion.
Limited impact of Fur-free
Fur apparently has turned into the plastic straw of fashion. Disposable plastic straws have been identified as a hot target for anti-plastic campaigns. Almost overnight, restaurants switched to biodegradable straws or got rid of straws altogether. The eco-conscious set has started carrying their own metal straws. But straws account for less than 1% of the plastic pollution problem.
Like straws, giving up fur is an easy win from a corporate social responsibility standpoint – companies give up on something negligible for business and rack up brownie points with consumers.
This is not to say that there is no cruelty or cost to using fur. Every year, 100 million animals are killed for fur, but that’s only a sliver of the billion or so slaughtered to make leather products.
As Fendi CEO Serge Brunschwig said in 2019, “I’m amused by these people saying ‘we don’t make fur.’ So you make plastic? Well. Or, in fact, they weren’t making much fur anyway.
Fendi is the reason why LVMH, owner of the brand, cannot easily jump on the anti-fur wagon. The DNA of the Italian house is deeply intertwined with fur and it runs a fur atelier that has trained artisans in the trade for almost a century.
Going without fur is only the first step
To be fair, many of the brands that have gone fur-free also have other public commitments to work in more sustainable ways. But the marketing machine is disproportionately loud on the issue.
For example, one pressing issue that fashion brands should talk about the most is Xinjiang cotton. The United States banned all products from the region in December due to serious allegations of human rights violations. But Xinjiang cotton remains integrated into the supply chain via intermediary suppliers, and brands are reluctant to investigate more closely for fear of boycotts and other reprisals from China.
Again, Sonalie Figueras, the founder of the Green Queen sustainability publication, sees the fur boycott as a turning point. “It is the symbol of a much greater thing,” he said. “It’s a gateway drug for these companies to engage in an animal-free future.”