Every year, as the days get shorter and temperatures drop, the fur debate reappears in the fashion pages. This year, the anti-fur side is winning by a landslide, as once-supporters of the real deal such as Michael Kors, Coach, Versace, Diane von Furstenberg and Maison Martin Margiela have all committed to banning real fur from future collections. But the furriers are trying to hit ethical fashion lovers where it hurts: sustainability. “Real fur is greener!” they desperately claim, trying to cling on to the last shreds of what is a dying industry with no return. “It’s a renewable resource! It’s biodegradable!”
Well, since you asked, yes. Real fur is biodegradable. Any animal skin starts “biodegrading”, (a less chic word is “rotting”) as soon as you take it off the animal’s back. To keep the coats from degrading in the wearer’s wardrobe, fur is treated with a cocktail of toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and hexavalent chromium, poisoning soil, waterways and air, and risking the wearer’s health. Eco-friendly? Not by a long, long stretch.
And in fact, faux fur is not biodegradable. It’s made from petroleum-derived materials which not only stubbornly hang around instead of biodegrading, they also release microplastics into the environment when washed. So although faux fur will never be as harmful to the planet as real fur is, it’s hardly a friend of the environment.
But all of that is about to change. Ecopel, a global manufacturer of faux fur textiles, is planning something big: a new faux fur material crafted from recycled plastic bottles. Finally, the fur industry’s only argument in favour of fur is as dead as the 50-plus million animals that the trade slaughters each year.
Using a collection system internalised at the company’s mills in Asia, Ecopel are able to collect used post-consumer plastic bottles and transform them into a fabric. Not only does this eliminate the need for new acrylic and polyester – the fibres most commonly used for faux fur – it also keeps the plastic bottles from going into landfill. In a move that addresses both the environmental concerns of faux fur and the growing single-use plastic crisis, Ecopel might be on to something that could be revolutionary to the industry.
This material is, however, still in the developing stages. As fur is a complicated fibre to create, Ecopel are still refining aspects such as colours and textures, but we – and lovers of cruelty-free fashion everywhere – have high hopes for this work in progress. And Ecopel themselves are pretty excited about it. “We believe that this new fur will be a very exciting new addition to the fashion industry – and it’s in line with what the new generations want,” says Communications Manager Arnaud Brunois.
He is right – new generations are increasingly conscious of where their clothing comes from and how it was made, and knowing that animals endure horrific suffering and face a gruesome death to make your jacket is enough to make any garment lose its appeal. A fashion purchase that is the fruit of innovation, helps combat environmental issues and champions progress in the eco-fashion realm? Now that is a trend we can get behind.
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Header photo by Lucaxx Freire via Unsplash. Second photo by David Camilli.