Whats With… Fake Fur?

Fur, and its close cousin shearling, were all over the A/W 10/11 catwalks. Don’t pretend you hadn’t noticed. Since the fashion world seems to spin on it’s axis a great deal faster than the rest of the planet, those very catwalk shows occurred almost a year ago now, giving plenty of time for this particular trend to filter all the way down from the über-chic but, one imagines, slightly sinister HQ of Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld to every high street store window. Chances are you already own a sleeveless furry gilet, one of those trapper style hats with the furry earflaps, or hell, even a full on fur coat.

After all, fur isn’t exactly a new fashion idea, particularly for A/W, when designers are forced to make some sort of concession to reality and acknowledge that even the ultra stylish occasionally feel the cold. (Although not all designers bother with such boring considerations.) Fur, in all it’s guises, is a regular fixture at every annual February fashion week turn out; Anna Wintour approves of, nay, champions it; it has that musky whiff of the controversial; and it can keep you warm without having to resort to wearing so many layers you look like the Michelin Man. Winwin for designers then.

So what was new about this season’s fur? Firstly, the sheer extent of it. It seemed as though, in a desperate bid to employ it in a way that hadn’t been ‘done’, every designer in New York, London, Milan and Paris decided to frantically throw fur on to garments that hadn’t ever experienced it before. Hate to break it to you, but that fur coat which you thought was quite so daringly, Cruella de Vil stylish? Passé. Try thigh length fur boots, fur skirts, fur hotpants on for size instead. Accessories didn’t escape either; fur earmuffs, fur gloves, fur handbags are also all now apparently achingly chic, rather than just vaguely fun and ridiculous. When some shows appeared to be crafted entirely out of fur, you began to wonder whether the trend wasn’t just attributable to a lack of design inspiration. Perhaps instead there had been some catastrophic shortage in fabric supplies, leaving every fashion atelier in the world no choice but to bravely and resourcefully craft clothes out of pelts, like some sort of grimly stylish Armageddon? Whatever the explanation, this crack-tastic month-long fur-fest reached its natural culmination in Paris, of course, with yetis on the catwalk.

So far, so bonkers. However, the second defining feature of this season’s take on fur is far more shocking; A/W’s fur is *gasp* fake! Apart from a few rogues such as Stella McCartney3, most designers wouldn’t previously even think to make space for the fake. But black is white and up is down, and lo, Fashion hath spoken, and decreed that what last season would have been dismissed as tacky and really rather *sniff* cheap, is now the pinnacle of fashion forwardness. Maybe we shouldn’t credit designers with too many moral principles here; maybe again it’s all just down to that fabric mix-up, or maybe in these straitened times they simply couldn’t afford the acres of real skins necessary for yeti ensembles.

Anyway, this season’s penchant for the fake heralds good news all round. It’s good news for designers, who can claim ethical forward thinking, while cutting costs and avoiding any of those pesky PETA protestors. Sometimes not all publicity is good publicity, after all. It’s good news for us mere mortals who can’t dress head-to-toe in labels, as fake generally equates to more accessible. It’s cheaper, and prolifically and convincingly copied by the high street. Nina Ricci fakes it, New Look fakes it; to the untrained eye it could all pass as much of a muchness. Lastly, of course, it’s good news for little furry animals. Faking it is considerably more palatable for those who would rather go naked than wear clothes with connotations of electrocution and anal probes. If you fall into this camp, then congratulations, your morals aren’t hopelessly unstylish anymore! You can now happily indulge your primeval urge for caveman chic, knowing that no animals were harmed in the making of these clothes. Just don’t call it fake; faux, teddy bear, or best of all, fantasy, are all suitably pretentious instead. Kaiser Karl would approve.