The Kering-owned labels commit to fur-free fashion

Throughout the recent AW21 womenswear season, brands presented a vision of the future enveloped in spongy, cloaking, and voluminous fur coats. Whether lined in magenta disco-sequins at Prada, sportswear-accented at Givenchy, or sent out full Yeti-style at Miu Miu, designers looked to the controversial fabric to explore the dichotomy of desire for both comfort and opulence in a life post-pandemic. 

The vast majority of these fur lined pieces, however, were faux, as more and more fashion houses – like Burberry, Versace, and Chanel – have decided to phase out the fabric in favour of cruelty-free, sustainable alternatives. Now joining this list are Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga, who, in a March 25 report released by parent company Kering, have pledged to go fur-free.

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Although Balenciaga has technically not used fur since the early collections of its current creative director, Demna Gvasalia, this has now been cemented in brand policy. It’s a reflection of the cultural shift in consumer expectations surrounding supply chain transparency and social responsibility, which has been gaining momentum for some time. Following a Vogue Business report, the demand for vegan alternatives to animal products increased by 258 per cent in the United States and the United Kingdom in 2019 alone.

In a bid to drive innovation in the sector, Kering, which also owns the fur-free Gucci and Bottega Veneta, has recently invested in other ethical alternatives, including Mylo, a company that develops cruelty-free leather substitutions made from mushrooms. According to the Humane Society, an animal rights advocacy group in the US, Saint Laurent and Brioni are the only Kering brands yet to relinquish the use of fur within their collections.

Of course, veganism is not always synonymous with sustainability, so while faux fur is a win for animal advocacy groups, it’s often made from polyester and acrylic fabrics, which are petroleum-based and toxic to the environment. The chemical byproducts made from crafting fake fur leach into waterways and the items themselves can take hundreds of thousands of years to degrade, scattering microplastics through the environment, which both humans and animals ingest.

Twenty years ago, the UK was the first country within the EU to prohibit fur farming and now, having left the single market, we have the power to put an outright ban on the sale of fur for good. The one upside to Brexit, perhaps. That being said, this is unlikely to be any time soon as a spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs told The Guardian: “Once our future relationship with the EU has been established there will be an opportunity for the government to consider further steps it could take in relation to fur sales.”

Check out Balenciaga’s AW21 collection in the gallery above.