These 8 eco friendly faux fur brands prove that when it comes to fake vs real fur, fake always wins!
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
There’s long been a debate about real fur vs faux – which is better for the environment?
Those in the ‘real’ camp say there’s no such thing as eco friendly faux fur. They claim that even though it’s cruel, at least animal fur is a renewable resource. They say that it bio-degrades faster than fake fur, and that faux fur is made from nasty acrylics and plastics that just end up in landfill. And that is often the case.
Those against fur, of course, state that at least faux fur doesn’t slaughter tens of millions of animals each year for mere fashion. They state that since animal fur and leather is treated with heavy dyes and chemicals including chromium and formaldehyde (both of which are highly toxic), these products pose many dangers to both the environment and those that work within it. The primary environmental threat involves the dumping of solid and liquid waste that contains leftover chromium and other hazardous compounds. This is commonplace in regions without strong environmental protection standards, such as India and China, which is also where most leather is tanned.
They also argue that the excrement from fur farms harm the environment. One million pounds of feces are produced annually by U.S. mink farms alone. One dangerous component of this waste is nearly 1,000 tons of phosphorus, which pollutes nearby rivers and streams.
Well, finally, the debate on real vs faux fur is over. And guess what? Faux fur wins! Here’s why.
Eco-friendly faux furs are on the rise
Yes, faux fur is absolutely the more ecological choice – IF it’s made from sustainable materials. And increasingly, that is the case.
Take these eco friendly faux fur designers below, for example. They’re largely using recycled or all-natural materials to get that warm, furry effect – without the killing.
The transition from real fur to artificial fur was bound to happen, given the increasing amount of investment and research in this field. For example, the French Faux Fur Institute’s Open Fur design contest encourages design students to work with recycled fabrics and sustainable materials to create new forms of faux fur, such as that created from recycled bottles or cotton fibres.
Those cruelty-free fur designs are especially popular with younger consumers – new data reveals millennials don’t want to purchase from companies that harm the planet. In fact, young people in their thirties and below consider sustainability a main issue in their lifestyles, whether it concerns what they eat, how they dress or what means of transportation they use.
Yvonne Taylor, senior manager of corporate projects at PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) UK, explained how today’s youth is more ethical than previous generations, because of the campaigns by animal rights groups they have witnessed. “Items that were once a status symbol are fast becoming a badge of shame,” she said. And youngsters in their twenties are even more fervent when it comes to the topic of the environment and animal cruelty.
Global research conducted by Masdar shows that Generation Z wants more action for a sustainable future, and that includes the shift from real to fake fur. But you don’t need to be a teen to appreciate gorgeous, eco friendly faux fur. These brands below are a mere taste of how faux fur can be more sustainable than the real thing – but given widespread rejection of fur by consumers and designers alike, we predict many more designers will be following in their footsteps soon.
10 Eco Friendly Faux Fur Brands
The Italian designer Daniele Calcaterra works closely with manufacturer Ecopel, which is mentioned in more detail below. Ecopel has developed an eco friendly faux fur material made from recycled plastic bottles.
This regenerated fibre is introduced into a new cycle of circular economy production thanks to Calcaterra, who creates glossy, furry, eco friendly creations with the material. And for those who cry out that recycled plastic used in clothing only creates microfibre pollution in the ocean when the garments are washed, consider this: winter coats rarely, if ever, get washed – and you can opt for a ‘green’ dry cleaner instead, keeping your coat clean without any ocean pollution whatsoever.
There is no denying it – fur is cruel. 85% of the fur industry’s skins come from animals living in captivity in factory fur farms, as Stella McCartney well knows. The vegan designer prioritises the welfare of the animals above all, but also points out that fur requires numerous toxic chemicals for preservation and dyeing, which can be extremely harmful for the natural environment and workers.
That being said, the decision to include faux fur in her own designs has not been without much debate – Stella didn’t want to encourage people to use real fur by making a ‘fur look’ chic. Ultimately, she concluded that by offering a luxury Fur-Free-Fur product that’s a great alternative to real fur, she could demonstrate that no animal ever needs to be harmed for fashion. She clearly placed a ‘Fur-Free-Fur’ label on the outside of faux fur garments, just in case anyone has any doubt about what the coats are really made from.
Although she works ethically with a few select mills, and ensures that all her materials are produced in an environmentally sound way, her coats themselves are not biodegradable, as they’re made from a blend of acrylic, polyester and ethically sourced wool or mohair. But on her website, Stella urges her customers to care for their items responsibly, washing rarely, and never throwing them away – the faux fur can easily be upcycled into pillow cases, toys or even rugs, with a bit of creativity.
Like Calcaterra, Stella has also started working with Ecopel (more of which below), a company that makes faux fur from recycled plastic bottles. We can’t wait to see her new collection that uses this!
Lifelong animal lover Tiziano Guardini has created a wide variety of plant-based furs since he began his career as a fashion designer. He experiments with a plethora of unique materials, including hemp, straw and even pine needles, to create different ‘furry’ effects, and the results are quite remarkable. His latest collection uses frayed denim to create a kind of Afghan shearling effect.
Guardini is among the designers to recently lend their voice to the anti-fur movement, which has been growing steadily. Back in 2017, luxury powerhouse Gucci pledged to go fur-free, followed by Michael Kors and Jimmy Choo – and now Jean Paul Gaultier has been the latest (of many) big designers to renounce fur. Yoox, Selfridges and Net-a-Porter have also adopted a fur-free policy that bans all accessories, apparel and footwear made from animal fur, and Guardini couldn’t be more pleased.
“Western countries do not need to use animal furs but some fashion houses continue to do so. I’m hoping that by creating a sustainable alternative such as denim fur we will be able to show people that fur alternatives are just as beautiful and aesthetically pleasing as the real thing,” he told The Independent.
Small Ukrainian brand Ksenia Schnaider cares about the environment and animals. They also really, really like denim. So it kind of makes sense that their faux furs are made from recycled denim.
The brand started as a Ukrainian love story, founded by Ksenia Schnaider, a fashion designer, and her husband Anton Schnaider, a graphic designer in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The duo were so into each other, they not only wanted to spend every spare minute together, but wanted to work together, too. After thinking a bit about how to make that possible, they launched Ksenia Schnaider – and the rest is history.
Today, they experiment with denim, fraying it, shredding it and playing around until they find the right ‘furry’ texture for jackets and embellishments. Their styles and techniques have been a huge hit with consumers and the media, and they’ve been featured in loads of international magazines from Vogue and I.D to Eluxe!
5. Unreal Fur
This brand is so ethical, it’s, well…unreal! First of all, this Australian-based coat maker pays wages far above the living standard to all who make their garments. Secondly, they’re just as concerned about their environmental footprint as they are their social impact, and have consequently developed some eco-friendly faux fur fibres made from a blend of hemp and PET recycled water bottles. Their fabric scraps are even recycled into new products, including pieces in their mini-me kids’ products and accessories! Unreal Fur’s fashion-forward designs have made the brand popular with customers around the world, and their coats are now sold at various global retailers, including Free People, Farfetch and Bloomingdale’s.
Another young designer who’s dreaming up eco friendly faux fur made from upcycled, shredded denim is Nathalie Ballout. The Swedish-Lebanese creator caused a stir when her first collection challenged conventional ideas of clothing by demonstrating how currently available materials can be distressed, deconstructed and reconstructed into unique pieces that mimic fur, feathers and wool. Nathalie’s unique vision has garnered her the recognition of Vogue Talents, who chose her to show her work at Milan Fashion Week SS19.
7. Hemp Tailor
Hemp is pretty much a miracle fibre. It’s possibly one of the first materials we humans ever used to make clothes, and gets softer over time. It absorbs and releases sweat fast. It breathes well. Hemp is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial, which means it doesn’t hold onto unpleasant body odours. Hemp is also hypoallergenic, and fights mold and mildew. But maybe the most surprising thing about hemp is that when it’s combined with fibres from recycled plastic bottles, it makes a surprisingly eco friendly faux fur!
Hemp Tailor was one of the first ever brands to use this soft, furry material, as you can see below in their hip length classic hoodlamb jacket for women. It’s main feature is its soft faux fur lining – even the pockets are lined with the stuff, demonstrating how sustainable faux fur can be just as warm as the real thing.
London based Culthread is a producer of ethically made vegan coats. Its founder, Rina, says: “I founded Culthread because I searched in vain for the perfect coat – one that not only looked amazing, but fit just right, had inside and outside pockets, a hood, and was guaranteed free from all animal derived products. I loved the idea of having something different and special, without compromising on warmth and functionality. Culthread coats are either one off, unique pieces, or made in small limited editions.”
Today, the brand’s sustainable outerwear is all handmade from eco friendly fabrics like British waxed cotton, and luxurious faux furs made from recycled fabric. These jackets are guaranteed to be warm thanks to their Thermore insulation, which is comprised of 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.
This unique brand produces eco friendly faux fur from actual animal products – sustainably and gently sourced wool or mohair – combined with cotton. They sew the animal fibers onto a cotton woven base to create a fabric that causes no harm to animals or the planet. The result of the process is a material that’s not fully vegan, but it is cruelty free, as well as soft, breathable, and biodegradable. Plus, wearing it feels a bit like snuggling up to your childhood teddy bear!
Ok, it’s not so much a brand as it is a manufacturer of eco friendly faux fur, but Ecopel is probably the biggest global producer of fake fur fabric that’s crafted from recycled plastic bottles. After all, it’s used by a few eco-conscious faux fur designers, as mentioned above.
Ecopel collects used post-consumer waste in order to transform it into soft, fluffy fabrics that not only eliminate the need for new acrylics and polyesters, but also prevent plastic bottles from ending up in landfill.
Since getting the texture and sheen of real fur is pretty hard to do, Ecopel is still refining aspects of their product, such as colours and textures. But we have high hopes for this exciting new sustainable faux fur, as does Stella McCartney. Just check out her coat below, which uses Ecopel fur!
Main image: House of Fluff. Learn more about them here.
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