Condemned in Many Places, Fur Industry Still Manages to Survive

Do you want a mink coat? Or a seal coat which Prada, Gucci and Versace sell? Or a monkey fur garment offered by Salvatore Ferragamo? (Yes, you read that right.) Go to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army and you’ll find them next to the King Kong and Big Foot Halloween costumes.

Once upon a time, wearing fur meant you had money (or at least the man who bought you the coat did). But today fur is archaic and is seldom seen in Chicago, other parts of the US and a lot of Europe, except on people over 70. One woman I interviewed says she was refused service in a restaurant for wearing a fur, albeit an edgy restaurant populated by young people.

Yet, like ivory products, someone is buying fur because the bloody industry continues!

Designers including the recently deceased Oscar de la Renta still revel in fur and fashion magazines still pimp it. Vogue editor Anna Wintour is unwavering in her love of skinned animal fashion despite receiving a pie in the face at the Chanel couture show in Paris in 2005 by animal lovers.

Wintour was also “served” a raccoon on her plate during a luncheon at the Four Seasons restaurant in 1996. “I threw the raccoon and it landed right on her plate,” said the “server” who said she had found the carcass frozen in a trash heap outside a fur farm. “Its little beady eyes were staring up at her. She looked very shocked.” The following year, bloody paws were painted on the steps of her West Village townhouse.

If anything, the incidents cemented Wintour’s fur love.  A 2009 Vogue, timed with a documentary about Wintour, advertised furs by Dior, Fendi, Nina Ricci, Marc Jacobs, Emilio Pucci, Vuitton, Chris Benz and Dolce & Gabbana, Bally, Gucci, Oscar de la Renta and monkey fur loving Salvatore Ferragamo. Purses by Donna Karan, YSL and Michael Kors made of that humane and ecological material, python were also in the issue. Are you patronizing these designers?

Many believe meat is necessary for food but no one–including Wintour!–believes fur is necessary for warmth. It is as banal as using ivory for trinkets. Manmade furs are warmer and cheaper and even  down has been replaced by the cruelty-free and superior Thermoluxe.


Yet the fashion biz is continually looking for new uses of fur whether pom-poms on hats, muffs or baby clothes. “Why not try a pelt or two,” cajoles the New York Times style section this month, hawking fur accessories like a “Letta yellow fur” clutch for “shoppers who can’t commit full-on to fall’s fantastical furs.” Commit or conscience?

Twenty-five years ago Evans, the world’s largest furrier headquartered in Chicago, went out of business. It cited “anti-fur activism that focused on convincing the American and European public that wearing any kind of fur was cruel and malicious to the animal it was taken from.” Also folding were Mysels Furs, in the Palmer House Hilton, and D’ion Furs on Michigan avenue.

But then the fur biz fought back seeking overseas producers and markets and adding fur “trim” everywhere it could be added. Chilling reports of dog and cat fur from China, deliberately mislabeled, continue to surface from groups like PETA and HSUS. Buyer beware.

But recently humane activists are also fighting back. They are credited with freeing 2,000 minks from an Illinois fur farm near Morris, 65 miles southwest of Chicago and also animals from mink and fox farms in Roanoke, Illinois. Of course some see the activists as taking “property” but many see them as saving animals from impending gassing, neck-breaking and anal electrocution.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. Her first book, titled Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, has just been released by Prometheus Books. She can be reached at: Read other articles by Martha.