With its dramatic big square shoulders it was a little bit Biba, a little bit Sunset Boulevard and a lot rock’n’roll. Also very cosy. It did a great job of keeping me warm at bus stops right through the British winter. I loved that coat and wore it with jeans, boots, sunglasses and big felt hats. I threw it over dresses with heels. It made everything groovy.
Then one day I woke up in my bedroom in the family house and the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the fur coat lying on the floor, where I must have dropped it the night before, after coming in on a magic carpet of lager and lime. For an infinitesimal split second, I thought it was a large dog.
When I realised what it actually was, a sense of horror crept over me. Up until that moment I had managed to disassociate the real-fur coat from the real furry animal it was made out of, but in that instant the disconnect was lost. I never wore it again.
That was my personal turning point with real fur, but in the years that followed, when I started working on fashion magazines, I had a professional education in the subject. My entree to attending the big deal fashion shows coincided with the first very active period of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
I’ve been at a Paris show where they jumped on the catwalk and threw red paint on fur garments. It certainly made you look. Via their work I then learnt the full, vile reality of how fur is produced, with millions (yes, millions) of animals raised every year on intensive farms in tiny cages and then killed by electrocution – up their bottoms and down their throats simultaneously. Or they’re trapped in the wild, left for days to bleed and starve, before being bludgeoned to death.
I’m sorry it doesn’t make nice reading – and you really don’t want to see the pictures – but that is the reality of the fur trade. Horrendous. Since learning the truth about it, I can’t even bear to look at real fur, let alone touch it.
The good news is that PETA’s unremitting campaigns have worked. Almost all the big fashion houses have stopped using real fur. When a company of Gucci’s heritage officially drops it [in 2018, followed by Chanel, Versace, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent and more], you know fur has had its day.
So it looks like a chill breeze is blowing through the modern fur industry – but where does that leave vintage fur?
While you wouldn’t dream of buying a new one, surely it’s OK to wear an old fur coat, like the one I had, right? The argument being that the animals died long ago and it’s better to honour them by using the garment rather than just wasting it. Except it’s not. Wearing real fur promotes the idea that it’s acceptable to do so. You are making yourself a walking billboard proclaiming that it’s fine to breed animals just to kill them (horribly) for clothing – even though equally warm, much lighter and more fun fake furs are now available.
The best thing to do with an old fur coat is to donate it to an animal sanctuary, where it can be used for bedding. Respect the animals that died to make it, by helping other critters to live.