Is Gen Y Powering Fur's Comeback?

In the fashion world, few words are as polarizing as fur. And as recently as several years ago, marketers might have written off mink coats as the status symbols of aged dowagers, scorned by Gen Y’s ardent environmentalists.

But as sustainability debates have become more nuanced, many Millennial fashionistas are now embracing fur as green, renewable and fun. And it continues to show up in the portfolios of some of Gen Y’s most coveted brands, including Burberry, Gucci and Prada.

The latest numbers are in from the International Fur Federation, which reports that the highly fragmented global fur trade rose to a value of $40 billion in 2013, with fur retail sales $35.8 billion. “It’s been a great couple of years for the industry,” says Mark Oaten, CEO of IFF, in its release. “The recent cold weather in North America and its increasing popularity on catwalks globally has once again thrown our sector into the spotlight.” 

Women’s Wear Daily reports that fur sales in North America climbed 10% in 2013 to $1.7 billion. If fur trim and accessories sales -- including fashion boutiques, ski and sporting goods outlets, luxury shoe shops and department stores -- are factored in, WWD estimates fur sales in North America came in over $4 billion in 2013.

And according to some, it’s young shoppers -- not their grandmothers -- who are powering the trend. “Young students are really eager for us to teach them about fur,” Karen Groner, adjunct professor of fashion design at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, tells Marketing Daily. “They’re in love with it. I have never seen such overwhelming interest.”

Perhaps because they didn’t grow up with it, she says, “it’s exotic to them. It can be purple, or fluffy. It doesn’t have to be an old lady coat, and there seems to be something inherently sensual about it.”

And younger consumers have more complex opinions about sustainability. “It’s not that these kids believe in cruelty to animals,” she says. “They just see fur as part of a life cycle, and are smarter about the environmental consequences of all fabrics, whether it’s pollution created by cotton farming, or the way synthetics clog up landfills.”

Anti-fur activists disagree. “The younger generation is not in favor of fur,” says Ashley Byrne, a campaign specialist at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. “That’s why the largest chains catering to younger shoppers, including Forever 21, H&M and Topshop, have no-fur policies.”

She says the global increase in fur has been driven by growth in luxury products in China. “But young people in China are no different than young people anywhere,” she tells Marketing Daily. “We recently unveiled our first ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur’ ad there, using Chinese celebrities. Fur gains won’t last very long there, either.”

Other stores that have a no-fur policy include Nike, Ann Taylor, Limited, Gap and J. Crew. And in addition to the roster of designers who won’t use fur, including Stella McCartney, Tommy Hilfiger, and Todd Oldham, there’s an ever-expanding roster of celebrities who have sworn off fur, ranging from Ellen DeGeneres to Pink.

She says Gen Y is also increasingly aware of the growth in “wonderful, cruelty-free fashions. Case in point? Designer Vaute Couture, an all-vegan line, which made its debut in New York’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week last year. “It is so easy to make kind decisions,” she says,  “and still look fantastic.”

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17 comments about "Is Gen Y Powering Fur's Comeback?".
  1. arnaud gavard from MLM , April 25, 2014 at 4:22 a.m.
    The fur industry has built a confusion between 2 notions : a natural fiber (fur / hair ) and a green industry. There is no such thing as green fur. Any experts will confirm that all farming activities have a big impact on our planet includding the thousands of fur farms. That is why the "eco friendly fur" ad was banned in 2012 by the Advertising Standarts Authority in GB. A 2011 study by a Netherlands consultancy firm CE Delft which compared the impact of fur production with common textiles on 18 different environmental issues such as climate change, ozone pollution, soil acidification and water and land use. It stated "For 17 of the 18 issues, fur was found to be much more harmful than common textiles," another 2013 study clearly showed that the environmental impact of natural mink fur coats and trims is higher than the impact of faux fur coats and trims. (name of the study : "Natural mink fur and faux fur products an environmental comparison"). I wish that the fashion industry will stop swallowing the guilt-free / fallacious speech of the fur industry. No animals should die for fashion sake.
  2. Kelly Woolford from IFF , April 25, 2014 at 4:44 a.m.
    In that PETA advert... He's holding a football made of cowhide!!! PETA are complete hypocrites.
  3. arnaud gavard from MLM , April 25, 2014 at 4:50 a.m.
    who knows ? It might faux . But if this guy is not vegetarian I don't see the problem. Leather is not fur. The IFF is master in hypocrisy.
  4. Kelly Woolford from IFF , April 25, 2014 at 4:52 a.m.
    Leather is just fur with the hairs burnt off!!! Using harsh chemicals might I add!
  5. arnaud gavard from MLM , April 25, 2014 at 5:08 a.m.
    You are probably confusing. Fur is not leather and leather is not fur. Foxes, raccoons and mink are raised for fashion only. Even in a non vegetarian world we can spare millions of animals simply by avoiding fur. (cow skins come from the meat industry). didn't know that ?
  6. Kelly Woolford from IFF , April 25, 2014 at 5:13 a.m.
    Well leather is skin so I hardly see much of a difference, and leather isn't always a by-product of the meat industry. There will always be a demand for fur - why can't we put our efforts into campaigning for tighter regulations and research into animal care, rather than calling for bans? Banning the legal farming/trapping of fur will just lead to a rise in the black market.
  7. arnaud gavard from MLM , April 25, 2014 at 5:22 a.m.
    The big difference is that avoiding fur would spare millions of animals lives, so there is not need to regulate. Indeed the meat industry should be regulated because people are not ready to stop eating meat (even though meat consumption tends to decrease at least in Europe) But avoiding fur is easy. We need to build a more compassionate world and this goes with the idea of sparing animals lives when it is easily achievable.
  8. Kelly Woolford from IFF , April 25, 2014 at 5:34 a.m.
    You think that if fur farming/trapping was banned, people would stop wanting to wear it? No. As I said, a ban would lead to a rise of the black market - illegal, unregulated farms with horrendous conditions. And what about the other effects a ban would have? Over a million people would lose their jobs. The waste from pig farms etc that are normally fed to farmed mink would be destined for landfill. And the economy would suffer - as stated in the article above, business is very good at the moment and the fur industry is generating a lot of money for the global economy.
  9. arnaud gavard from MLM , April 25, 2014 at 5:53 a.m.
    Black markets exist for everything (drugs, prostitution) and fortunately those are banned "industries". The horrendous conditions already exist in Europe or in the US. In fur farms life is created to be put in battery cages. Am I right ? Creating a trend for fur like the IFF and Saga furs do, encourage the black market and fur factories in China. You are responsible for all of that. If you create other industries wether it is faux fur, recycled fabrics, smart textiles you do not lose jobs. plus : the fur industry represent 60 000 jobs in Europe with is not that much. The economic argument is not an excuse : the tobacco industry represents millions of jobs and big money : do we have to get more people smoking ? and what about slavery ? it was a flourishing industry
  10. Kelly Woolford from IFF , April 25, 2014 at 6:08 a.m.
    Europe and the US have the best animal welfare standards in the world. http://www.wearefur.com/fur-tv/behind-scenes-mink-farm-netherlands & http://www.wearefur.com/our-trade/ethics/animal-welfare The IFF is a very small organisation and cannot influence trends!!!! Fashion designers are using fur in abundance on the catwalks, because new techniques have been invented, meaning that fur is an extremely versatile material. Faux fur is not environmentally friendly - this life cycle analysis shows the difference between the production of faux fur and real fur: http://www.wearefur.com/origin-assured/environment
  11. arnaud gavard from MLM , April 25, 2014 at 6:09 a.m.
    and what about the "waste from pig farms" ? In my country there are almost no fur farms but LOTS of pig farms. those things are not always interconnected.
  12. arnaud gavard from MLM , April 25, 2014 at 6:21 a.m.
    you can spare me the official web sites from the industry, I know the speech by heart ! Even though I understand you are more concerned about your livelihood than animal respect. Those "standards" have been put to shame by countless surprise visits by NGO's. The IFF and the fur industry is a very powerful lobby who have been busy brainwashing the fashion industry, sponsoring designers, offering fee furs, adding pieces of fur on any items (from watch to sunglasses) etc . Some designers use faux fur with the same techniques (Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfigger and new trendy label SHRIMPS among others) because faux is greener. a 2013 study clearly showed that the environmental impact of natural mink fur coats and trims is higher than the impact of faux fur coats and trims. (name of the study : "Natural mink fur and faux fur products an environmental comparison"). The faux fur sector is tiny part of the whole industry, so unless you leave in a yurt, grow your own food, do not have any plastic bags or synthetic items in your home, don't own a TV or computers, I do not see the problem with faux fur. Stop vilifying the faux fur sector when you support an industry that put millions of animals in battery cages and damages the environment.
  13. arnaud gavard from MLM , April 25, 2014 at 6:24 a.m.
    3 "origin assured" farms respecting the "welfare standards" were visited last November : too bad the fur industry can not control everything. oops ! http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/video-real-price-fur-coat-3171710
  14. Kelly Woolford from IFF , April 25, 2014 at 6:36 a.m.
    I didn't say pig farms and fur farms are globally interconnected, just that farmed mink are fed pig waste among other things! The Mirror article you're referring to contains a video from an animal rights organisation - hardly a reliable source. And where does it say that that is an OA farm??? You can't have it both ways, you blabber on about how environmentally bad the fur industry is, then tell me : "unless you leave in a yurt, grow your own food, do not have any plastic bags or synthetic items in your home, don't own a TV or computers, I do not see the problem with faux fur". We're really not going to get anywhere - I'm not going to change your mind and you're definitely not going to change mine.
  15. arnaud gavard from MLM , April 25, 2014 at 6:51 a.m.
    why not a reliable source ? because it is not coming from the IFF ? Surprise investigation from NGO's are necessary to compare the beautiful speech from the industrials and the reality. At least readers can read our arguments and make their own opinion about an unnecessary thing that can be easily replaceable. In a world were the animal rights question is a society's challenge and that even scientists in Europe are working hard on reducing and / or stopping animal experimentation by any means, the existence of 6 000 of fur factories in Europe (only) and the vanity trade needs to be questioned urgently.
  16. Kelly Woolford from IFF , April 25, 2014 at 7:03 a.m.
    You won't believe in a video made by the IFF but you believe so strongly in one created by an AR group. Sad.
  17. arnaud gavard from MLM , April 25, 2014 at 7:09 a.m.
    Not true ! I take most of my informations from the IFF and Saga furs websites :-)