PARIS: Something rather significant was missing from the Paris haute couture shows which wrapped up on Wednesday night – fur.
Beyond the guest appearance of American designer Ralph Rucci, there was none of the luxuriantly sensual mink, fox or sable that for decades defined the autumn winter collections of the elite Paris shows.
More significant still, there was just as little fake fur.
The clutch of couturiers who make some of the most expensive and exquisite clothes in the world seem to have made the leap into a fur-less future.
Having renounced fur in November, Jean Paul Gaultier replaced it flamboyantly with feathers in his stomping show Wednesday, with pelts giving way to animal prints.
“It’s fake, fake fur,” the French creator told AFP, “a trick of the eye.
“No feathers have been killed or massacred for the show,” he quipped.
And as the Italian designer Sofia Crociani also proved, you can create the look and feel of fur from natural fibres without resorting to synthetic faux furs that are a byproduct of the oil industry.
She created coats and dresses for her Aelis show “from knitted silk and cashmere and silk and camel hair”, she told AFP.
“All the materials are natural and sustainable. We never use fur, only the skins of animals that we eat.”
Crociani refuses to use fake fur or leather, saying you cannot get away from the fact that “they are plastics, which don’t pass for me, even recycled.”
Having dedicated a whole collection last year to fake fur, Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller has come around to the same way of thinking.
Designers say ‘No’ to faux
“I know it’s a good alternative to the real thing, but I don’t know if environmentally it’s the best solution,” the British designer said.
“I’d rather wait until there is something that feels more eco-friendly.”
But she is sticking with leather and woolly shearling, “which is a by-product of the food industry, so it is a waste product if it’s not used.”
While fellow Briton Stella McCartney has pioneered vegan clothes, “Fur-free-Fur” and hi-tech “vegetarian leather” which she claims is as good as the real thing, even she acknowledges there is an environmental downside.
“We are conscious that the product itself is non-biodegradable.
“We therefore encourage customers to care for their items… never throwing them away. Luxury does not mean landfill – it means forever,” her label insisted.
But for Maurizio Galante it is “absolutely idiotic” to use fake fur and skins “that come from petrol. It is not good for the planet at all. You either use the real thing or you don’t,” he told AFP.
The Italian used all his top-end cutting techniques to mimic a jaguar skin in satin and silk in one of the Mexican-inspired trouser suits in his Paris haute couture show.
‘Nothing ecological about fake fur’
Dutch designer Ronald van der Kemp – an ace recycler – went a step further, making a leopard print bolero and turban from an old duvet cover.
For Galante, “fur almost doesn’t have a place in our lives any more.
“The world has changed, and so has our attitude to climate, ecology and our respect for animals.”
French designer Julien Fournie used to love to use fur but stopped five years ago because he could not be sure of its origins.
“Even if real fur is more ecologically sound than synthetic fur – it takes 6,000 years for fake fur to break down and about 600 for the real thing – traceability was a problem for me.”
Giambattista Valli was equally adamant. “There is nothing ecological about eco-fur, it’s very polluting.”
Gaultier did not rule out one day recycling his old furs or using new pelts again “if everything is done right and obviously not with endangered species.
“I really like the feel of fur, it’s so warm … but for now we need to calm things down.
“We are in an age when there is too much of everything, so we shouldn’t be killing animals.
“I have a charming little pussy, and I love animals, though I draw the line at crocodiles,” he added.
The French fur federation said the only reason fur was absent from the runways was because of the “climate of terror” created by animal rights groups like Peta.
“The creators are afraid to show fur because of the threat of these groups,” its spokesman Pierre-Philippe Frieh said.
But he claimed that a new generation of designers, including some of the hottest in fashion, are using furs and exotic skins.
“Kim Jones at Dior and Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton have done menswear collections with fur which show this renaissance of fur in fashion,” he insisted.
Frieh was lavish in his praise of Rucci for sticking with fur, but the American – who was showing as a guest in Paris – said he was using it “in a very hidden way”.