The long lifespan of fur
The report, ‘Fur and Sustainability - a Design Perspective’, was presented at last week’s conference ‘Sustainable fashion, sustainable bottom line’ at Christiansborg. Here researchers, fashion-people, NGO’s and politicians discussed, how the future of fashion production and -use could look. The fur project is a part of a three year long collaboration between Kolding Design School and Kopenhagen Fur, the world’s biggest producer and seller of fur.
Researchers suggest more transparency in the production and look at new design possibilities and at the furs more feeling related significance. Fur carries as civilization's oldest clothing object a collective memory, which still is visible in for example Greenland.
Else Skjold has researched the fur’s life home at the consumers. She has interviewed fur owners about their jackets and coats, and a certain pattern of feelings came to show. “An informant has inherited a Greenlandic fur from her mother. She remembers, how the mother wore it in the 1970’s together with a belting leather bag. You can still see the marks on the fur, where the leather strap tore. Someone else inherited his grandmother’s fur. It was enormous for the grandmother, but now it looks like a doll-fur. However it holds a history about the family, that is what makes it special.
The feelings are an extra quality, which reaches far over the pure crafting-part, and makes the fur owners take better care of their coats. “Especially furs, which you have inherited, have a special significance. They are understood as good quality. ‘Stuff like this can’t just be bought today’, is a typical answer.”
Researchers encourage the fur industry to cooperate with these emotional values. It will in the meantime underline, that fur is an alternative to newer time’s fast fashion. The fast fashion is known for low prices and big changes. Fur is fundamentally a slow material, which requires a unique treatment. As seen from a sustainable angle there are many great values in fur, Else Skjold explains. “It is for example the consumer proximity, which is opposite of the standardization, which you see in fashion. Fur-crafting is exclusive, and when you pay maybe $10.000 for a fur, the furrier and the cutter work, so that the fur fits you.’’
Over the last few centuries there are many furriers, who has disappeared, while others try to pursue the normal fashion market. Both Kopenhagen Fur and Great Greenland work together today with trendsetting designers and would like to work close with the more superficial fashion. “We would like to warn, that the fur industry is moving too far that way. Don’t ever forget the history, the craft and the proximity. That is what, the fashion industry today regrets, that it has done.” As a part of her research Else Skjold has among other things been in China, where Kopenhagen Fur has its biggest market. China buys about 80% of the Danish furs, and according to the researcher the consumers are very aware, that a fur is an investment, which must last the rest of their life.
“The Chinese consumers act sustainable. They save up for something, they want, and they get the fur adjusted, so it is, how they intended it to be. Many use service centres, where the fur is treated and stored correctly. Later there is an opportunity to redesign og pimp the fur, so that it always feels fresh. This is all something that expand the lifespan of the fur. This is also something, which the normal fashion industry could learn something from.”