The Great Fur Debate

This innovative new material is pushing the boundaries of fashion, by providing brands and consumers with a product that considers both the environment, and animals.

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Fur was once seen as glamorous; a luxury among the rich and famous. It wasn’t worn for warmth necessarily – it was rather a fashion statement and status symbol. These days, we have come to understand the grim reality of the fur industry, which has thankfully led to the development of some innovative alternatives to fur such as synthetic and bio-based ‘faux furs’ – but which among these are the most sustainable?

Real Fur

The traps, the farms, the horrifying conditions – we are all largely aware of the concerns associated with the fur industry. But while animal activists have helped increase awareness of the ethics surrounding the fur industry there is also an environmental impact that doesn’t get as much attention – namely, its massive carbon footprint. From farm to consumer, fur production is a very resource intensive process requiring a large amount of land, water, chemicals and energy. According to a report by Fur Free Alliance, producing 1 kg of mink fur (which comes from 11 animals) emits approximately 110 kg CO2, which is equivalent to driving a car for 1,250 km. In addition to climate change, the fur industry also contributes to biodiversity loss, eutrophication, and water and air pollution.

The fur industry also poses serious health risks to humans, as these farmed animals can be a “reservoir” for disease, which was recently highlighted when Denmark’s largest fur farm experienced a COVID-19 outbreak leading to the euthanization of over 10 million mink. The unsustainable nature of this industry is becoming more and more evident.

Fortunately, in light of these ethical, environmental, and human health concerns, many luxury fashion brands including Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga (both of which are owned by Kering) have publicly stated that they are no longer using fur in their collections, joining a growing list of luxury brands who have gone fur-free, including Prada, Versace, Chanel, and Gucci. 

Faux Fur 

While buying faux fur might address the ethics around supporting the fur industry, consumers should not assume that all faux furs are created equal. Although the carbon footprint of faux fur is approximately 1/5 compared to that of real fur, the acrylic and synthetic plastic-based fibres used to create these garments lead to a host of other environmental issues. For that reason, we’re excited to use our May 19th, 2021 WEAR webinar series as a platform to increase brand (and consumer) awareness about these issues and showcase recent innovations and sustainable approaches to making faux fur, such as recycled plastic and biosynthetics.

Biosynthetic Fur

The type of fur that checks both the ethical and sustainable boxes is vegan fur made from biosynthetic materials. Recently, Sorona® introduced one of the first commercially available faux furs that is made with 70-100 % bio-based Sorona® polymer fibers, derived from the fermentation process of corn. This innovative new material is pushing the boundaries of fashion, by providing brands and consumers with a product that considers both the environment and animals. 

In addition to being exceptionally soft and comfortable, Sorona® faux fur is a versatile fibre using more environmentally friendly dyeing techniques than traditional nylon. These fibres will not break down over time as a result of heat or UV rays, which extends the life of these garments. Once the garment reaches its end of life, it can be mechanically recycled, diverting waste from landfills. As Sorona® is made of 37% plant-based fibres, it uses 30-40% less energy and emits 56-63% less GHG  compared to the production of nylon from non-renewable resources. 

Not surprisingly, Sorona® was awarded ISPO Textrend “Best Product” in the Accelerated Eco category in 2021/2022 as the first recyclable plant-based faux fur offering.

In 2019, Stella McCartney was the first fashion designer to launch sustainable and ground-breaking KOBA® faux fur by ECOPEL. KOBA® fur is made with recycled polyester and up to 100 percent DuPont™ Sorona® plant-based fibers, creating the first commercially available faux furs using bio-based ingredients Fur-Free Fur – the world’s first faux-fur made using plant-based ingredients. Karl Lagerfeld has also recently adopted sustainable Sorona® faux fur into its future collections.

In addition to apparel, Sorona® has other uses outside of faux fur, including in home textiles, and residential and commercial carpeting including automotive mats. You can learn more about the Sorona fabrics by visiting the website.

Sorona® was one of the first 11 products awarded a certification from the  USDA BioPreferred Program, is a Class 1 certified OEKO-TEX Standard 100 brand meaning it is safe for use by infants and toddlers; and is a Bluesign® System Partner.  Sorona® has also developed the Common Thread Fabric Certification Program, a mill-level certification designed to promote transparency and trust through the supply chain by assuring fabrics have the unique molecular footprint of partially plant-based Sorona® polymer as well as meet key fabric performance attributes.

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