Getting rid of fur is the newest form of virtuous signaling in vogue. -Quartz

Moncler is the latest fashion brand to declare that it will stop using fur. Earlier this week, the Franco-Italian label pledged to phase out the material from all of its collections over the next two years.

She joins a long list of fashion brands to recently go fur-free. Kering, a major luxury conglomerate that owns houses like Gucci and Balenciaga, said it no fur of all its brands, just like Canada Goose, another supplier of expensive down jackets. Burberry, Prada and others have also pledged to drop it.

With each new announcement, sustainability advocates applaud this decision as a step forward. But how much of a step forward is this really?

Moncler and many of these brands barely used fur at first. A Moncler spokesperson said the brand “makes limited use of fur in its garments, mainly for edges, trims, collars”, declining to provide detailed figures.

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If down jacket-based brand Moncler had pledged to stop using down instead of fur, it would have scored a much bigger win for animal welfare. The treatment of down is also linked to cruel practices, like picking alive. The same goes for leather, a material that requires a massive slaughter, but is still acceptable for mainstream fashion.

The limited impact of Fur-free

The fur, it seems, has turned into the plastic straw of fashion. Single-use plastic straws have been identified as a prime target of anti-plastic campaigns. Almost overnight, restaurants either switched to biodegradable straws or got rid of straws altogether. The eco-conscious set has started carrying its own metal straws. But the straws represent Less than 1% of the problem of plastic pollution.

Like straws, giving up fur is an easy win from a corporate social responsibility perspective: companies give up something insignificant to the company and rack up brownie points from consumers.

This is not to say that there is no cruelty or cost in using fur. Each year, 100 million animals are killed for furbut that’s just a fraction of the billion people slaughtered for manufacture leather products.

As CEO of Fendi, Serge Brunschwig said in 2019, “I’m amused by these people who say ‘we don’t do fur.’ So you do plastic? Fine. Or, actually, they didn’t do much fur anyway.

Fendi is the reason why brand owner LVMH can’t easily jump on the anti-fur bandwagon. The Italian house’s DNA is deeply tied to fur and it operates a fur workshop that has been training artisans in the craft for nearly a century.

Getting rid of fur is only the first step

To be fair, many brands that have retired from fur also have other public commitments to work more sustainably. But the marketing machine is disproportionate on the issue.

For example, a pressing issue that fashion brands should talk about more is Xinjiang cotton. The United States banned all products from the region in December due to serious allegations of human rights violations. But Xinjiang cotton remains entrenched in the supply chain via intermediary suppliersand brands are reluctant to investigate further for fear of boycotts and other retaliation from China.

Yet Sonalie Figueiras, the founder of the sustainability publication green queen, sees the fur boycott as a tipping point. “It’s a symbol of something much bigger,” she said. “It’s a gateway drug for these companies to commit to an animal-free future.”

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