Response letter follows this
Real Fur Is Fun Again
It's less expensive and more popular
than ever. But as young people snuggle up, where are the protesters?
By Julie Scelfo
NewsweekOct. 11 issue - On a visit to
Fifth Avenue's chic Henri Bendel department store last week, Pietra Jones
caressed a spiky, oval-shaped hat made from fox, dyed lilac and purple. "I
love fur!" purred Jones, 26, unconcerned about the process that turns
living creatures into fashion accessories. "My sister is totally into PETA
[People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] and she reams me out every
time I buy fur, but I can't stop myself. I know it's un-PC, but when I
shop I really separate myself from thinking about the animal."
It's an attitude more and more people
seem to be adopting. A decade after protesters stormed Calvin Klein's
office and used red paint to write KILLS ANIMALS under his logo, fur is
baaack. Thanks to hip-hop stars like Sean Combs and Foxy Brown, animal
pelts have migrated from high society to youth culture, joining
jewel-encrusted bike chains and 24-inch "spinner" rims as essential status
symbols for the bling-bling set. And you don't have to drive your Hummer
to Rodeo Drive to get a piece: Express, a fixture at malls nationwide,
sells baby pink rabbit ear muffs for $32. "For me, wearing fur is
old-school glamour," says Brown, who launched a line last month. "It's
also versatile because it can be classic or funky."
Fur is also, of course,
controversial. Back in the early 1990s, no red-carpet affair seemed
complete without a paint-hurling protester redesigning a celeb's sable
coat. But for twentysomethings who are too young to remember Joan Rivers's
getting doused on her way to the opera, fur has little stigma. Not
surprisingly, the fur industry is overjoyed. "So many of
PETA's campaigns incensed people—urging
kids to drink beer, not milk—people have decided it's time to make up
their own minds," says Keith Kaplan of the
Fur Information Council of America.
PETA spokesman Dan Mathews blames the media for hiding the truth about fur
production. "We live in such an escapist society that they don't even let
you [air] ads that show graphic footage of animals' being killed or
electrocuted on fur farms," says Mathews.
Although fur sales peaked along with
Alexis Carrington's shoulder pads in the late 1980s, they fell drastically
in the early 1990s. Since 1999, sales have climbed steadily, reaching a
record $1.8 billion in 2003, and are expected to be even higher this year.
Much of that revenue will come not from high-end couture, but from
lower-priced accessories, like BCBG's $178 rabbit poncho and Coach's $400
coyote-trimmed duffle bag. "In the 1980s, you had coats, jackets, stoles,
and that's about it," says Timothy Gunn, head of fashion at Parsons School
of Design. "Now, you can find fur almost anywhere.
It's affordable to more people, and
that makes a huge difference."
Not everyone is blase about wearing
this season's berry-colored rabbit shrugs. Some, like Amanda Harding,
still think fur equals murder. Harding, 30, was shocked while shopping in
New York last week to hear a 25-year-old fashion buyer touting the merits
of fur. "Fake fur keeps you just as warm, looks the same and costs less,"
says Harding. Next, PETA launches a new
antifur billboard, featuring Charlize
Theron and her dog. As the fur continues to fly off shelves, it remains to
be seen if the paint will fly again, too.
© 2004 Newsweek, Inc
My letter in response:
As an animal advocate who has seen
the cruelties of trapping firsthand, I was appalled when I read your
article tactlessly entitled, “Real Fur Is Fun Again” (October 11 issue).
Fun, eh? How could the young fur shopper quoted in your article so easily
“separate” herself “from thinking about the animals?” Why are a growing
number of people unconcerned about the process that turns living beings
into fashion accessories?
Either a severe psychopathic disorder
has rendered them incapable of feeling empathy for others, or they are
simply unaware of the agony endured by animals at the hands of the fur
They must never have heard the cries
of shock and pain when a coyote first feels the steel jaws of a trap lock
down onto his leg. They must never have looked into the weary eyes of a
helpless victim who has been caught in a trap for days and nights on end.
They must never have come across a leg that a lynx had to chew off in
order to escape a deadly fate, nor stopped to think how tormented and
hopeless one must be to decide to take that desperate action. They must
never have seen a fox struggling through her life on three legs. And they
must never have stopped to imagine the bleak existence of thousands of
mink crowded into tiny cages for their entire lives on fur farms.
For the sake of all living creatures,
let’s hope this apathetic disregard for the suffering of others is a
short-lived trend that will soon be on the wane.