Winter Fur: Chic or Cruel?

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By Grace Benac

As the temperature drops, students are once again beginning to pull out their winter coats. While most will turn to their trusty wool peacoats or down parkas to fight off the cold, some Ryerson students are relying on a more controversial fabric to keep warm: fur.

Fur has experienced a recent comeback in the fashion industry, as evidenced by the legions of fur-clad models on the Toronto Fashion Week runways last Spring. Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri was one of many who used the fabric, offering up pieces such as tunics made of beaver and hooded bombers made of silver fox.

Fashionable or not, some students oppose the use of fur on the grounds of animal cruelty. Second-year business management student Aileen Karl is one of them.

“It’s just not necessary to kill animals anymore when there is synthetic fur available now that looks just as real as animal fur. Using fur is cruel,” he said. He does, however, excuse the use of fur in certain situations.

“Maybe in some cases, such as when Aboriginal people make furs and use the rest of the animal, too. But when the fashion industry uses an animal just for its fur, that’s B.S.”

Others, like Travis Komarnisky, are on the fence when it comes to the more political connotations of fur. The second-year fashion communications student owns a full-length fur coat, which he bought second hand. While he says he is apathetic, Komarnisky says he wouldn’t have bought the coat had it been new.

“It could be perceived as being cruel, I guess. But I’m just using what’s already there. I wouldn’t buy a new fur coat, but I might as well put this one to good use,” he said.

One of the allures of fur is its warmth, says Komarnisky. While his classmates shivering in cold Kerr Hall stairwells, he stays comfortably warm. This is one reason why faux fur is less appealing, says Louise Yu, a third-year fashion design student.

“Fur is considered a luxury item that is highly priced in the fashion industry. Today, the same look can be achieved with man made fur. Faux fur is cheaper, easier to produce and take care of, but also not as soft or warm as real fur,” said Yu. But she also acknowledges the material’s drawbacks.

“There is only a small amount of fabric to work with, it’s expensive, and animal conscious clients will not purchase it. Fur is also hard to take care of.”

But Toronto-based furrier Alex Dimitropoulos says that the timeless appeal of a fur coat makes it worth the investment.

“Real fur is more stylish. A fur coat looks like a diamond. Fake fur looks like rubbish.”

Dimitropoulos’ Spadina Avenue store was the site of many anti-fur protests, most recently one where four female protesters stripped naked.

“I’ve got to feed my grandkids,” Dimitropoulos says to justify his controversial profession.

Although Yu agrees with Dimitropoulos, she doesn’t think that she would actually use fur in her own collections.

“I think fur is fun and stylish. You can’t replicate the touch and drape the real thing with faux fur, but if I were to ever use fur as part of my collection, I would use faux fur because of the problems that come with using real fur.”

Photo by Marta Iwanek

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