Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Coquette Faux Furriers

I've noticed many comments relating to the ethics of fur portrayed in vintage images.  If, like me, you like an authentic vintage look but for personal or ethical reasons, prefer not to wear actual vintage fur, I thought I would mention Coquette Faux Furriers.  Their MARLENE and LULU stoles are adorable.  If you care to know my personal view on the issue you can read the modified copy of the blurb I wrote in the comment section of a previous post down below at the end of THIS post.  

For the record...
The fur question is definitely one many vintage lovers have grappled with. Although it jars with our modern sensibilities and sensitivity to animal suffering, the historical reality is that actual vintage stoles and images of people wearing them are relics from a time when fur was worn by a much wider population of people and was extremely social acceptable. Fur is often associated with wealth and luxury of the upper classes, but judging from the fact that I've seen people of various classes wear pelts in historical imagery, I assume fur of various types was ubiquitous.  I imagine this is in part because from a practical standpoint it was WARM. In the days before really effective central heating systems in houses, public buildings, and cars, I imagine fur kept one toasty.  

Vintage fur is an important part of fashion history in a sense.  IT reflects (and played a role in sustaining) the class system of the past.  This is reflected in the fact that fur may have been worn by different classes of people for slightly different reasons.  Amongst the elite (and those perhaps trying to dress like they belonged in the wealthier social circles), fur was also fashion statement.  HOW "vermin" turned into high class fashion statement remains a mystery to me (and an amusing one at that).   

A personal anecdote of how fur relates to class and social history.  My grandfather and grandmother worked as mink ranch managers during the Depression when gainful employment was extremely scarce.  In those days one took what work one could get to provide food and shelter for one's self and one's family. Among the farming community my grandparents were part of, animals like mink and fox were considered vermin because they would attack chickens, steal eggs, etc.  Hunting was also an accepted norm (for food, not sport) so when it came about that they could make good money caring for animals that were going to be made into coats worth top dollar, financial necessity won out over ethics.  It is easy to judge people of the past for being barbaric animal slayers, but when you put fur in its historical-cultural context, you get a different picture.  In the case of my grandparents (who were actually great animal lovers and who really didn't wear fur but participated in its production), they couldn't afford the luxury of rejecting such a great job on moral principles. 

As for my own modern vintage look, I simply do not like the feeling of fur against my skin (feels too much like my puppy is on my shoulders). I am a complete supporter of the ethical treatment of animals. However, I would not condemn someone else for wearing and loving their VINTAGE fur . That's fur that a long since deceased animal gave its life for. I would never support the modern fur industry in any way shape or form. I don't believe a new generation of animals needs to suffer. THat's my 25cents' worth. As an aside, I would argue that the bigger issue at hand for animal lovers these days is how animals are treated within the food industry (Food, Inc is a MUST see film if you feel passionately about the ethical treatment of animals). Where we get our milk, eggs, meat, etc from (and how animals are being used and abused during the production of these food items) becomes a much more immediate issue that needs our attention on a daily basis. I say this as a "flexi-tarian" with a commitment to the Slow Food and local food movements.


Cee said...

I went antiquing with a vintage friend the other day and was sad to hear that she doesn't have vintage fur, not because she's against it or doesn't like it, but because she doesn't want a beautiful old fur coat to be mistaken for new and to end up covered in red paint!! This speaks for the sad state of attitudes where people are afraid to use/recycle/upcycle because of fear PETA will get them.
I have a vintage faux fur coat as well as a muff, hat and collar from Switzerland via my mother. These things were made 50+ years ago, the animals are long dead and as are those who made them most likely.
A huge chunk of the reason I love vintage EVERYTHING is my dislike of todays throw-away society. These furs I have, if cared for, will last indefinitely. They are already in existence and I would rather use them than purchase new something that won't last a quarter of the lifespan of the well made furs.
This is a huge problem I have with some vegans and their attitude toward leather shoes. The PVC ones are disgusting in that they will never ever biodegrade and they require petrochemicals! Its great that you want to "save the animals" but wouldn't it be nice if you also left them a PLANET to live on? Why not use a pair of the hundreds of thousands of orphaned leather or even NOT leather shoes already existent in Canada alone?
I realize the above sentiment could also apply to the faux furs you mentioned, but I understand the issue of wearing fur directly more easily than I understand the leather thing. And the faux fur thing isn't quite as harmful as plastic shoes which need to be replaced yearly anyway!

chelsea said...

Here here! I agree with all your points, especially the last ones about the meat industry. It is just atrocious and yet no one seems to care where their steak and eggs are coming from. I cannot fathom that, as I too am into the local food movement. Someday I hope to own a little farm of my own so I know exactly where my eggs are from: my backyard.

Brittany_Va-VoomVintage said...

I LOVE these!! Unlike vintage furs, they have cute little faces too! You make so many EXCELLENT points about your stance on fur. I couldn't agree more. In a 1940's issue of Seventeen magazine that I have, there is a great advertisement for faux furs for college girls. That way, they could still have the glamorous look of fur for a much more affordable price. So, even back in the day, some people wore faux! Thanks for the link, too cute!!

Ithilien Fields said...

I completely agree with everything you wrote in this post.I too am a huge supporter of Slow Food etc... A long time vegetarian,I have almost completely given up dairy because it hurts me how animals are being treated. The only cheese I buy comes from a local, organic dairy where I actually get to walk around and pet the free range cows who I know are healthy and happy. Better stop now, as this is a very sensitive topic for me. Thanks so much for making this point!!! I really love your blog.

nona said...

I have a Persian lamb coat that was my grandmother's, and wearing it makes me feel incredibly glamorous-- even though I would never in a million years wear new fur, and I worry about where my meat and eggs come from. It's one of those issues where you just have to find a place that feels comfortable.

Emily said...

I am in total agreeance with you on the bigger picture of the concerns of animal lovers today (i.e. where our food come from). I also am a "flexi-tarian" and find it sadden that I have to be concerned that when I choose to wear my vintage furs I might get doused in paint. I wear vintage not only for the aesthetic value, but also because it is green to do so. Thank you for sharing this great alternative to vintage fur and for sharing your family's history in the fur business. I feel one can be an animal lover and still sleep at night if they choose to wear VINTAGE fur.

garofit said...

you wrote a very sensible and balanced article on a subject that spurs the most extreme responses.
it is indeed a difficult issue, and trying "to find a place that feels comfortable" is obviously very challenging for many of us.

i do own a couple of pieces of vintage fur and i love them, and i also love animals and much prefer a live fox to a dead one any given time.

i am though really scared to wear them in public - i am actually scared i'd be lynched by chavs in the street - danger which remains even if one is wearing faux fur, as sometimes these angry people can't make the difference (or don't want to, probably because they are "out for the kill" themselves)
i am also rather scared to blog about it too, for similar reason, although mu physicality wouldn't be menaced in this case. but does anyone remember how much grief twila jean got about her fur post?

Betty2Tone said...

I'm so glad you posted this! I've been looking for one of those that was faux fur forever, but I was never quite sure what they were called.

BaronessVonVintage said...

I really want to thank my commenters for your thoughtful and interesting responses to what garofit adroitly notes is a very touchy subject, indeed. I knew when posting that I would run the risk of raising the ire of some (though I have not received any angry messages (yet). However, as a former critical thinking instructor, I am armed and ready for any and all positions that are expressed. Over this past year of blogging, I have come to decide that I would rather that people feel comfortable expressing their honest, realistic positions (provided they are expressed in a rational, measured manner) than not. I LOVE fashion blogging but I also sometimes tire of the opinion that we must always avoid controversy at all costs and just only float around in a bubble of shiny happiness. Dialogue is important and can lead to understanding and really fruitful idea exchange.

BaronessVonVintage said...

Rueby: your point about post-consumer waste is a good one. How do the ethics of vintage fur or vintage leather compare with the environmental impacts of continuing to consume "disposible" synthetic clothes (esp. ones that are produced by third world workers in subpar conditions)? Big and important question!

Brittany: that 40s faux fur ad sounds FASCINATING. Really really would love to learn more about that! Thanks for your comment!

Chelsea, Ithilien Field, Nona: I too have become completely passionate about the slow food and local food movements. Living near so many farms and orchards feels like an absolute luxury to me. Now that I've "unplugged" from life in a bustling city, I often wonder how it is that North American society has become so estranged from its food sources.

Rueby, garofit, Emily: you've all touched on something I've thought about too: would someone actually do or say something hostile to me if I wore vintage fur? What would I do if that happened? My husband's view is that if you are wearing vintage fur you may actually be appearing to endorse all fur. By showing how fashionable fur can look, he argues, someone might be influenced to buy new fur. Another unique argument to consider?

Miss Emmi said...

Baron, I think your point in your last comment is something that can be said about faux fur as well... many people can't tell the difference between faux and real fur just by looking, at it still sends the message that fur is a fashionable, luxurious item. I wear vintage furs, but I am often unsure about whether people who endorse faux have really thought about whether the message they send by wearing faux contradicts their own ethics regarding fur. It's an interesting point to consider!

BaronessVonVintage said...

interesting thought, Miss Emmi. My personal view is that Coquette's faux furs are campy enough that I would feel comfortable wearing one to a 30s themed event and have a close enough approximation of an authentic look without having to deal with the personal discomfort of real fur against my skin. To be honest, that would be the only real-life context in which you might see me wearing anything like this type of item. I generally don't wear anything with a faux fur collar or accent, etc. That's just me, though. Much to consider!