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From Fur to Plastic to Future Materials

The clothing industry has never been under fire as much as lately: in labour, manufacturing and most certainly materials, plastic materials in particular. Plastic too has recently had a really bad rap, and for good reason, not just in landfill waste but also in our clothing.

The main culprit here is faux fur! But first a little something about the real stuff. I for one have noticed something this winter, FUR! Good grief it’s everywhere. But even with surprise announcements from fashion houses like Gucci, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo and Versace, all announcing their ethical new move of going fur free, there still seems to be a lot of work ahead.

So what’s this got to do with plastic? A lot actually.

Now as a vegan, animal rights activist and someone who works in a department store environment, I see fur on a regular basis: the bobbles on hats, the key chains on handbags, the cuffs and hood trims of coats. Truth be told, a department store is probably not the best place for an animal rights activist. Leather, wool, feathers and fur surround you constantly! It’s demoralising and it’s painful to constantly wonder if the people who buy into it are genuinely nice or not. It’s a difficult position to place yourself in.

So what’s one to do when a fur coat passes you? Well nothing, as you have jobs to keep, even though we want to scream and shout from the rooftops. But what happens when the fur is fake? Well I for one can tell the difference, and so can the fur enthusiast. Not only that but recently the fur industry has moved into a new approach at how it advertises itself, with terms like: ethical, responsibly sourced, traceable, naturally derived and so on. And people are buying it, literally and mentally.

But hang on; these are good terms, right? Yes but they’re a little untrue, well at least animal activists think so. The fur industry has changed up the playing field. Brands like Canada Goose have been using this strategy for decades, claiming the fur on their trim is beneficial to the environment, and that the fake fur is polluting and less-superior a material.

Now I for one used to think fake fur was a godsend. It was finally a material that had given people the opportunity to ditch cruelty and retain the benefits real fur gives. But there’s a problem with this. It’s just not the same. For a more specific comparison, check out my other post: The Pros and Cons of Fur and Faux.

Fake fur just isn’t the same as real fur, and people are beginning to catch on again and opting for the real thing. The other day, I was on the website Quora, and I came across the question “Will we ever stop using real fur?” The answers were as always hard to stomach, and it appears many people not only prefer the real thing, but are passionate about it. They LOVE it in fact, and are not at all fussed that an animal had to, in many cases, be skinned alive for it.

So what can be done when the fur industry is winning and people are being blinded by false ethics? Protest? Scowl? Get into arguments? Instead of turning to a more aggressive form of activism (more on knowing what kind of activist you are here) it’s worth looking further into Future Materials.

But what are future materials? They are the truly ethical solution to a material industry intent on using the real thing. Currently there are many alternatives to animal materials, especially leather. Check out this list of fascinating leather alternative brands.

But like leather, fur also poses its own set of complications when being synthetically produced, and currently the science and fashion industry are yet to look further into it.

But there may be hope yet. Modern Meadows, a science and research company based in New Jersey, are currently looking into Cultured Materials and “biofabrication,” in their case, leather, with their incredible ZOA line with the cow print t-shirt as their flagship product. And yes, this shirt is made from real leather, using cultured cells humanely acquired from a cow.

So how is biofabrication done. For a detailed video description, check out this TED Talk by the incredible Andreas Forgacs, the current CEO of Modern Meadows, who explains the following in greater detail:

  • Skin cells are extracted from a chosen animal using a simple and painless biopsy technique.
  • The skin cells are then isolated are cultured in order to multiply them immensely.
  • The cultured cells are then coaxed using various techniques to form the basic building block of skin, which is collagen.
  • This collagen is then rolled into multiple thin sheets then layered to create the desired thickness and texture.
  • The layers of collagen (now skin) are then put through a shorter and less chemical intensive tanning process to improve durability and desirability. Hair removal isn’t a problem either.
  • The material is complete and ready for design.

What’s important to also remember about biofabrication is there is also no waste. Biofabricated leather for example can be grown to a designers dimensions and specification requirements, and to top that off, there is no animal carcass to dispose of.

“Making a fur coat from a fox is like building an entire car when you only wanted the seats.”

This could potentially revolutionise the fashion and luxury industry. Customers will keep all their options including real leather, eventually even fur perhaps, and yet animals will no longer be required, except for the occasional harmless acquiring of their cells. The environment will benefit not being clogged with man-made plastic acrylic alternatives and activists can finally breathe a sigh of relief. In this ideal scenario, everyone wins.

Hopefully if the industry abides to this new and upcoming method of cultured animal materials, then materials like leather, fur and even wool shall one day be normal to come from labs and factories like synthetics, and animals shall soon be a laughable idea, like musk in perfume. Yes, not many people know that musk used to come from deer glands! I know, right?

So how can this become a reality? Get the word out! NOW! Educate yourself on biofabrication, be part of this ethical evolutionary movement. Social media the pants off of it, and let’s change both the industry and the world.

What do you think of future materials and biofabrication? Do you think they’re a pipe dream or a likely future reality? Would you wear a real fox fur coat knowing it was the same in every way to a real fox, only that it was made from cells in a laboratory? Would you as an animal activis wear real fur if no animal had ever been harmed in its creation? Please let everyone know your thoughts on this in the comments below. 😉

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