Today, the fashion industry has shifted towards more sustainable and eco-friendly fabric types. Many of the top brands in the fashion industry now champion faux fur as the cruelty-free alternative to real fur.
Faux fur, a new take on luxury and responsibility, accounts for just under 0.1% of billions of garments. But this hasn’t stopped faux fur fabric from quickly becoming a multi-million dollar product.
The faux fur industry is reported to grow at a rate of over 19% by 20246. Due to its durability, versatility and luxurious feel, the faux fur industry is here to stay.
however, the question remains: is faux fur sustainable? In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about faux fur and its sustainability.
quick links for faux fur fabric:
- what is faux fur fabric?
- How is faux fur fabric made?
- history of faux fur fabric
- faux fur and animal rights groups
- Is faux fur toxic?
- Is faux fur sustainable?
- pros and cons of faux fur fabrics
- brands that use faux fur fabric
- faux leather vs. real leather
- faux fur lining vs. sherpa lining
- the future of the faux fur industry
- cruelty free: A significant advantage of using faux fur is that it puts an end to the bloody industry of the fur trade. the use of faux fur eliminates all forms of animal cruelty and protects animal welfare.
- low cost of production: Animal furs (such as rabbit fur, fox fur, sable fur, mink fur) are generally more expensive to produce. faux fur uses synthetic fibers in its production, making it a cheaper alternative.
- a more versatile fabric: we know the faux fur fabric for its versatility. we can create it in unique designs, patterns and colors, unlike animal skin.
- easy maintenance: the plastic skin maintains its smooth and shiny appearance for a long time. it is easy to wash and is resistant to insect attacks.
- not environmentally friendly: Faux fur is made from acrylic and modacrylic polymer fibers that do not break down easily, unlike real fur, which is biodegradable. Chemicals produced from plastics can also be highly toxic to human health.
- not resistant to extreme climates: Another disadvantage of faux fur is that it is not resistant to frost, unlike real fur, which can withstand extreme climates.
- has a coarse texture: Although faux fur is made to simulate real fur, there is still a marked difference. its texture is thicker, unlike real fur, which is much softer.
- check fabric base: real fur will have fur hairs attached to its natural fur base4. faux fur, on the other hand, comes with a knitted base.
- try to stick a pin through the fabric: if you try to stick a pin and it goes through easily, it is most likely faux fur due to its woven base. real skin will be tough because of its leather base.
- try the hair/fiber burn test: pull out a strand of hair and place it in front of a lit match or lighter. when burned, real fur will smell like burnt hair, while synthetic fur (made from acrylic and modacrylic polymers) will smell like plastic.
- Try to touch the fabric: Genuine leather has a much softer and denser feel than faux leather. faux fur is thicker and can sometimes stick to hands if wet.
- try to check the tags: check if the tags have a mark of genuine or fake fur.
- store your faux fur fabric in a dry place: faux furs are not suitable for rainy days. they can stick together when wet as they are made of synthetic materials.
- Store your faux fur in a breathable bag: Avoid packing your faux fur garment tightly together as this can flatten the fabric.
- avoid direct exposure to sunlight: this can cause discoloration and ruin the fibers of the fabric.
- use a soft brush to smooth the fabric: avoid using brushes with hard bristles as this can ruin the skins. do this weekly to get rid of debris and maintain its shine.
what is faux fur fabric?
Faux fur, artificial fur, or fake fur, is a pile fabric made to simulate real animal fur. Essentially, faux fur is a blend of polyester, modacrylic, and acrylic fibers.
Manufacturers cut, shape and process it to match the texture of real skin. Some popular types of faux fur include faux rabbit, faux fox, shearling, sheepskin, and sherpa. other luxury faux fur fabrics include chinchilla, sable, beaver, ermine, sable, lynx, and leopard.
each fabric has a pile that comes in different lengths and textures. the range of piles on the market includes; long-haired faux fur, medium-haired faux fur, and short-haired faux fur5.
With the advancement of today’s technology, we can hardly tell the difference between faux fur and real animal fur.
This animal-friendly fabric is warm, durable and versatile. It is used to make a wide range of fashion accessories, such as faux fur jackets, faux fur coats, faux fur vests, faux fur shawls, and faux fur shoes and handbags.
We also use it to make stuffed animals, home decorations such as pillows and bedding, and other faux fur products. faux furs are silky smooth to the touch and hold the dye no matter how many times you wash them. With proper care, you can recycle faux fur material. you can also reshape fabric scraps into one-of-a-kind items.
To better understand faux fur fabric, let’s examine its manufacturing process.
how is faux fur fabric made?
A variety of raw materials and techniques make up the production of faux fur fabric. This section provides details from the raw material to the final stages of fabric production.
compilation of raw materials
Fibers that are a composition of polymers (acrylics, modacrylics, or a combination of both) are compressed to make faux fur fabric.
Acrylic polymers are a product of a chemical reaction of an acrylonitrile monomer under conditions of high pressure and heat. natural materials such as coal, oil, limestone and water make up the chemicals used. manufacturers also add secondary monomers to improve dye absorption.
Modacrylic polymers are copolymers made by the reaction of acrylonitrile and vinyl chloride monomers. these fibers can easily absorb dye with colors similar to those of animals.
Acrylic and modacrylic fibers are stretchy and lightweight, giving the fabric a fluffy look and feel. they are also resistant to heat and insect attack. Other textiles such as silk, cotton, and wool are types of carriers that manufacturers use to bind fibers together. what makes faux fur different from animal fur is that we can dye it in various colors.
conversion of fibers to faux fur fabrics
There are several techniques that manufacturers use to turn fibers into fabrics. some of which are:
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This is the most basic method used to make faux fur. During the weaving process, the fibers are wound and intertwined with the supporting fabric. this technique can produce a wide range of fabric shapes but can be quite slow.
tufting is a kind of weaving process in which the yarn is attached to a base and a tufting gun controls the tufting process. this technique produces garments much faster than the weaving process.
This technique uses the same equipment used to knit jerseys. it is the fastest and cheapest of all faux fur production techniques, and is also the most widely used by manufacturers in the faux fur industry.
treatment of synthetic leather fabrics
To make sure the fabric maintain stability and size, the fabric goes through heating. after which, it goes through a process known as tigreado, where loose fibers are removed.
The fabric is then combed with a heated slotted cylinder. this is known as electrification.
Manufacturers then add chemicals like resins and silicones to improve the feel of the fabric. at this stage, coloring can be added. further electrification is then done to remove any loose tissue.
labeling of synthetic leather fabrics
After fabric production, manufacturers label them as faux fur fabrics. this is a requirement of most governments to prevent fraud and protect consumers. they then sew the labels into the fabric, which must be legible for the life of the product. Finally, the faux fur fabric is packaged and shipped to distributors.
To maintain the quality of faux furs, manufacturers control every phase of production. The process begins with the inspection of all incoming raw materials and continues through to the finished fibers. then they subject these fibers to physical and chemical tests.
While fabrics are being produced, line inspectors take samples at intervals to verify that each fabric meets requirements for appearance, size, seam quality, strength and shape. In addition, the government also sets its requirements. this describes the standards for things like shrinkage, snagging, and pilling.
history of faux fur fabric
Fur has been around for centuries, since the era of cave dwellers who used animal skins to insulate themselves from the cold. In some parts of the world, noblemen and rulers used fur as a symbol of nobility, power, and wealth.
Interestingly, faux fur was not first introduced as a more sustainable fashion option. instead, manufacturers saw it as an easy way to make money. this is because faux fur was a cheaper option for normal people to imitate the upper class.
U.S. government policy also imposed a 10% tax on animal fur products between 1919 and 19287. This also helped promote the faux fur industry.
Faux fur was first introduced to the market in 1929. The first attempts at faux fur were made with fur from a South American mammal called alpaca. however, it was not until the mid-1950s that modern faux fur began to use acrylic polymers in place of alpaca hair, and advances in textile technology improved the quality of faux fur. later, alpaca fur was replaced by synthetic alternatives to real fur.
By the mid-20th century, faux fur had successfully imitated various animal skins. Unlike real animal fur that came in limited colors of black, brown, and white (shades of the animals), faux fur took over the market with a variety of colors never seen before.
faux fur and animal rights groups
The $40 billion-plus global fur industry has faced pressure and criticism from animal lovers and activists for its inhumane practices at factory farms. Activists protested against the use of animals in the production of materials such as mink fur, rabbit fur, beaver fur, and coyote fur, among other fur-related products.
In 1994, women started conversations about animal welfare with the “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign. faux fur manufacturers took advantage of the animal rights campaign and proposed faux fur as a better substitute for real animal fur.
Today, we see major fashion brands taking a stand against animal cruelty and now using faux fur in their collections. luxury brands such as burberry, gucci, michael kors, versace, jean-paul gaultier and other fashion brands (former supporters of the fur trade) have banned animal fur from fashion shows and in recent years have adopted a policy fur free.
one of the four main fashion weeks: london fashion week, which banned fur in 2018, followed by other fashion weeks such as helsinki fashion week and london fashion week Stockholm.
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also, civic groups such as peta (people for the ethical treatment of animals) emphasize the need for animal-friendly production processes, such as the substitution of animal skins for vegan fashion.
At the national level, European Union (EU) countries have enforced regulations on fur restrictions. Countries like England have banned fur farming since 2000. The Netherlands, the second largest mink fur producing country, banned fur farming in 2012 and declared that all mink farms will close by 2024.
Is faux fur toxic?
The synthetic materials used in the production of faux fur are said to have a greater negative environmental impact than animal fur. Eugene Lapointe, one of the earth’s leading natural resource experts, says:
“real fur garment manufacturing is far less polluting than synthetic faux furs, which are made with some of the most toxic chemicals known to man”
Laundering faux fur fabrics can also release microfibers into the water system. synthetic textiles are reportedly the main culprit for microplastic pollution. the study showed that synthetic jackets release an average of 1,174 milligrams of microfibers when washed1. Microplastic pollution can harm marine animals if it is mistaken for food.
however, thanks to improvements in technology, ethical fashion brands like ecopel now use eco-friendly fibers to produce faux fur products. the company has developed bio-based fibers that are said to be plant-based and biodegradable to resemble real skin.
reports issued by ce delft eco-experts show that five faux fur coats have less impact on climate change than one mink fur coat. In addition, making a mink fur coat emits seven times more CO2 than one made of synthetic fur3.
Also, according to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index, which rates textiles based on the environmental costs of production, synthetics have a less negative impact than other types of fabrics2. we can reuse faux fur coats in other items and convert synthetic waste into other energy sources such as fuel and industrial gas.
Is faux fur sustainable?
the long debate continues. which one is better for the environment? real fur or faux fur?
Some claim that real fur is a renewable resource as it is biodegradable. faux fur comes from acrylics and plastics, and these can take up to 1,000 years to break down. As a result, it can be extremely harmful to our environment.
However, with the issue of animal cruelty in the offing, faux fur continues to be an increasingly better eco-friendly option.
Faux fur has a lower production cost and can come in a variety of colors. With the advancement of technology, many fashion designers and brands are now using quality materials that pose less harm to our environment. we now see the use of eco-friendly faux fur alternatives such as bio-sourced fur, recycled faux fur, recycled denim fur, and more.
Today, the topic of sustainability has become increasingly important in fashion, especially among young millennials who will not buy from companies and brands that harm the planet.
pros and cons of faux fur fabrics
brands that use faux fur fabric
This section highlights fashion designers and brands that use faux fur. their decision to maintain a fur-free policy shows their commitment to sustainable fashion.
since the stella mccartney brand launched in 2001, she has never used real animal fur or leather. the brand uses a “no fur” label on its faux fur fabrics to signal its conscious choice. stella mccartney uses sustainable faux fur, organic cotton, and other sustainable and recyclable alternatives.
shop stella mccartney
Calvin Klein was an early adopter of a fur-free policy, phasing out fur designs in 1994. The fashion brand pursues animal welfare, seeking other cruelty-free alternatives.
shop calvin klein
michael kors adopted a no-fur policy (including jimmy choo) in its 2018 collection. the brand follows technological processes to create a non-animal fur aesthetic.
shop michael kors
The Giorgio Armani brand stopped using fur in 2016. Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani explained that advancing technology has made cruel practices on animals unnecessary. the brand continues to look for more sustainable alternatives.
shop giorgio armani
Since its inception in 2013, the shrimp brand has become famous for its creative faux fur designs and patterns. the brand continues to search for technological processes to improve the sustainability of its products.
house of fluff
house of fluff uses materials that are eco-friendly while maintaining a luxurious look and feel. they use dyes naturally derived from plant barks, flowers, and berries.
lint house store
faux leather versus real leather
faux furs are cruelty free, eliminating all unhealthy practices on animals. it is versatile and can be dyed in different colors, allowing designers to explore their creativity, unlike real fur.
how to distinguish between faux leather and real leather
To find out if you’re holding real fur or faux fur, you can try these few tests:
how to care for faux fur fabric
Caring for your faux fur will help keep it fluffy and colorful to the touch. however, improper care of your faux fur can damage the fibers of the fur. Here are some ways to take care of your faux fur:
faux fur lining vs. sherpa lining
faux fur has a softer texture than sherpa lining. Sherpa lining is made from microfibers and is used on the back of some blankets. Manufacturers make both fabrics from a similar base ingredient, polyester, but their processing is different. both are warm and easy to maintain.
the future of the faux fur industry
The practice of factory farming involves thousands of animals being uprooted from their natural habitats and confined to small spaces to be used as “fabric manufacturers”.
Over the years, we have seen our understanding of nature and animals change drastically. we understand that nature has its limits, and animals are more than fabric factories.
Consumer awareness continues to grow and fashion brands are making choices that are less harmful to animals and the environment.
brands like house of fluff use natural materials like cotton jersey to line their coats. Similarly, Stella McCartney, a strong supporter of the fur-free policy, works to create more ethical and sustainable means of production.
ecopel is creating leather from recycled marine plastics, vitro labs is working on bio-protein fiber technology using bio-manufacturing and cellular agriculture. we can boldly say that future research will focus on developing new fibers and further improving towards innovative and sustainable means of production.
new style faux fur can look good and prove to have far less environmental impact than petroleum-derived synthetic fabric alternatives.
With 100% cruelty-free processes, durability and warmth, it’s clear why faux fur remains a green alternative in the fashion industry. Despite concerns about the harmful effect of plastics, this is still good news in the world of sustainability.