Written by Lindsey Riley.

Gucci’s president and CEO, Marco Bizzarri, has pledged that the luxury brand will be going fur-free from next year, describing real fur as ‘outdated’ for its use in fashion today. This ethical move, announced recently at the London College of Fashion’s Kering Sustainability Awards event, will no doubt be a game changer for the industry. Other luxury brands including Armani, Vivienne Westwood, Ralph Lauren and Stella McCartney are already fur-free, but that is not the case for many labels spanning fast fashion to luxury level. Take this season for example, and shopping capitols including London, Paris and, in particular, Milan. Mink, rabbit and fox fur in vibrantly dyed or natural hues are out in force.

At the National Leather Collection, there are enough wild beasts styled into vintage coats and wraps to stock a game park. In the past, the ethics of wearing fur were far less considered. Ocelot, leopard and sealskin were worn for their captivating beauty and silky touch, without much regard for the suffering of the animals involved. The eighties and nineties saw a change with PETA activists throwing red paint on fur-clad fashion editors and celebrities. The animal rights group also launched the ‘I would rather be naked than wear fur’ campaign, championed by the 80’s supermodels.

Jil Sander’s sandal.

Since then, the good intentions have been somewhat eroded and the use of fur has expanded to include many other items such as footwear and key charms. Keeping the wearer warm is not always a key factor. Jil Sander’s Merino fur sandals and colourful fluffy handbag straps at Prada are purely for visual delight and status rather than for performing any practical function. With the current trend for overt consumerism and maximalist fashion, the line between good taste and bad taste is blurring. Anya Hindmarch’s fluffy sheering slides are bedecked with fur fried eggs, bringing the sunny side up to Autumn Winter retail. Novelty heels in the shape of sculpted leopards detail Dolce & Gabbana’s leopard spot pony skin Mary Janes.

Prada shaggy fur strap bag.

Anya Hindmarch fluffy fried egg sliders.

Dolce & Gabbana leopard-shaped heels.

Fendi’s Teen Witches rabbit fur charm.

Fendi’s £535 ‘Teen Witches’ rabbit fur bag charm may seem a high price to pay, although not as high as the animals pay to give up their skins. Faux fur offers a kinder way to address the trend. For example, Miu Miu retail shaggy faux fur striped sandals with sparkly rhinestone buckles and shaggy yeti boots.

Miu Miu striped faux fur sandals.

Miu Miu buckled strap yeti boots.

Gucci are currently rated as one of the most visionary fashion brands on the planet. So, with all eyes on them let’s hope their decision to be fur-free has an impact on others. That way beauty without cruelty can become a reality in fashion.

Lindsey Riley is Course Leader for BA Cordwainers Bags & Accessories, London College of Fashion, and a Leather Trend Consultant.