WWD - REAL FUR MATTERS
REAL FUR MATTERS
The proposed NYC fur ban is not only bad for business, but bucks industry, trends that show growing demand for fur.
As the proposed New York City fur ban grabs headlines and social media attention, one key fact has gotten muddled in the debate: the fur industry is a vibrant one that meets a consumer demand for high-quality, sustainable luxury apparel.
In New York, the fur trade dates back to before the founding of New Amsterdam, as the city was first known. Fur was one of the first commodities traded. Over time, as it grew in popularity, it’s use transformed from one of just function (warmth) to function and fashion. And over the last century, the fur industry has evolved into an important economic engine.
Today, the fur industry in the U.S. has experienced a compounded annual growth rate of 10.2 percent, according to data from Euromonitor. And it is not showing signs of slowing down, noted industry stakeholders such as Maria Reich, CEO of Reich Furs, and Nick Pologeorgis, President and CEO of Pologeorgis Furs, who see the proposed fur ban as simply “bad for business.”
Pologeorgis said the consumer demand for fur apparel and accessories “has been increasing year-over-year for over a decade, particularly among Millennials, and fur manufacturing is expected to generate $352 billion in revenue in fur apparel and accessories – an almost $20 billion increase since 2014.”
It’s about choice, too
Reich, who designs collections and is a manufacturer for multiple designer luxury brands, said the proposed ban boils down to fundamental rights of humans to choose. “This proposed ban is not simply pigeonholed into fur and the fur industry,” Reich explained. “Issues such as the threat to one’s freedom of choice on what to wear, is much more widespread. It questions the very fine line of human choice. We go down a slippery slope of infringing on people’ s rights. What industry is next? Leather? Dairy? Foods? Are we all to be dictated on how to live?” Within the fur industry, Reich is an authority. Kindly known as “The Fur Boss,” Reich, has a dedicated fan base of 39,000 Instagram followers and is “constantly striving to inspire.” That drive emerged early on while growing up in the Midwest – along with a love of fashion. She attended Illinois Institute of Art graduating with a degree in fashion design. Her passion took her to New York City, and took on the role of vice president of Mendel – while she was in her early 20s.
It was here that she “truly discovered” her calling, which was “driving a business and building luxury brands.”
When asked what direct impact a proposed ban on fur in New York City would have on the industry, Reich didn’t think
twice before saying it “would uproot the entire premises of the fur industry.”
“It would result in a tremendous loss of jobs, closure of companies that have been built on decades of hard work,” Reich said. “New York City is one of the leading domestic producers and sellers of fur in the U.S. This ban would force the shutdown of [the city’s] production, thus rerouting it to other states that may or may not have the skillset and knowl- edge to properly manufacture such hand- crafted and delicate items. This is not a matter of location, but an overall threat to the industry.”
From an economic perspective, Reich and other industry stakeholders say the ban would have a disastrous effect on jobs. “A fur ban would have devastating consequences for the fur industry, which employs thousands of working- and middle-class New Yorkers,” Reich explained. “New York City would lose upwards of 7,500 jobs related to the fur industry. Within the first calendar year of a ban, over 150 small businesses would be forced to shut down. Millions of dollars would be lost in revenue, not just specifically on consumer purchases, but on imports and exports.”
Pologeorgis echoed Reich’s sentiment.
“The proposed fur ban would devastate not only the fur industry in New York City
– costing thousands of jobs and billions of taxable revenues – but also irreparably harm the greater fashion industry globally.” He said if fur is banned, “there is a long list of animal-derived materials that would follow including leather, feathers, cashmere, wool, and even silk, and a long chain that will feel the pain – from retailers to designers to suppliers.” Pologeorgis Furs was founded by
Stanley Pologeorgis, Nick’s father, in 1960, and the elder was known in the industry as a “master craftsman.” Pologeorgis Furs is considered a pioneer “in forging relationships between fashion designers and the fur industry.” The company noted that its first collection of furs was designed by Pierre Balmain in the 1970s, and currently, Pologeorgis creates fur collections for Michael Kors (shearlings), Zandra Rhodes, Ralph Rucci, Zac Posen, and Monique Lhuillier, among others. Today, the company remains a family-owned business that is sharply focused on craftsmanship.
Pologeorgis warned that there would be indirect effects of a ban on fur. Pologeorgis said a ban “would lead to widespread, negative consequences on the greater fashion industry in New York City – without the much-needed revenue from sales of fur-trimmed garments, accessories, and shoes, retailers both large and small will have difficulties paying ever-increasing commercial rents.”
He said it would likely lead to “a vicious cycle of more empty storefronts and job losses. Major trade shows may also leave NYC, costing NYC-fashion companies much-needed business for the trade show buyers who visit their showrooms while in town.”
Pologeorgis said a recent study has shown that New York City would “lose a projected $7 billion over the next 10 years as a result of the ban. The revenue provided by the fur industry generates millions in tax revenues, which support NYC’s subways, affordable housing, and social service programs. With our subways and housing in need of serious upgrades, losing that many jobs and tax revenues is unconscionable.”
Reich said a ban would also “eliminate an entire historical manufacturing community, along with thousands of jobs for New Yorkers.” She said millions in tax revenue “that fund critical government programs that help New Yorkers” would be at risk.
“If passed this ban would be a sad sign of the city’s rapid gentrification, destroy- ing small business who contributed to New York for generations while ignoring the needs of its residents,” Reich said. “The fur industry remains committed to manufacturing in New York City. A ban on fur sales and manufacturing would make it impossible to perform fur services like cleaning and storage. Business owners like myself would not stay in business and be able to afford sky-high rents [and other expenses]. The ban would absolutely affect the service side of the business, as there will be no one left to perform those skills.”
From her perspective, Reich sees the proposed ban as a political diversion. She described it as part of a political agenda, “and it is infuriating.” She said fur sales “have been very strong and the product has been in demand. The City Council should focus on real problems facing our city rather than governing people’s closets.” Pologeorgis said the “drive for a fur ban is largely due to elected officials not understanding how highly regulated the fur industry is, nor the industry’s sourcing practices, commitment to animal welfare standards, and the specialty skills used in fur manufacturing.”
Reich said a proposed ban is also a restriction on freedom of choice. “If you don’t like fur, don’t wear it. Simple as that,” she said. “The fur industry remains vital to New York City. It is very important to the local economy. The fur industry supports good practice jobs, many held by immigrants and provide tax revenue throughout the five boroughs. The fur industry is also one of the very few industries that continue to actually manufacture in New York City.”
Pologeorgis agreed, and also noted the
potential consequences of a ban on other materials. “It is not the job of politicians to deny New Yorkers the freedom of choice by limiting the materials which designers work with or the materials consumers choose to wear,” Pologeorgis explained. “If your government can pick and choose to legislate a specific material, then what’s to stop them from also giving into the opposition's stated intentions to ban leather, feathers, cashmere, wool, and silk?”
The ban also comes at a time when
consumers demand more sustainable products. “Fur is a highly environmentally friendly material, with strict rules that cover everything from farming and trapping to standards, ethics, and labeling,” Reich said. “The fur industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world.”
Reich said that City Council members “have failed to recognize the negative environmental impacts of synthetic materials. Most fake furs are petroleum-based and not biodegradable. Sustainability in fashion is important and alternatives like faux fur which is ultimately made of plastic is an ecological disaster. It is made from textiles like polyester and nylon which are both contributors to pollution in rivers, waterways, and oceans.”
Pologeorgis concurred and said consumers want to know more about what they are buying. “Sustainability is the new normal, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear, and fur is one of the most sustainable products in the fashion industry, being both natural and biodegradable,” he said. “This is in total contrast to faux fur, which is typically made from petroleum – just one faux coat is the equivalent of 5,300 plastic straws. If sustainability is more than just a marketing tool, then a fur ban should never be passed since that will result in non-sustainable fashion choices, which are bad for the environment at a time when climate change and its negative effects is accelerating.”
Response and outreach
Reich and Pologeorgis urged consumers to reach out to their local elected officials as well as friends, families and colleagues. “We need the government to police our streets, not our closets, and to focus on issues that really matter,” Pologeorgis said. “We encourage consumers to visit our site (click here) and have their voices heard by calling and e-mailing their council member.” Meanwhile, the International Fur Federation is preparing to roll out a fashion sustainability campaign this September, which “takes a bold approach to promoting responsible fashion and natural materials,” the IFF said.
“Building on IFF’s ongoing strong sustainability message, this year’s brand- new campaign engages fur lovers and key experts in the field including global fashion influencer Bryanboy, Senior Wildlife Biologist & Adjunct Professor; School of Environment and Sustainability, Jean Michel Devink, and findings from a research conducted by the LAB for Sustainability/ Design School Kolding amongst others, all endorsing why natural fur is the responsible choice,” the organization said in a statement adding that six films have been made with each “narrated by a credible expert” that take on sustainability “from a unique perspective highlighting how natural fur plays a key role in sustaining the environment, sustaining the ecosystem, sustaining traditions, sustaining communities and promotes consuming sustainably.”
Shot in the U.K.’s Lake District, the IFF said the natural setting, “comprised of mountain ranges, lakes and woodland does much to reinforce the natural elements and advantages of natural fur.”
The campaign showcases fur creations from a variety of high fashion as well as established and upcoming designers “including Saint Laurent, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Thom Browne, Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, Saks Potts, Astrid Andersen, Edward Crutchley, J. Mendel, Dennis Basso, Yves Salomon, and Pologeorgis, among others.