Cruella De Vil and the rise and fall of wearing fur for fashion



"I live for furs. I worship furs."


Since appearing on the cover of Vogue in the 1920s, animal print has been a contradictory point of interest in the continually changing fashion world. Mass production of animal print clothing began after World War ll, eventually attracting the attention of the world's most influential fashion designer at the time, Christian Dior. Dior once famously said 'If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it" which could help to explain why Cruella wears so much of it.


Cruella De Vil is one of Disney's most notorious villains yet undeniably the greatest fashion icon of them all. There are endless ways to describe Cruella's style, but the words bold, fierce, and controversial instantly spring to mind. The 20th century Cruella and her love for fur reflected the reality of the upper classes at the time who used fur as a means of showcasing their wealth to others.

"My only true love darlings. I live for furs, I worship furs. After all, is there a woman in this wretched world who doesn't? " Cruella 1961.

Cruella was not alone in her love for fur and was not the only woman rocking a fur coat during the time (although many not as iconic as Cruella's). Back then the fur coat was considered a luxury and a status symbol, with mink, chinchilla, and fox proving especially popular amongst women in the mid to late 1900's. Yet despite this, Cruella was often criticized and challenged for its pro-fur narrative, most notably by animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).


Oh, how times have changed...


The 1970s witnessed a huge shift in the attitude towards wearing fur for fashion, especially once the malpractices in the fur farming industry were brought to light and no longer secret to the consumer. It had become public knowledge that the animals endure extreme suffering and heartless killings all for the purpose of fashion. As a result, the phenomenon of wearing fur has become less of a status symbol and increasingly stigmatized as the fur industry continues to face slower demand and a decrease in sales. Last year was the industry's worst on record with nearly a 50% decline in the value of fur apparel imported into the United States.


After running for almost thirty years PETA ended their 'I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur' campaign last year. Following its success, the charity's long-running awareness campaign was deemed no longer necessary. Countless celebrities including Tyra Banks, Dennis Rodman, and Pink stripped down to pose for the ads declaring they 'would rather go naked' in the quest to persuade fashion houses to ditch fur.


A number of fashion powerhouses have since gone on to ban the use of fur, those include Chanel (2018), Jean-Paul Gaultier (2018), Gucci (2018), and Michael Kors (2018). At the 2018 London Fashion Week over 90% of designers declared they were committed to not using real fur in their designs. This was a major step in the right direction for the fashion industry. It conveyed the message that wearing fur was no longer a luxury to be consumed but rather something that is extremely unethical and cruel.


So, where do we go from here?


As attitudes have changed, the trend of faux fur has risen from the dead (quite literally). Although ethical in terms of animal cruelty, there are still many issues with faux fur. For example, those manufacturing the material continue to work in very poor conditions, and the plastic-based materials used take thousands of years to biodegrade. With the aim of tackling such issues, Stella McCartney has created the world's first-ever sustainable faux fur. It is said the newly founded product looks and feels just like the real thing therefore proving the killing and harming of animals for fashion is simply unjust and unnecessary.

"We believe that fashion can, and should, be luxurious without animal products. Our Fur-Free Fur is an ethical alternative made from cruelty-free materials".

If like Cruella you are daring enough to rock animal print or fur, how about going for a more ethical and sustainable option. The rise of the fashion marketplace app Depop provides consumers with an easy way to shop more sustainably by making use of what we already have, therefore helping to reduce landfill and pollution. Thrifting, or more commonly known in the UK as charity shopping, is a great way to source unique one-off pieces for a fraction of the price of most vintage shops. Thereby proving better for not just the environment but for our bank accounts too. As the world continues to turn its back on fur it is believed that sustainable manmade alternatives are the future of the fur industry, but secondhand or recycled faux fur is the next best thing. There is nothing better than a bargain, especially when knowing that no animals were harmed in the process.