Eco-conscious Fashion’s latest trend: Fur?

Environmentally Conscious Consumers, Animal Rights Enthusiasts, and Vegans: prepare yourself. Fur is – apparently – making a comeback. And no, not among the super-rich, but rather, among the eco-chic.

“How can fur possibly be considered environmentally-conscious?” You ask yourself.

Well, what if the fur comes off the back of an invasive species of rodent that destroys wetlands, and that the government is already paying people to trap and kill? In a reverse case of fur-economics, the fashion trend wouldn’t create a demand that resulted in the death of cute little animals, but rather, would take advantage of an otherwise wasted resource. In the words of environmentally-conscious designer Cree McCree, “if they’re being killed anyway, then why not make something beautiful out of them?”

Last month, at the “Righteous Fur” Fashion show (held at the House of Yes in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) 20 designers displayed their latest, fluffiest, and (as the story goes) “greenest” designs. The show’s main sponsor was Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, a nonprofit conservation group based in Thibodaux, Louisiana. The group’s mission is to preserve a 4-million-acre Louisiana swamp that is – as we speak – in the process of being decimated by nutria, a non-native species that just happens to have rather nice fur.

The nutria, a rodent about half as large as a beaver, was brought to the United States from South America during the 19th century to bolster a growing demand for exotic fur. Since their arrival on American soil (and the demise of the fur trade) the population has ballooned and the nutria have taken to eating a disastrous amount of wetlands vegetation. The state of Louisiana currently pays trappers $5 per pelt in an effort to control the population, but those pelts are thrown away or left to rot in the bayou.

That is, unless they’re used in the aforementioned, seemingly paradoxical, eco-conscious fur revival.

A few looming questions remain. For example, how is one to know if a fur coat comes from nutria or not? Might a rebirth of fur-fashion stimulate a demand for non-nutria garments? What does PETA have to say about all of this?

But perhaps the take-away message is that “green,” “eco-friendly,” and “environmentally-conscious” are adjectives that do not necessarily reside in the product itself, but rather, in the story we tell ourselves and each other about that product.