Katharine Hamnett - Bio Fur


Katharine Hamnett - Bio Fur

The problem:Faux fur prevents cruelty to animals but is harmful to the environment. It is widely made from polyester and acrylic and can take over 1,000 years to biodegrade. Faux fur contributes to microfibre pollution.

Our solution: Our fur is 100% biodegradable, while respecting animal welfare. It is made from sheared animal fibre (mohair) that is recovered from angora goats, the same way wool from sheep. Our fur fibres are trapped in 100% cotton backing fabric. This means that unlike traditional fur, there is no need to use animal skin. We are working to switch the conventional cotton backing to 100% GOTS certified organic cotton.

“We need to start calling it plastic fur, not fake fur.”

Mary Creagh, MP

Fur has been coveted for its perceived luxury for centuries. Its supply and demand have always been controversial. The rise of fast fashion brought real fur to a wider audience at a cheaper price point and saw its popularity grow. The parallel rise of responsible fashion sparked a backlash and drove the demand for a boycott.

Animal rights activists maintain their fierce opposition to real fur. With the call for brands to go fur-free getting louder[1], the real fur industry has fought back, claiming their product is better for the environment than its alternative, fake fur[2].

Fake fur is for the most part made from synthetic, plastic derived materials. Specifically, polyester and acrylic (sometimes from cellulose based fibres, such as rayon, that require toxic chemicals for processing). Synthetic materials have devastating consequences for the environment, taking hundreds of years to biodegrade[3] and adding the growing plastic pollution epidemic.

When polyester and acrylic garments are worn and cleaned, microfibres can break off. The University of Plymouth found that an average washing machine can release 700,000 microfibres into our sewage treatment and wider environment during an average synthetic clothing wash cycle[4].These microfibres flow into our rivers, lakes and seas[5], they are eaten by marine life and enter the food chain[6]. Today, 1.4 trillion tonnes of microfibres are in the world oceans[7] and 22 million tonnes of microfibres are expected to enter our oceans by 2050[8].

A new report in the US ‘It is Raining Plastic’ saw 90% of rainwater samples taken by scientists in four separate areas containing high concentrations of microfibres[9]. Research published in Science Advances found an average of 1,760 microplastic particles per litre of snow from samples taken from the Arctic[10]. Microfibres are even in the air we breathe[11]. It is an environmental disaster.

We are offering an alternative, that has no plastic-based content and is also, not ‘real fur’. We have partnered with Steiff Schulte[12], the 120-year-old teddy bear company to produce Bio-Fur coats.

Bio-Fur is made from 100% mohair fibre that is trapped in cotton backing fabric. Luxurious and durable, the mohair is sheared from angora goats and sourced from farms in South Africa that adhere to the Sustainable Mohair Production Guidelines[13].

To ensure the highest animal welfare standards for mohair goats in our clothing supply chain, we are following the progress of the Textile Exchange Responsible Mohair Standard[14] that aims to ensure mohair comes from goats that have been treated responsibly and farms with a progressive approach to managing land.

We need to challenge everything in fashion and keep making better product choices for people, otherwise what hope do we have to change? #PlasticFur #BioFur

Additional notes:

  • Our position on petrochemical-based fibres and fabrics is clear: we are working to eliminate them from our products. We use recycled/regenerated polyester/nylon materials and use only a small amount of elastane across three of our products: 2% of elastane in some of our denim to offer a commercially viable fit, 5% in knitted mesh for durability and 22% in our swimwear fabric ECONYLÒ, as we have yet to find a swimwear fabric innovation that does not require the use of elastane for performance purposes. We are working to phase out the use of elastane completely for the same reason we want a ban on faux fur: our concern for the gravity of the plastic pollution and microfibre epidemic.
  • We recommend that anyone who owns virgin/recycled polyester or nylon clothing use a micro-fibre ‘catchers’ when washing their clothes – if you can access one, we recommend the following; Cora Ball, Guppy Friend, The Girlfriend Collective Microfibre Filter.
  • Working with our supplier Steiff Schulte has been a great opportunity to inspire change in the industry starting with our supply chain. Steiff Schulte are phasing out their current stock of conventional cotton (used for their fur backing) in order to switch to 100% Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic cotton.
  • Steiff Schulte adhere to the EU REACH regulation that aims to provide a high level of protection of human health and the environment from the use of chemicals. They do not use a concentration higher than 0.1% of substances named on the REACH restricted substances list in the processing of their mohair. They do not use substances which contain any pesticides, chloro-organic carriers, optical brightening agents or flame retardant products, formaldehyde and azo dyes.