Fur has been used in many different ways throughout history, from “contagious magic”, or a way to keep yourself warm, to representing a bold fashion statement or exhibiting the economic status. The history of fur dating from Ancient Egypt to the present day has a lot we must know about.
Initially, Fur was believed to have “contagious magic” which means that hunters in early history assumed that wearing the fur pelt or skin of an animal would give them a special connection to that animal, if they wore a cheetah’s skin, perhaps they would grasp the speed and intelligence of the cheetah ultimately, helping them in their life’s journey.
As centuries went by, fur started to receive some new recognition, from contagious magic it became a symbol of social status. In ancient Egypt, only kings and high priests were allowed to wear furs, like that of ermine, mink or chinchilla. High priests would wear them during ceremonies and other such events, displaying its importance.
In the 11th century, nobles and the rich adorned themselves in the finest of the quality. Fur becoming a statement, the lower class husbands started placing mortgages on their houses to provide fur to their wives, the upper class was pretty eager to place laws stating people of other classes were banned from buying the best of fur. They wanted to differentiate themselves from the lower class. Although, those who weren’t privileged were given the right to wear the fur of fox, otter and small rodents.
The Fur Trade got into action, during the early 1500s. It was most popular in North America and began with the trade between the Indians and the Europeans. The fur of a Beaver took pace to be the most valued. But in the 1800s, its ever growing demand led to a decline of the animals, slowing down the trade and making silk the new popular amongst people.
Commencement of the 19th century, saw innovations in technology to meet the rising demand. This change brought about easy ways to create shinier and silkier furs. A woman named Yelena Yelmark, found a way to create a leopard skin design, which later on became highly desirable.
No matter how much fur became lighter and easier to produce, they were still meant for the rich and elite. For the less wealthy segment, manufacturers developed coats and dresses with little trims of fur so that it could be made affordable for them.
Fur from animals like raccoons, muskrats, wolves and hare were used in that period.
In the 1950s, fur production was at its zenith. Different varieties of fur were available and the priciest of them was made of mink. A full mink coat would cost around $600. The highly demanded Silver Fox Fur was priced enormously as compared to the Red Fox Fur.
In the 1900s, early French designers like Jeanne Paquin (1869-1936) and Paul Poiret (1879-1944) used it more often in their clothing range. In the history of fur, during the 1930’s, it started to be used in abundance by many designers as trims for coats, collars and cuffs.
In 2000, the furs used by various designers were – Miuccia Prada, tippet and raccoon; Albert Ferretti, hamster; Narciso Rodriguez, fox; Galliano, chinchilla; Marc Jacobs, mink.
Even today, fur is an essential element in the luxury collection of many International Fashion designers, especially in Michael Kors, Fall Winter, 2012; Marc Jacobs, Fall 2011; Hugo Boss Women’s, Fall 2011; Jean Paul Gaultier, Spring/Summer, 2011; Vera Wang, Fall 2011 etc.
The controversies and the talks revolving around the plight of animals in the 1980s – 1990s created chaos and confusion on fur farms.
Since then, Faux fur has become quite the rage and a suitable alternative to using animal skins for garments. It is explained that some people argue about the environmental repercussions of faux fur as it is a synthetic alternative, made from petroleum, exhausting natural resources, thereby creating pollution in the very state.
Even after the awareness of extinction of animals and decline in their number for the greed of their fur it is stated that modern marketing tactics, fast communication in fashion in terms of new trends, collective tastes and the surrounding environment would instate power in the fur industry to stay for long!