Fur flying over Fashion Week ban

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Norway’s biggest annual design showcase, Oslo Fashion Week (OFW), banned fur from its catwalk this year – an international first that has been greeted by praise within the country and criticism from the fur industry and some in the Scandinavian fashion community.

Fam Irvoll, whose clothes have been on display this week, was among the fashion designers banding together to ban fur from Oslo Fashion Week. PHOTO: Oslo Fashion Week

The week of events, held between February 14 and 20, is featuring showings from 10 designers and bans fur from animals “killed primarily for the fur’s sake.” As an alternative to fur, an opening show by Heimen Husflid was billed as “a renaissance of wool and Norwegian local fabrics … proving that sheep hair can be trendy and chic.”

The fur ban came after leading industry figures in Norway – including Kjell Nordström (known as ‘Baron von Bulldog’), Fam Irvoll and Hilde Marstrander – formed the “Mote mot pels” (Fashion against fur) campaign, in cooperation with animal welfare organisation NOAH. The fur industry has been the target of protests after appalling conditions were revealed at fur farms last year.

Nordström, Irvoll and Marstrander met at a NOAH torchlight vigil against the fur industry, and launched the initiative after noticing a number of other industry insiders at the demonstration. Mote mot pels has since gathered 200 signatures from high-profile fashion celebrities wishing to publicly condemn the use of fur, including models, designers and industry newspaper editors who will no longer give publicity to fur products. Irvoll told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that many of the 200 signatories had previously used fur, but had since been persuaded otherwise.

OFW general manager Pål Vasbotten described the ban in newspaper Aftenposten as “completely natural,” coming after long consideration over the issue as part of a wider desire to focus on ethical issues within fashion. Vasbotten stressed in particular the poor conditions suffered by animals on fur farms. “I don’t think it is right to keep animals in cages in order to produce clothes,” he told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “If the Norwegian fur industry ended that, the case would be different.”

The ban has been criticized by a Scandinavian sister event, the Copenhagen Fashion Week (CFW), which is the biggest such event in northern Europe. During CFW itself, which was sponsored by fur company Kopenhagen Fur, organizer Eva Kruse commented at a press conference that she was “strongly critical” of her Norwegian neighbours, stating that “it should of course be up to the designers themselves to decide which materials they will make use of.”

Kruse claimed that “fur is a sustainable material with a long history and a proud tradition,” which she described as “a lifelong investment, something that can be passed on to future generations.” Denmark exports 25 percent of the world’s mink, according to DN, and has a large and active fur industry. According to NRK, Sweden’s Stockholm Fashion Week was not discussing a ban.

‘Laughed at’
A spokesman for the fur industry in Norway, Morten Sauer, refused an invitation to debate the ban at an Oslo Fashion Week event, claiming that it was simply being “laughed at” in Europe. “In Germany, France and Italy, the catwalk is full of fur,” Sauer told newspaper Dagsavisen. “OFW has no meaning and gets little attention.”

Sauer refuted OFW organizers’ claims that fur is no longer fashionable, claiming the price of mink has risen 112 percent over the past 10 years because demand outstrips supply. “To refuse to let a designer use fur as a material is like refusing to let a food magazine write about meat,” Sauer told Dagsavisen. “What’s next? Shall we forbid cotton, too?”

The stance against fur comes as part of a growing movement in Norway against the fur industry. Speaking of the wider anti-fur movement, CFW’s Kruse was once again highly critical. “This must be a distinctly Norwegian phenomenon,” she said. Describing Norwegian animal welfare rules as “strong,” she added that “the alternative is to move all business to China or other low-cost countries where there are completely difference rules.” But others, such as Vasbotten, dispute this, suggesting that the situation witnessed in Norway itself was “quite gruesome.”

Marstrander and members of Mote mot pels appreciate Vasbotten’s support for the fur ban, telling Aftenposten that his stance is “completely unique” and an “important step.” They now look forward to OFW inspiring others to internationalize the campaign.

“We hope that OFW’s fur ban will lead to more fashion weeks distancing themselves from fur,” said Marstrander.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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