Depending on which camp you belong to, vegan or eco (and they are two completely different ones), your views on wearing animals will differ greatly.
If you are vegan, they will not only differ, they will absolutely mean you never wear another piece of clothing or accessory made from an animal again. The eco establishment will argue that recycling and using sustainable materials (ones not filled with pesticides or petroleum by-products) is the better way to go. It’s a tough consumer dilemma, and one that divides, as there are strong arguments for both.
When I came across Harricana by Mariouche, I thought the recycled fur line was tastefully done and contacted the designer Mariouche Gagné for an interview.
My two questions for her rested on the claim that the company “has recycled over 50,000 coats and turned them into new branded creations, adding up to nearly 400 metric tons of refurbished fur,” an estimated half a million animals’ lives saved thanks to recycling countless vintage jackets and pelts. While I thought the idea of recycling fur into forward designs was ingenious, the devil’s advocate in me also thought if I were an animal rights activist, I’d think the mere wearing of fur just promoted it – and I’d be angry.
Second, noticing her claim that the shops featuring her work were all over the world, I wondered if the reason they aren’t sold in the U.S. is due to a different mentality about wearing fur.
Mariouche has her own feelings about wearing fur: “I like to think further than just that the poor animal that died for the jacket a hundred years ago, I think about the animals I save now by recycling. That makes a lot more sense,” she says from her Montreal studio which today has international sales in 18 countries including Switzerland, France, Austria, Germany, and Russia.
“I am not for making with new,” she adds. “I recycle thousands of coats, silk scarves and army jackets every year into pieces that will last for another 100 years. I don’t design just for a passing trend.”
Amongst her cold weather designing credentials – like living at the North Pole – Mariouche has spent time in Kuujjuaq in Nunavik, where local Inuit women make clothing using traditional methods and see the killing of an animal in a holistic way where every drop of the animal is utilized from their oil to their pelt. While she does not condone the killing of animals, her message is clear: “We are all these city hypocrites and we want other people we don’t see to kill our food and make our clothes and that, is not natural.”
Jennifer Miller, founder of Mission Savvy, an eco-boutique that pairs eco fashion with pressing issues in animal welfare has her own feelings on recycling fur: “I’m just sort of over it. That’s all.”
A longtime animal rights activist, Miller asks why we even need to be wearing fur in the first place.
“If you live in a heated house, have the privilege of being able to cook yourself a warm meal and snuggle up in a warm bed at night, there’s no real survival purpose to owning a fur coat. Communities outside of true indigenous lifestyles really have no purpose wearing fur. And therefore if you are inclined to wear it, choose your Nordic destination, endure a season of coastal fishing, sheep herding, knitting, hunting and territorial defense and really immerse yourself in the culture of having no choice but to wear fur. Otherwise please spare me the headache of preaching about how the jacket keeps you warm in the winter, all 1.5 hours of the day that you are actually outside,” says Miller.
But from an animal welfare perspective, Miller thinks if there must be a fur industry, it should most certainly revolve around recycled fur with not a single animal being skinned alive again.
“Fur can be put to better use than fashion,” she says, “There are hundreds of thousands of homeless people that would appreciate a fur coat donation. Humane Society of the United States has a great program called ‘Coats for Cubs’ where you can donate your fur coat and it’s used to comfort animals in rehab. And what about using them as a down alternative as well? Fur stuffed blankets is another great idea for families with children that can’t afford to turn on the heat in the winter.”
Mariouche, who might agree with the multitude of uses for fur, holds the position that no matter what, people are going to buy fur.
“I offer people with money a choice though to be more ethical and I think if you can offer that in the luxury sector, giving them a choice, it’s better than nothing.”