Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cool vs. Cruel

Not all faux fur is fake. What?

It's cheaper for companies to use raccoon dog fur as trim on clothing than it is to use the synthetic counterpart.

More than 75 million animals per year are killed for their fur.

If you're scratching your head, join the club. I was schooled in all things fur during a talk at the Art Institute of Charlotte recently.

Kyle Quandel of the Humane Society of the United States came to speak to fashion merchandising students about the HSUS Cool vs. Cruel program which offers the winning AI student a chance at an all-expenses paid internship with a fur-friendly designer.

The design competition, only open to Art Institute students across the country, educates emerging designers on fur and promotes use of beautiful alternatives. Seven students from the Charlotte campus are taking part in the competition. One student from Charlotte will move on to national judging, to be held in NYC in November.

So how can you tell if faux fur is really fake? Separate the fur, and check the fabric, Quandel says. If you see cloth, you're all set. If you can scratch the back and leave a mark, it's fur.

Another way to test -- though not recommended for the middle of a department store -- is flame. Fur will smell like burning hair when on fire.

The HSUS has 11 million members across the country, Quandel says, and is mainstream. "We take a firm position (on animal rights), we don't give people ultimatums. ... Make compassion your fashion."