GQ x LFWM’s Big Conversation

Read about the event online in GQ

London Fashion Week Mens not only kicked-off with a bang, but it concluded with one too. On June 10th, the concluding day of London Fashion Week Mens SS20, the British Fur Federation and British GQ hosted a breakfast panel discussion at Claridges hotel, where a panel of distinguished fashion luminaries discussed the rise of natural fur in menswear. And yours truly was amongst the influential fashion audience.

Moderated by editor in chief of British GQ Dylan Jones, speakers from all branches of the fashion and fur industry, consisting of British Fur Trade Association (BFTA) Chairman Frank Zilberkweit, fashion designer Astrid Andersen, President of ‘Yves Salomon’, Yves Salomon, Copenhagen fashion brand ‘Les Deux’ founder Andreas Von Der Heide, and Central Saint Martins journalism graduate Alexandra Castle, engaged in deep and serious political, social and environmental debates surrounding natural fur and its position in the fashion industry.

Joined by none other than musician and fashion model Dougie Poynter to my left, and Deputy Editor and Fashion Features Director at British Vogue Sarah Harris to my right (to name only the closest). All in attendance, including British Fashion designer Osman, representatives from British GQ, Holland and Holland, Daxs, Harrods, and Harvey Nichols amongst others, were educated about the nuanced and intricate debates and realities surrounding natural fur. A series of questions put to the panel offered guests a fresh perspective and new lends through which we will all view fur, it’s rise in menswear, and position in fashion. Allow me to start from the very beginning. 

The panel kicked off the event with an engaging debate as to whether there can ever be an ‘ethical’ or ‘sustainable’ alternative to natural fur, given synthetic fur is fundamentally plastic. It has increasingly become apparent that consumers do not know that synthetic fur is made from plastic –  a derivative of oil – namely due to the branding of plastic fur a: synthetic; fake; faux; or even eco. This branding provides consumers with falsehoods that the clothing they are purchasing is ecologically friendly and sustainable. Consumers do not realise that the plastic fur they are wearing will need to be recycled, forever. It will never biodegrade.

The discussion then homed in on today’s customers and their increasing demand for assurances on transparency and certification. This is something Frank of the BFTA was confidently able to communicate with the launch of IFF’s FURMARK program in 2020. Many guest, unknowing of the traceability and certification program that is FURMARK, certifying furs from farms to consumers, left the event feeling secure in the knowledge that the fur they stock (in Harvey Nichols or Harrods, for example), or wear, is from a certified high-quality source. 

On display during the event were a variety of displays highlighting trendy men’s fur fashion. This included 6 mannequins featuring the designs from panellists; Astrid Andersen; Les Deux and Yves Salomon; and plinths showcasing the accessories from London-based designers Rebecca Bradley London; and Rachel London. These were great congregation points for guests at the start and end of the event, with many touching the furs and trying on the bags.

Moreover, it wasn’t long before the panels attention was turned to a debate about the activities of animal rights groups and their effect, with media noise, on fur sales. The general consensus amongst panellists was that, despite what the media propagates, fur sales not only worldwide, but in the UK – a dynamic market – are doing well. Then, with a focus on the future, topics surrounding changes in millennials opinions and consumption habits, given that millennials are considered to be the most socially and environmentally conscious in history, it was largely accepted that trust, transparency are the key to answering millennials demands. 

Following this, an interesting conversation surrounding societal greenwashing, often faux-greenwashing, and the real motives behind fashion brands going fur-free. The debate then turned to the crux of the event – the rise of natural fur in menswear. Panellists identified the rise of ‘luxury’ in the menswear sector, the appetite for exclusivity and customization, as well as the rejection of fast fashion as being the main reasons behind the developing trend. 

After an informative debate, the panellists and attendees had the opportunity to engage in side discussions. Dougie turns to me and openly confesses that on his way to this panel, he was of the steadfast mind-set that fur is wrong and should be banned. However, after hearing the realities of the fur trade, in particular Andreas’ experience of visiting a fur farm where the minks were treated better than his own pets (Andreas’ exact words), and as a counter reaction and rejection of plastic fast-fashion, he has changed his mind about fur, or at least started to see the ethical and sustainable advantages to fur. 

IFF’s and GQ’s breakfast panel did much to educate the influential British fashion scene, offering the fur trade an invaluable opportunity to debunk the many myths and highlight the many advantages of fur. All guests in attendance received a GQ goody-bag including the latest edition of British GQ, a copy of IFF’s Natural Fur brochure and Fur Mark Brochure, and a gift by Oh! By Kopenhagen Fur.