Saturday, 3 January 2015

Great Grandma's vintage fur coat

I went back to my home town of Northampton the weekend before Christmas, in order to spend some time with my family. I was discussing my recent trip to the Christmas market in Lille with my Dad and mentioned to him that I had had the misfortune of falling in love with a genuine, modern fur coat in Printemps. How did I know the coat was real? Well the £8,000 price tag should do it. Upon hearing this, my Dad skulked off and a few minutes later, returned to the kitchen looking like Del Boy, holding 2 vintage fur coats - "you want a fur coat? I've got a couple!" He said.

They belonged to my Great Grandmother and my Dad had been holding onto them like many people do; unsure as to what to do with them. My heart instantly skipped a beat as I held, smelt and tried on these beautiful vintage fur coats. The question in my mind though wasn't around whether I wanted one or not, but rather around whether I should want one or not?

A few weeks earlier, I had read an article in Vintage Life Magazine by Pin Up Model Haili Hughes (aka Coco Fierce). She was discussing the ethics of vintage fur versus real fur and it got me thinking. The article argued that vintage fur was killed a long time ago and whilst it doesn't make it right at the time, it means that you are not contributing to the modern fur trade. It also mentioned that in the age of disposable fashion, it it surely better to recycle a vintage item than to buy a new coat which will only end up in the bin 12 months later when it is out of season? However, as people cannot tell at first glance whether the fur you are wearing is real or faux (I once had to take a detour round the back of Harrods to avoid a group of anti-fur protesters whilst wearing a faux fur coat from River Island, for fear of reprisal), I can understand the argument that vintage fur may contribute to the rise in people buying real fur. Haili states in the article that it will only take one celebrity to wear a real fur coat or stole on the red carpet to reignite the fur trend. Yet I know that if I was asked to decide between modern and vintage fur, I would choose vintage.

Coco Fierce in Vintage Life Magazine
Coco Fierce's article on Fur in Vintage Life Magazine December 2014

So I decided to take the coat home. The coat contains no labels whatsoever. So there is no real way of knowing who made it, when or from what fur, yet to be honest, I have not regretted it once. For me, this coat is a family heirloom, an antique, beautifully crafted and above all, a piece of history. I can also completely understand why women in the 30's wanted to wear coats like these. Every time I wear it, I feel a like a million dollars; my local pub landlord even said that I looked like a movie star when I popped in wearing it on Boxing Day.

Vintage fur coat
My Vintage Fur Coat. 
I know that this is a controversial piece of clothing, yet for me, I know where I stand ethically on the issue. You will never see me wearing a modern fur coat, especially a coat that is made from the fur of an animal killed specifically for this purpose. But my fur coat is likely to be over 50 years old, it is not contributing to the modern fur trade and in my opinion, is no different to the hundreds of faux fur stoles, hats and scarves that have been all over the high street this season, which could also be argued as promoting the use of fur for fashion. And to be honest, if you can buy a plethora of faux fur products in the shops, no one is going to pay attention to little old me.

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