Thursday, 3 November 2011

Where to buy fur in London?

Before instantly passing judgement on this article, please read through until the end...It may surprise you...

Shoppers these days are curious creatures. We ask questions. We want to know where our food, clothing and cars come from, the effect they have on the environment and the practices behind their construction. Basically we've become people who ask questions and when we don't like the answer we have a plethora of manufacturers to turn to until our needs and consciences are satisfied. There are, however, industries that carry a bad rap no matter what their standards and practices may be. Fur, I believe, is at the top of that list.

Animal rights activists will tell you that ALL fur is bad fur. They'll show you pictures of animals living inhumanely, being tortured before they are killed and stripped down in the most horrible fashion imaginable. The bottom line is that yes, these horrible acts do happen in the world. They occur in areas where the trade is not regulated and where people are looking to make a quick buck out of the fur trade but actually have no concern for the welfare of the animals.The fact of that matter is that humans have been wearing fur since our first steps on the planet. The practice of killing animals to keep ourselves warm and feed our families all at the same time has come and gone. Fur now has a legend attached to it that screams "status symbol". But I'm getting ahead of myself.

What I'm posting here will inevitably be either loved or hated with great intensity. Fur is undoubtedly the Marmite of the fashion world. However, one cannot ignore the fact that nearly two thirds of autumn winter catwalks for 2011/12 flaunted fur like never before. It is a trend that has no expiration day and now even finds itself on summer catwalks (remember Kanye's fur backpack?). 

So what I want to do here is show you where you can buy your fur and feel best about it. I know this isn't for everyone but for those that are buying fur you should definitely know what you're supporting every time you make a purchase!

For those of you that wish to be responsible fur buyers and wish to promote a trade where animals are well looked after and given a good life, you are wise as well as kind. You see a fur can tell an entire story just with its pelt. An animal that is fed well and given a good life presents a noticeably healthier and more beautiful coat and therefore presents an incentive to the fur farmer to keep their animals happy and well looked after. However, touching and eyeing up the fur is not where your curiosity should end. Questions must be asked. Where is the fur sourced from? Can you give me details on the practices? Can you tell me if you're registered with any organizations that guarantee your practices? You can even go as far as to ask how many animals were used to make the garment. The fact is that there are never too many questions to be asked when buying a fur. You're buying into something and you're within your rights to find out if it's a wise investment. In fact I'd say you almost have an obligation.

When I decided to write this series I did my research. I went through the different online channels and was exposed to the usual PETA propaganda with horrible images of animals that make your stomach turn over. I then started asking the people I consider "fashion authorities" in London where they buy their fur and who they trust in the trade. There was one name that was continually thrown out : Hockley. This family run business seemed to have a reputation for great fur, wonderful practices and wonderful customer service. They've also taught most of the great designers everything they know about buying, handling and designing with fur. So I went knocking and was invited into their shop in central London to have a sit down with the people behind this highly recommended company. I was particularly thrilled to have an audience with the Managing Director Frank Zilberkweit and Creative Director Izzet Ers.

I am an animal lover. I've always had two dogs and a cat at home, originally started out pre-vet at university and have always felt that if I'm going to buy fur it will be with a company that invests time and money in respectable practices. Hockley take "respectable" to a new level. For over two hours we sat and spoke about every element of production, construction and selling. They kindly put up with question after question and one could tell this was not an uncommon practice for them.  Hockley wants you to know what you're buying and I start to get the impression that they prefer an educated consumer in their shop, or perhaps a consumer that longs to be educated.

Now, I could go on and on here about what I was told and the way in which Hockley described how their fur was caught, bought or traded. But that would be me writing another story about the fur trade and one which you can read on absolutely any website. I'd then go on to wear my Hockley fur and smile to myself as I was kept feeling luxurious and warm by mink, chinchillas or rabbits. But, I'm going to go a step further.

Telling someone something is one thing but seeing it for yourself is another. So dear readers, I am going to do what so many have turned a blind eye towards over the years. I'm going to the source. Hockley have invited me to visit their fur farms and see for myself how proud they are of where they source their fur. And you know what, if I'm going to wear this fur then I have to know the real hard facts. I have to be able to accept what goes into creating the luxurious pieces I'm buying.

It's never easy to watch any animal be put to death and I am under no illusions here. I know this will not be a glamourous trip. But I have a responsibility to myself and to you, dear reader. If I am going to talk about fur on this site and support a company I believe to be 100% worthy of recognition, I need to go to the source and know exactly what it is I'm supporting.

I will leave you with a few things to ponder here. First and foremost I do just have to throw this question out there - why does no one discuss where the leather for your £600 stilettos has come from or how the production of faux fur is actually killing hundreds of thousands of animals because of the effect the production has on the environment? There are so many issues which are swept under the rug. And I think I might have a go at tackling one at a time. It's time to put myths to bed and wake up the curious consumer within!

Now, onto other things like looking at what Hockley is all about design-wise. You didn't think I'd step into store and not have a look around did you? Creative designer Izzet Ers gave me the complete tour, talked me through each piece and even gave me a very sneaky look at his workshop and what he's designing for the next collection. So without further ado, I'd like to give you a look behind the doors of London's most respected house for fur... Hockley.
NOTE: For UK or International readers, Hockley fur is now available to buy online. So everything you see above is in the shop now. If you are in London, however, I would encourage you to step into the store and have the full experience. This is a shop that is more welcoming than most in the UK. I know so many of us are intimidated by fur stores as they have this sort of upper crust exclusivity about them. Although Hockley cater to some of the world's wealthiest buyers, you would never know it. This is a team that is courteous and outstanding with every customer that enters the shop... even a BLOGGER!

3 comments:

  1. Good post, I have to admit that when I first saw the title, I was almost ready to write off FFG altogether, but having read it, I am really impressed. Great work for doing the research and sharing the information, I've always wanted to find out from an unbiased source what exactly goes on in these places. Also, very brave decision on going to the fur farm. I still definitely do not support fur, but I think it's great that you guys are going to make sure good information is out there for people that do. Keep up the good work!

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  2. Thanks for sharing this and for making your readers think about a more serious side of the fashion industry. I've always been anti-fur, and to be honest I just put the whole industry into one basket without realising there are responsible and considerate traders as well as cruel ones. As the above comment said, I probably still won't be able to wear fur, but there are a lot of people out there who do and educating them about making the right choices can only be a good thing.

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  3. I have never understood the illogic behind the fact we seem to think it's reasonable as a society to eat meat (farmed responsibly or not), yet to wear fur is somehow an unforgivable social faux-pas.

    Is it more wrong to wear dead animal than to consume it?

    Surely the question is one of citizenship? That we should farm animals responsibly, in a way that doesn't damage the environment, doesn't hurt local trade, and that applies to fur just as much as leather, or beef steak?

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