Fashion, the Fur Trade and One Designer's Mission to Convert Us to "Faux"

Nothing generates controversy more than fur on a catwalk. Each year, winter fashion week shows are plagued with animal rights protestors beating their poles in objection to the fashion industry's penchant for this inhumane textile.

According to UK website Respect For Animals, excluding rabbits, more than 55 million animals per year are either bred and killed in fur factory farms or trapped in the wild for their fur. Animal rights lobbyist PETA has discovered eighty-five percent of the fur industry’s skins are derived from animals living captive in fur factory farms located in Europe, North America and China. Most of the animals raised in these farms are callously killed by means of suffocation, electrocution, and the use of poison and gas, all for the cause that is "designer fashion".

In 2011, global fur sales increased by seven per cent to reach an unprecedented $15 billion, indicating a growing consumer appetite for the product.

We at NetStyleShopper say "NO" to the use of real fur for fashion, strongly advocating the abolition of this heinous trade and encouraging women who desire fur to "go faux" instead.

One woman passionate about raising awareness of the cruelty inflicted upon animals due to the fur trade is founder of faux fur label, Designer Duchess, Nayia La Scala.  La Scala was shocked after learning the truth concerning the methods used to harvest fur, fuelling her desire to create a clothing line a superior imitation of the real product.

Editor, Michelle Larin, interviewed La Scala about her label and personal take on the use of fur for fashion.

Q: Tell me about your brand.  What gave you the idea to create a fashion label specialising in faux fur?

A: The label was born from my love of both fashion and animals. I have always wanted to create and design clothing since I was young, often cutting up my own clothes as projects!  By nature, I am a compassionate person and appreciate the innocence of animals. Being exposed to the awful truth about fur farms shook me to my core and inspired me to create an alternative to real fur. Everything seemed to fall into place as my hobby became a business idea, which turned into a concept brand and then formed into a company!

Q: How long ago did you found Designer Duchess?

A: I founded the label in 2011, but I have been working on the concept for over 12 years now. It is my passion and I am so grateful to have my dream realised.

Q: Describe the woman behind the label.

A: I'm a girl who loves dressing up and dressing down. I love the expensive just as much as I love the cheap! I am a grown up when I need to be and a child as often as I can be. I love to laugh, especially at myself. I am a mum, a wife, a sister, a daughter, an aunty, a cousin, a friend and a customer. I love working hard to be the best at what I do, whether it be designing my next collection or getting my banana cake to stop caving in the middle when I take it out of the oven! I love to travel, learn, discover and explore. I am curious to learn about others and hear their stories.

Q: What's your opinion of designers who use fur in their collections?

Q: It is difficult not to have an opinion on the matter if you are aware of what goes on at fur farms. Designers that still use fur either are completely ignorant about the reality of what goes on in the trade or simply don't care. The latter is definitely the worst of the two.  I would hope that once a designer discovered the facts, they would feel enough compassion to either stop using fur in their collections or to "go faux".

Q: What fabrics do you use to create your faux fur?

A: My faux fur is made-up of knitted acrylic fibres and is therefore a synthetic fabric. The brilliance of this is that it takes to colour really well. It is also warm, washable, hypoallergenic and resistant to moths, oils, chemicals and sunlight exposure. 

Q: Where are your designs made?

A:  My pieces are designed by me here in Australia, but manufactured in China. This keeps my prices competitive against real fur. I have an excellent relationship with my manufacturer in China.  It is a family owned business and we have now become friends learning more about each other's cultures.

Q: Does the fur look real?

A: Absolutely. The quality of faux fur can vary and there is a common misconception that it can look worn and ratty over time and cheap. Excellent quality faux fur on the other hand can look and feel just like the real thing and outlast a lifetime if cared for properly.
The critical difference between quality faux fur and real fur is the backing. Real fur is attached to the skin of the deceased animal and has a tough backing to it, almost like leather. Faux fur is knitted and underneath the lining basically looks like any other fabric. 

Q: Would you call yourself an animal activist? Is your label about raising awareness of cruelty to animals?

A: My label is definitely about raising awareness of cruelty to animals in fur farms and proving  there are excellent alternatives to real fur. I wouldn't call myself an animal activist per se as, although I am very passionate about the cause, I don't involve myself in protests or other lobbying activities. The people who undertake such activities are the true activists for the cause. 

Q: What do you think about other types of animal matter being used in the creation of fashion, e.g. leather, ostrich feathers, eel skin, crocodile skin, etc?

A: This is a difficult question because I don't feel I know enough about the methods by which these animal products are obtained. Animal fur is harvested in a very cruel and torturous way and I feel particularly strongly about it because there are comparable alternatives. On the other hand, leather is predominantly a by-product of the meat industry - unlike for fur, the animal is not killed for the primary purpose of using its skin to create clothing and accessories.

Q: What is currently your favourite piece in your collection and why?

A: My favourite item has to be the Duchess of Jacobstow jacket in Ice Cream. I love it because the fabric is very realistic and the colour is incredible. The style is timeless and can be dressed up or down. I love versatility in my clothing!

Q: Describe your perfect outfit.

A: A tight fitting pair of jersey material legging sweats scrunched up at the bottom, teamed with a loose fitting monogram T shirt and faux-suede wedge pumps, complimented by a Duchess of Jackfield jacket in Ice Cream and an oversized watch and handbag!

Q: What's next for your label?

A: I have just finished the designs for my next collection and am waiting on my samples to be created and sent to me. This time, I am incorporating faux leather with faux fur. The overall colour palette and styles are a little more edgy, but still encompass the "essential wardrobe purchase" theme. I can't wait to see them grace our stockists stylish racks!

To purchase a faux fur piece from Designer Duchess for the upcoming winter season, visit their online store: http://www.designerduchess.com/

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