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Americans may be buying their Christmas gifts at Oriental Trading this year and rationing household Kleenex but the fur industry thinks mink can be part of the recessionary tableau.
“There is simply no room for purchasing frivolous pieces that will only be worn once,” says the Fur Information Council of America (FICA) website.
But non-frivolous fur, it goes on to say, is a versatile investment that can be worn with “jeans on a Saturday afternoon,” and as “a warm alternative to carry you to the office” Monday through Friday.
At least in Wasilla, Alaska.
Nor do you “have to feel guilty about buying one, or even two” fur coats says FICA because this season’s styles are so “easy and so wearable.”
But take a look at Chicago’s desolated Magnificent Mile–its Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus resembling vaults, burial not fur–and it’s obvious FICA is facing a tough Iditarod.
To wit: how to sell a cruel, unnecessary and expensive product when people are rethinking their daily $4.95 Grande Chai No-Whip No-Foam Skim Latte.
Even if fur weren’t cruel who wants to looks fat, dated, “kept,” politically incorrect and–in this economy–ostentatious and spoiled?
Especially when the black nylon zip-up parkas that are practically the law in big cities and on college campuses are just as warm, lighter weight and don’t scream steal me at the night club.
Plus they’re welcome at work and social venues unlike some coats we know.
But of course it is cruel which is why FICA trots out a “Famous Faces in Fur” photomontage on its website with Kate Moss and Kate Bosworth wearing what looks a Salvatore Ferragamo’s monkey fur jacket, (yes, monkey) Mary J. Blige and Patti LaBelle looking like Paul Bunyon and the free-space-on-the-fur-bingo-board fur lovers the Oslen twins, Madonna, Kate Hudson and Naomi Campbell.
Missing is Gwyneth Paltrow who pimps fox fur for Italian luxury goods company Tod’s in the New York Times week after week with a wan smirk.
And of course Sara “You Betcha” Palin who not only wears fur–she’ll kill the animal for you.
Except the photos don’t sell.
Kid Rock looks like Davy Crockett’s less gifted brother, vindicating Pam Anderson’s decision to lose him.
And Sharon Stone, trolling down a runway while dragging her fur contemptuously behind her, raises both ethical and environmental questions. And not just whether China’s earthquake was “karma.”
If a fur is falling off the shoulders or being dragged behind you across the floor do you really need the fur?
Or is the day “clearly too cold to shed the fur pelt, yet also too hot for anything but tiny cutoffs,” as the sassy fashion site gofugyourself writes under a recent photo of Kate Moss in what looks like a lynx coat replete with tail (you go Kate) but with bare legs.
How is using fur for decoration not warmth different from the families of delicate birds that used to adorn women’s hats? Or umbrella stands of elephant feet?
Since the 1990’s, Chicago furriers from Evans, the world’s largest, to Mysel’s in the Palmer House Hilton have folded–blaming the warm winters that Kate doesn’t notice.
Nor did the Chicago Fur Mart which opened last year make it six months..
But Chicago’s remaining furriers–both of them–have reason to expect big crowds the day after Thanksgiving.
It’s Chicago’s annual Fur Free Friday parade.
MARTHA ROSENBERG is staff cartoonist on the Evanston Roundtable. She can be reached at email@example.com