Fur, a material that is natural, biodegradable, sustainable, long-lasting and environmentally-friendly is in the middle of a very unpleasant fight in New York City. In March, Council Speaker Corey Johnson propositioned a ban on the sale and manufacture of fur in New York – a proposal that would completely wipe out thousands of jobs and ultimately end businesses. To be more specific, this ranges from small businesses to leading international brands, big department stores, and major retailers – all which will destroy more than 7,500 jobs instantaneously. There are three pillars for why the pro-fur industry is fighting back – jobs, freedom of choice and sustainability.
A fur ban will affect all types of people, businesses and movements. In particular, a movement that this will agitate is The Coalition for Blacks for Fur, also known as ‘BlacksForFur.’ Irene Gandy, founder of The Coalition for Blacks for Furs has identified the movement as a “voice for women and men of colour who have the right to purchase any luxury items they choose to purchase from furs especially, but also cars, homes, clothing etc.” BlacksForFur make clear that black people can “buy luxury items, own fur and luxury businesses that uses fur” and completely believe that a fur ban is another right that is taken away from them. After reading an article by Patch, titled “NYC Fur Ban an Attack on Black Culture, Advocates Say”, which explains a little bit more on the greater, deeper connotations that fur has in the black community, I was compelled to understand more about the significance that fur plays in the Coalition for Blacks for Fur. Irene replied and explained that “in the black family, our grandmothers, aunts, cousins, daughters, mothers, have had furs passed down through generations out of respect and love of the hard work they put in the country, even in hard times and through racial conflicts that endured.” She continued to explain the prominence of fur and explained that “you can go into any black church in America on a Sunday and see at least 2 million dollars of fur coats, hats, bags, and accessories worn by women and men of colour.” Because of this, Irene further explains why a fur ban will specially target the black community, and states that she believes “it is not only politically incorrect to people of colour, but it is also economically ignorant to ignore the forgotten race who spend dollars on furs.”
Going back to the fur ban and protests held at City Hall in New York City last week, The Coalition of Blacks for Fur’s held their own and I was intrigued to know more about the feeling of uniting and coming together, the atmosphere, and the response that it got from people around the world. From one simple hashtag, #NoFurBan, people have stood strong together and voiced their belief and views on why banning fur is wrong, targeting those who are adjacent to a fur ban, so I speculate what happened on the day, where bodies showed up and made a stand. Irene revealed that it “was a positive one and I feel like we got our point across. After the protest, we gained so many followers on our social media platforms. We had just started the movement three days prior to the protest, and we are steadily gaining attention. We are receiving so much support from around the world from furriers and buyers who support the #NoFurBan movement.” Clearly, the ‘response-to-the-protest’ element was soaring, and people haven’t taken what the antis are staging as the truth, but are in fact supporting and subsiding with us, the fur community. However, those that are in agreement of the fur ban have made their voices heard too – and it begs the question, if the government can eradicate a material, will they also tell you what you can and can’t wear? This led me to ask Irene how will a fur ban affect BlacksForFur? She expressed that she is “hoping that it won’t. I am the founder and chairperson of Blacks for Fur, and I will continue to speak out so we can make our own decisions. Everybody has the right to buy what they want, wear what they want, vote for who they want, live where they want, love who they want, and the list goes on. We have a freedom of choice!” In the face of historic homelessness and affordability crises, we demand leaders to focus and solve real problems, not invent new ones.
Fur ban advocates have said that fake fur is a good replacement – in a world where sustainability is at the core of the fashion world, I asked Irene what her thoughts were on this. “Fake is NOT real, PERIOD. And it’s going to hurt the ecosystem.” What fur ban advocates fail or refuse to acknowledge is that fake fur is made from plastics that poison our waterways and never degrade. Irene continues, “Let’s compare my real mink fur coat to a faux fur one, assuming a real fur mink coat is typically kept for 30 years compared to a faux fur coat that is kept for 6. That faux fur coat poses four times more risk of damage to the ecosystem, 2.3 times more risk of adding to climate change, and 2.7 times more risk of impacting resource consumption. There are thousands of thrift shops packed with your mother’s old real fur coats… they are going to last forever!” Fast fashion is a continuing problem, and what Irene has elucidated here is that natural fur is not only about consumer choice, or black culture but also all about sustainability, inherited between different generations, instead of being piled up in landfills like plastic fur, and will ultimately pollute our planet. In light of this, next steps have been put in place for BlacksForFur in aid of the #NoFurBan, which are “SHOW UP (in numbers, on social media, word of mouth) and SHOW OUT (looking good and spending good). We will make an impact in this movement. We are going to take this movement nationally and maybe internationally if they decide to continue moving the #NoFurBan state to state and country to country. We stand in solidarity with the furriers in this movement.”
In conclusion, there are numerous people, movements and businesses who are fighting against the fur ban, and it is encouraging and empowering to see. Through BlacksForFur movement, as well as many other protesting done and online uniting, we have seen that solidarity is essential in creating a hub for fighting against a ban proposal that is preposterous. It shows that the fur industry has a cohesive voice and is making a stand towards something that has all kinds of deep-rooted meanings — the BlacksForFur movement has alluded to this. Jobs, consumer choice and sustainability have all been subjected to scrutiny if a fur ban was to take place, and the fur industry will keep on fighting to defend jobs, rights and the planet.