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PETA Debuts Faux-Fur Fashion with ‘Project Runway’ Alum Matt Sarafa

PETA pulls no punches when it comes to the use of fur in fashion collections. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have long advocated against wearing animal hides—instead encouraging shoppers to go faux.

On Monday, PETA announced a new collaborative partnership with Los Angeles-based designer Matt Sarafa. The animal rights group and stylist to stars like Tyra Banks, Iggy Azalea and Doja Cat plan to launch a limited-edition line of faux fur bomber jackets and coordinating face masks as a means of raising funds to end animal cruelty—and deterring consumers from buying real animal skins.

But even as faux-fur manufacturers make headway in improving the quality and lifelike hand-feel of imitation fur, the material’s ecological impacts remain problematic. Most faux fur on the market is made from non-renewable polymer sources—plastics, to be exact—and can shed harmful fibers into waterways. These options are also less bio-degradable than their organic counterparts.

Sarafa’s line relies on traditional polymer-based imitation fur, which he told Sourcing Journal has been a particular passion since he debuted his first line of coats at New York Fashion Week in 2017. The designer, who appeared on “Project Runway: Junior,” believes that faux fur’s benefits to animals—and its relative benefits to the environment—outweigh the issues posed by fake substitutions.

“I think a faux fur coat is one of the most fabulous pieces of clothing anyone can wear,” he said, while “genuine fur comes with several obvious ethical, financial and environmental downsides.”

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“While it is true that faux fur is made of polyester, it lasts significantly longer than real fur and high-end faux should last for generations,” he added. “The process of raising, killing and treating genuine fur also comes with its own slew of detrimental environmental impacts.”

PETA manager Laura Sheilds echoed the sentiment, adding that “fur factories spew ammonia into the air, and tanneries use carcinogenic chemicals to prevent animals’ flesh from rotting.” The last thing any eco-conscious consumer should buy is a fur coat, she said, simply because of the chemical output involved in processing hides.

Sheilds added that “there’s simply no excuse for raising and killing animals for coats, collars, or cuffs” when Earth-and-animal-friendly vegan options abound, including natural fibers like bamboo, vegan leathers made from mushrooms, and other advancements.

MS x Peta bomber jackets retail for $199, while masks sell for $20-$30 on
MS x Peta bomber jackets retail for $199, while masks sell for $20-$30 on PETA / Matt Sarafa

Materials solutions maker DuPont Sorona and faux fur manufacturer Ecopel debuted the first recyclable, plant-based faux fur offering earlier this year. Made from corn-based polymer fibers that vary in application from classic mink to plush teddy-style fur, the synthetic debuted in Stella McCartney’s spring 2020 line. Solutions like this one, though, are still far from being widely adopted.

According to PETA, around 100 million animals are bred and killed each year to supply the fashion industry with fur for coats and trims on items like jackets, gloves, hats and shoes. What’s more, the group insists that even luxury brands’ claims of ethical cultivation practices are far from legitimate.

Earlier this month, the group lashed out at Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke for saying that the animals killed and sheared to make its products are “humanely farmed” in a statement to British outlet The Telegraph. The group urged the executive to commit to removing exotic skins from Louis Vuitton’s material list, as some of the brand’s contemporaries, like Chanel, Calvin Klein, Victoria Beckham, Diane von Furstenberg, Vivienne Westwood, and retailers like Nordstrom and Selfridges have done.

“For years, the fashion industry put real fur on a pedestal—an indicator of an item’s worth or quality of luxury,” Sarafa said. “Rather than being ashamed or trying to disguise something to make it look like real fur, let’s make wearing faux the new, responsible norm,” noting that supporters of animal rights should wear such accessories as “badges of honor.”