Fur: An Issue of Life and Death – Weaving the Past with the Present

By Jo Phillips

The National Museum of Denmark presents a unique exhibition entitled “Fur – An Issue of Life and Death” where they have explored the historical significance of fur, dating back to pieces worn by the indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The museum will be displaying about 60 different fur pieces (they hold almost 2,000 in their archive). Weaving past to present, the fur pieces are presented alongside one another. Visitors are encouraged to see, through the timeline, how the purpose of wearing fur has changed. Through contrasting those pieces with contemporary designs from fashion houses, the ethical issue behind wearing fur becomes even more complex. The central theme of the exhibition is exploring the ethical dimensions of fur farming and modern-day hunting.

In the section, ‘Voices in the Debate’, visitors will have a chance to interact with both supporters and opponents of fur farming. These people include designers, politicians, and even people on the street. The most exciting part of this is the interactive feature where visitors will be able to try on real, fake, and even blood spattered fur. Through text messages and selfies that are incorporated within the space, visitors will be able to share their thoughts on fur farming, hunting, and sustainability.

The fur collected from countries such as Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Siberia, and Scandinavia between 1850-1950 was originally worn to survive during the cold. However, fur was also used to signal one’s gender, status, and ethnic group. The museum has borrowed contemporary fur pieces from designers such as Bendikte Utzon, Nikoline Liv Andersen, Greenlandic designer  Nicki Isaksen as well as international fashion names such as Yves Saint Laurent, Sonia Rykiel, Oscar de la Renta, and Jean Paul Gaulier. The exhibition is being held until the 22nd of February 2015.

Check out some of the most powerful statements made about fur in the fashion industry below:

1. Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel: “You cannot fake chic but you can be chic and fake fur.”

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2. KARL LAGERFELD: “In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and even clothes, the discussion of fur is childish.”

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3. ANNA WINTOUR: “I don’t like to travel with security, but it got to the point when I was having thrown pies and rice and fake blood and all sorts of things thrown at me. And it just became easier to use the security. I mean, was I going to not have security and not wear fur? No way.”

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4. STELLA MCCARNTEY: “I find it astounding, because fashion is supposed to be about change. I mean, we’re supposed to be about cutting edge! I think people in fashion are pretty heartless. Why on earth would they use fur and leather otherwise? There’s no excuse for fur in this day and age.”

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5. CATHERINE MALANDRINO: “Fur is my default, my indulgence. All human beings and myself have a lot of defaults. Many indulgences.”

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In a world where technology has allowed us to create synthetic fur that mimics the real thing in both quality and appearance, do you still see a reason to wear fur?