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Frankfurter Allgemeine on hemp fur from DevoHome

Frankfurter Allgemeine on hemp fur from DevoHome

    An article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, one of the leading German newspapers. While the fashion industry has moved away from real fur to synthetic fur, synthetic fur also brings with it a lot of environmental problems. DevoHome has developed a faux fur based on natural fibers. A raw material revolution is underway.  

    The translate of the article from Frankfurter Allgemeine Weakly #46, 17 November 2019


                                                                                                                                                ''More and more fashion labels do without animal fur.

But faux fur has a disastrous environmental record.''

Barbara Russ

    Big, sad eyes, a trembling ball of fur, heartbreaking cries. On the internet, there are cruel videos of fur farming. The animal welfare organization Peta Germany has uploaded some of these videos and finds drastic words for the practices of the fur breeders. According to Peta, animals are "slain, kicked to death, killed or strangled by an electric shock".

    Nevertheless, fur-trimmed hoods in German city centers will probably be on display again from autumn. In fact, even furs which are identified as fake fur, are sometimes real fur, because its production is cheaper than that of a good faux fur made of synthetic materials.

    At the same time, the question of fur seems to be largely unanimous today. More and bigger fashion labels are going off fur. This is mainly due to the growing awareness among consumers who increasingly pay attention to how and under what circumstances their clothes are produced. Does the environment, workers or animals suffer? If the answer to these questions has to be answered in the affirmative, more and more people refuse to buy. The fashion houses react by presenting themselves as animal lovers.

    A pioneer is designer Stella McCartney, who has always worked with her own label without animal products, even without leather. Calvin Klein has also been fur-free since 1994. Fashion houses such as Armani and Hugo Boss, Versace, Michael Kors, Prada, and Chanel have followed the avant-garde of fur renunciation among international players in recent years. Fur was "out of fashion" according to Gucci when the fashion house announced its fur exit. Online retailers such as Yoox, Net-a-Porter and The Outnet as well as German retailers such as Galeria Kaufhof, Breuninger or Aldi Süd have committed themselves to no longer sell any fur products. Many of them have also joined the Fur Free Alliance, which conducts regular checks.

    And not only the industry, but also politics is involved in the fight against the fur. While cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco are now fur-free zones, where the sale of new furs was banned. In fact, California is particularly committed to fur in fashion. In 2018, the first Vegan Fashion Week took place, where clothing was shown that does not require animal products such as leather, wool, and silk. And even in Europe, fur farms are already banned in whole or in part in many countries today. In May 2017, the Bundestag voted for a further tightening of conditions on fur farms. "Thus, the offspring and the gasification of mink are no longer profitable, and the last German fur farms should disappear within the next few years," says Peta.

    That's good news, but it does not change anything about the animals' fate. The world's largest fur exporter in China - and there, there are no such animal welfare laws.

    It could be so easy: Anyone who wants to protect animals moves to artificial fur. The brands that have committed to fur waiver, keep it that way. But the demand is great. As long as it cannot be satisfied with sustainable solutions, the industry falls back on lazy compromises. Thus, the alternatives to animal fur do not have a good environmental balance. Fake fur is usually made of synthetic polymer fibers such as acrylic, modacrylic, and polyester, all of which are not biodegradable. "Fake fur is another form of plastic, made of, among other things, nylon and polyester based on finite fossil fuels. These fully synthetic fibers are responsible for the emission of microfibers to a considerable extent, "it says on the website of the German Fur Institute. The International Fur Federation also hits the mark and positions itself as a sustainable choice with the slogan "The Sustainable Choice". Céline Semaan, founder of Slow Factory, a fashion agency for sustainable fashion, told the industry magazine "WWD", "Buying Fake Fur may save an animal's life, but not for long." The toxic substances used in the production of a Faux fur released into the environment would, therefore, have a much worse footprint than buying a vintage fur coat, she says. Nevertheless, if you change to artificial fur, the local textile labeling regulation can be a problem. It merely requires that a product, such as the fur-trimmed parka, be marked with the sentence "Contains non-textile parts of animal origin". This phrase may mean leather, down or horn buttons. And if a product consists of more than 80 percent textile fiber, there is no need to label it, even if real fur - for example in the form of a pompom on a cap - was used.

    Consumers need to strive to get all the information they need about their garments - an effort that certainly not everyone will take. An alternative to both real fur and synthetic faux fur is offered by a Ukrainian designer. Oksana Devoe created a winter coat made of hemp fur for her company Devohome, which she recently presented at the Material District fair in Rotterdam. The fabric looks a bit like the wool of a freshly shorn sheep and has, admittedly, little resemblance to the fur collar of the parkas. An alternative to the trendy fur coats made of fake fur is available.

    The vegan, hypoallergenic and biodegradable hemp fiber has long been a widely used natural fiber in Europe. Hemp is good for the soil, the plant has a positive effect on subsequently grown crops and is versatile. "Hemp is a fast-growing commodity that's tough and stable," says Oksana Devoe. Until the 19th century, hemp was one of the most important raw materials for clothing textiles, cords, ropes, nets and canvas in Europe. The world's first paper was made from hemp, as was Levi Strauss's first jeans. And hemp has been replaced by cotton or synthetic fibers in nearly all areas of the world over the past century.

    In 1982, the cultivation of hemp was banned in many countries, including Germany, despite the existence of useful hemp crops with marginal THC content. A visual distinction to THC-rich varieties is namely hardly possible. Since 1996, the cultivation of hemp in Germany is legal again, but only for mainstream farmers, and under strict conditions.

    In Ukraine, there is no such prohibition, which is why the Devoe family today has a head start in cultivation, processing, and application of the material. "Hemp is warm, linen cold, they used to say," says Oksana Devoe. "That's because the fiber is hollow inside. It stores heat. "Her reversible coat, which she has developed in numerous experiments, consists of 50 percent hemp and 50 percent viscose - a chemical-free alternative to artificial fur. How exactly the hemp fur is created, Devoe will not say, for fear of imitators. In any case, the material has numerous advantages: "Hemp is extremely robust and thus contributes to a durable garment. And the fiber is great for warming, making it a perfect material for winter clothing," she sums up.

    Whether hemp will become a real alternative to fur remains to be seen. It is certain that the real fur collar id out - and the synthetic fur is not a sustainable alternative. The raw material revolution is overdue.

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