Sustainability through the Decades: The Anti-fur Movement of the 80s & 90s

Sustainability through the Decades: The Anti-fur Movement of the 80s & 90s

MTV, sky high hair, and bright clothing – the 80s were a decade of change and revolution followed quickly by the multicultural alternative new tech decade of the 90s. While these decades are notable for drastic changes in music, fashion, and culture, the accompanying political and social perspectives were also experiencing an evolution. A range of social and political issues defined this decade, but one environment movement that accompanied the evolving fashion trends was the rise of anti-fur campaigns. 

Up until the late 70s, wearing fur was seen as a symbol of status and wealth. Women could portray their social position through fur coats. Frustrated by this perspective, British animal rights group, Lynx, wanted to promote otherwise. Through a collection of print ads and videos targeted towards upper class white women, Lynx attempted to alter public perception of this symbol of status into something that was morally wrong. With slogans such as ‘It takes up to 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat. But only one to wear it’, Lynx hoped to identify to the consumer that there were moral consequences tied to such a choice. 

The 1980s was also a pivotal time for animal rights groups in the US and Canada, marking the beginning of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA’s anti-fur campaigns quickly became known for their shock value and graphic gore, often accompanied by foul language. Over the decades leading into the early 2000s, PETA has found celebrity support by the likes of Paul McCartney, k.d. lang, Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin. Through the support of these public figures, PETA has grown in popularity, taking their raids and advertisements further to popular Vogue and Calvin Klein offices and organizing wider events.

Similarly, Trans Species Unlimited (TSU) collective created an annual event called ‘Fur-Free Friday’ which allowed grassroots activists and animal rights groups to coordinate anti-fur campaigns on the Friday after Thanksgiving, also known as the busiest shopping day of the year. Fur-Free Friday remains to be one of the few recognized animal rights events and continues to see support and popularity across various locations in the United States.

With the growing number of animal rights activities such as Lynx and PETA, anti-fur movements were successful in slowing the sale of fur through these decades. In fact, the long-standing efforts of these organizations continue to impact brands. For example, as of 2018 brands like Gucci and Michael Kors have begun to limit their sale of fur products after determining that the goodwill generated from younger customers, and the potential respite from anti-fur activist groups online, is worth the million dollars lost in sales. The anti-fur movements of the 80s and 90s continue to grow in popularity and evoke change in the fashion industry.

We hope you enjoyed our exploration of the anti-fur movement of the 80s and 90s, join us next week for our final exploration of sustainability through the decades: 2000s – now!

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