Why Cat Fur Shoes are a Symptom of Fast Fashion
Sky News yesterday reported that the retailer Missguided has been selling footwear made from what they described as faux fur, which was confirmed by Fibres expert Phil Greaves to be cat fur. (1)
Other instances of mislabelled fur products were also find on the UK high street.
Why are these products being incorrectly labelled, and why are banned furs reaching our shops and online retailers? We asked footwear expert Susannah Davda of The Shoe Consultant. (2)
Q. Where are these products being manufactured?
A. The majority of fast fashion footwear imported into the UK at the value end of the market is being manufactured in the Far East. China is still a major player, whilst India, Vietnam, and Indonesia also make significant volumes. (3)
Q. How do you think the labeling issues could have been prevented?
A. Retailers need to ensure they have correct information about their entire supply chain. This is much easier to achieve when they have personnel based in the Far East factories, and are not sourcing through third party suppliers. Proper quality control needs to be put in place either in the factory, or at the UK distribution centre. This is how such issues are spotted by other companies before these products go on sale.
Q. Are these problems a symptom of our incessant desire for fast fashion?
A. The nature of fast fashion is that product sourcing is fast-tracked. This makes processes such as due diligence and quality control difficult to implement without slowing the route to market.
Q. How can consumers avoid inadvertently buying cat fur?
A. If the fur feels so soft it's barely there, that can indicate it's real rather than faux fur. With developing technology, faux furs are getting closer in feel to the real thing, but if you're in any doubt, don't buy it.
Q. Do you think consumers are beginning to care more about provenance and sustainability?
A. Some younger shoe buyers and those at the lower end of the economic scale are oblivious to the issues involved with buying cheap footwear. This demographic has fuelled the growth of the disposable fashion retail model. However an increasing amount of young people, and professionals in the 30+ group, are becoming more selective about the retailers they buy from. Quality and sustainability are important to them, as are the supply chain and CSR (corporate social responsibility) policies of their chosen brands.
So it's not all bad news, but it seems as though companies need to become more involved in their supply chains, and in ensuring their labeling is correct.