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Fur is one of the most controversial subjects in the world of fashion, and Furmark is aiming to change the perception of it. Many prominent luxury fashion houses and other sustainable fashion brands have shunned the use of fur in their products because of concerns over animal welfare and the adverse effect of the trade on wildlife.

Yet, while the fashion industry and thousands of people are unanimously against use of fur, the material hasn’t completely lost its demand. It is in this light that Furmark, a new global certification and traceability system by the International Fur Federation (IFF), assumes significance.

The IFF is a body that regulates the global fur sector. It is present in over 40 countries around the world and represents 56 member associations, which cover all aspects of the fur trade — from farmers and trappers to designers and retailers.

Furmark is a certification introduced by the IFF along with luxury goods maker LVMH Group. According to the IFF, inputs to the system also came from industry experts and stakeholders.

ChainPoint, which enables interoperability among supply chain stakeholders, collaborated with brands for the technological development of the tracking and tracing process integral to the Furmark certification.

What is Furmark?

According to the IFF, Furmark is a “comprehensive global certification and traceability system” for natural fur designed to ensure that animals are not treated cruelly, and all environmental standards are strictly adhered to.

Furmark is a single certification framework, within which are multiple science-based certification programmes designed for each component. The programmes have a “specific, independently-developed science-based protocol or standard”. Each is subject to third-party assessment and certification from a recognised body.

The unique feature of the global certification and traceability system is that not only does it guarantee adherence to established standards, but it also makes the fur in the certified product traceable and verifiable.

Why is the certification necessary?

Citing the rationale behind creating Furmark, IFF CEO Mark Oaten said, “We recognise that the public, regulators and those in fashion do not have a clear understanding of the fur trade.”

A research was conducted by Mitchla Marketing on behalf of the IFF in the US, the UK, Italy, France and Spain in March and April 2021. The study found that “70% of the public are ‘open’ in some form to designers and brands using natural fur.”

According to the research, 65 percent of the 5,000 adults surveyed had a positive opinion about Furmark®.

“This is a game changer: if people had doubts about buying or wearing natural fur, then they have been answered with Furmark®,” said Oaten.

“Our centuries-old trade is undergoing its most significant transformation to date; traceable, sustainable products represent the real alternative to ‘fast fashion’,” he added.

How is animal welfare affected by the trade of fur?

The fur trade is a major issue for environmentalists and conservationists, besides those championing sustainability and animal welfare in the world of fashion.

According to Humane Society International (HSI), one hundred million animals are killed in fur farms every year for natural fur that goes into fashion products.

In 2018 alone, 50.5 million animals, including mink and foxes, were killed in fur farms in China — the world’s largest fur exporter.

The Western nations have not been any less kind to animals. In the European Union, 37.8 million animals were slain the same year despite several member countries having banned fur farming. It was 3.1 million (all mink) in the US and 1.8 million in Canada.

Besides fur farms, animals are also hunted through trapping — a brutal method more common in North America where three million were killed in 2017.

In this regard, Furmark aims at ensuring that people are able to wear natural fur sustainably and is ethically produced, keeping in mind animal welfare.

How does Furmark work?

A unique alphanumeric label QR code on swing tags is assigned to Furmark certified products. It is through this code that consumers and other interested parties can obtain complete information about the origin, type, manufacturer, location and animal welfare programme connected to the fur used in the product.

The fur has to pass a series of science-based certifications to meet the Furmark® criteria, which includes proper recording of every process.

To ensure that standards are always high and consistent, wild or farm-raised natural fur from the leading animal welfare programmes, such as Europe’s WelFur, are considered for the global certification and traceability system.

Other certification programmes cover North American Wild Fur, North American Farm-Raised Fur, a specific breed of Karakul from Namibia known as Swakara and Sable from Russia. A certification programme for dressers and dyers is also available.

The fur can only be processed by manufacturers who meet standards designed to protect brands and prevent counterfeiting. Moreover, the makers must meet the SafeFur Standard on emissions, product safety and sustainability, among other parameters besides third-party testing.

As mentioned earlier, every animal welfare and sustainability programme is subject to third-party assessment and certified by a recognised certification body. These assessments are done to ensure that the standards are always met. Any lapse would result in the removal of the programme from the certification system and Furmark.

It is ensured that all such programmes have “detailed, independently-developed, and science-based protocol or standard.”

What is the future of Furmark?

Even though Furmark brings a new dimension to the fur industry and fashion involving fur, it has to be noted that numerous major fashion labels and brands have completely stopped use of fur in their products. These include Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Tommy Hilfiger, Stella McCartney, Calvin Klein, Maison Margiela, and Vivienne Westwood among several others.

Announcing the decision to stop using fur by 2019, Donatella Versace told 1843 Magazine in 2017, “Fur? I am out of that. I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.”

Giorgio Armani joined hands with Humane Society of the United States and stopped using fur since 2016.

Animal welfare is of course at the top of the concerns of the houses as well as activists who have celebrated the fur-free decision taken by the brands.

On the other hand, ambassadors appointed by the IFF expressed hope for the fur industry and labels that want to use fur.

“Behind the handful of much publicised brands that have said no to natural fur, I still find a genuine interest in fur. I would even say that in the post-covid markets there will be an increased interest in materials that are authentic and sustainable,” reported Jan Erik Carlson, Furmark Ambassador for Europe.

“The reaction to Furmark in Russia and Eurasia is positive, Turkish brands are already joining the project and there is interest from major players from Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus,” said Maksim Chipurnoy of the Russian Fur Union and Furmark Ambassador of Eurasia Region.

Similar sentiments were reported by Molly Wang of IFF China and Charlie Ross who was Furmark Ambassador for North America.

Thus, the usefulness of Furmark and its impact on the fur market, which directly affects the lives of animals trapped or farmed for fur, can only be clearer in the near future.

(Main and Featured images: Tiko Giorgadze/@domenika/Unsplash)

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