Magazine article The Spectator

How Did You Kill That Hat?

Magazine article The Spectator

How Did You Kill That Hat?

Article excerpt

The cant around 'ethical fur'

The well-dressed lady turned the fur collar over in her hands and fixed me with a withering stare. 'Is this real fur?' I was helping out in my friend's clothes shop, a fashionable haunt in a chichi area of south-west London. 'Yes,' I said, bracing myself. She stroked the luxuriant fur, then asked, 'What is it?'

'Fox?' I said, making the answer a question, as you do when you are expecting protest.

'Where did the fox come from?'

This was too much. I hadn't the foggiest. So I fixed her with a meaningful gaze and said: 'Northcote Road. It was going through the bins.'

She didn't laugh. Was she going to rant at me about animal rights? No, she just nodded, and slapped the collar down on the counter to pay.

Listen to Camilla Swift and PETA's Kirsty Henderson debating 'ethical fur' on the Spectator podcast:

After that I began to notice that many of my metropolitan friends are suddenly, un-ashamedly sporting fur. From rabbit-trimmed gilets to the ubiquitous fashion staple of the winter season for two years running now, those ladies' bobble hats with the little fox-fur pompom on top.

It was only a few years ago, it seems, that I hid my mother's old furs in my spare-room closet and didn't dare bring them out for fear of a Swampy type assailing me in the street. 'You should give them a decent burial,' one particularly hand-wringing vegan told me as she looked in my closet disgustedly one day.

I only once plucked up the courage to wear my mother's glorious old fox-fur coat, bought in the 1970s from Canadian Furs. During a bitterly cold winter, I donned it on New Year's Eve to go to the local Chinese takeaway. I figured the Chinese were unlikely to complain. On another occasion, I took my grandmother's mink to Val d'Isère. I think I got away with it, although British tourists gave me filthy looks. By and large, however, the coats have lain dormant in garment bags and might as well be six feet under.

So why the change of heart? I think it's because we've imagined for ourselves a whole range of ethical excuses. When the Duchess of Cambridge wore an alpaca hat to church at Sandringham earlier this month, it was all just dandy -- for verily it was taken from alpacas who died from natural causes in the depths of Peru and fashioned under the Fairtrade label by local artisans.

Yeah, sure. …

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