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Luxury’s Fur Calculus: To Ban or Not to Ban?

This week, French luxury conglomerate Kering made a commitment to go entirely fur-free, but the calculus looks different for LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group.
LVMH-owned Fendi staged its Spring/Summer 2022 show in Milan on Wednesday which included decadent furs but less than 48 hours later, the group’s arch-rival Kering announced it was going fur-free. Courtesy.
LVMH-owned Fendi staged its Spring/Summer 2022 show in Milan on Wednesday which included decadent furs. Less than 48 hours later, the group’s arch-rival Kering announced it was going fur-free. Courtesy.

At Fendi’s Milan show on Wednesday, models sashayed down the runway in ‘70s-disco-inspired glam, punctuated by the decadent furs the LVMH-owned label is known for. Less than 48 hours later, the group’s arch-rival Kering announced it was going fur-free.

While not so long ago, the declaration would have been seen as radical, now the most remarkable thing about it might be how clearly it contrasts with the approach taken by LVMH.

Kering never sold large volumes of fur in the first place and its brands have been gradually removing the materials from their products for years, with cash cow Gucci famously declaring fur passé in 2017. The group’s decision to go fully fur-free (only Saint Laurent and Brioni still sold fur) aligns all its brands with a broader market trend that has seen fur fall from fashion, buffeted by declining consumer interest, animal-rights activism and government action to ban its sale and production in several places. California became the first state to ban fur in 2019, while Israel became the first country to ban the material, with exceptions for religious observances, earlier this year.

The pandemic has only furthered fur’s decline. An outbreak of Covid-19 on mink farms in Denmark resulted in a government-mandated cull that effectively wiped out the industry in the world’s largest producer of mink pelts.

Luxury labels like Prada, Versace, Burberry and Chanel all said they would give fur up years ago, taking a relatively small hit to sales, while scoring plenty of public relations points. But the world’s largest luxury group, LVMH, has been conspicuously silent on the subject. So have many of its brands, which typically operate with a greater degree of independence than Kering’s labels as part of a federation-style model.

Will LVMH ever give up fur?

The calculus for the luxury giant is more complicated than at many other luxury companies. Several LVMH labels don’t use fur, though they rarely advertise that. (A notable exception is famously anti-fur Stella McCartney, in which LVMH acquired a minority stake in 2019). On the other hand, the group’s biggest brands, including powerhouses Dior and Louis Vuitton consistently feature fur in their collections. For Fendi, another major contributor to group revenue which started as a furrier in 1925, the material is at the very core of its heritage and legitimacy as a luxury house.

Meanwhile, public proclamations against fur by other LVMH brands, though they may sell little or no fur, would likely add momentum to calls by advocacy groups to ban the material altogether, just as statements from other luxury players have done, isolating the likes of Dior and Fendi on the issue.

“As long as Fendi is part of that group and Fendi has a close association with fur, it’s going to be a long time before LVMH goes fur-free,” said PJ Smith, director of fashion policy at the Humane Society.

For other companies less intimately linked to the material, the equation is very different. Abandoning the material can lead to a positive public relations coup for brands, particularly among socially conscious young consumers, while having a limited negative on the bottom line.

When Gucci announced it was going fur-free in 2017, the material accounted for around €10 million in sales, or roughly 0.2 percent of revenue. The brand’s Instagram post announcing the news was among its top performing posts at the time, gaining nearly 180,000 likes. Kering declined to provide details of the current value of fur sales across the group.

For Kering, the move is also in line with its wider corporate strategy to define its brand of luxury as “caring” (a key element of its 2013 decision to rebrand from PPR to Kering) and embrace a framework of ethical and environmentally responsible business practices that resonates with an increasingly value-conscious consumer.

“That’s the new definition we need to understand very well,” chief executive François-Henri Pinault said. “Through this lens, some materials have no place in luxury.”

While that’s not a position LVMH is likely to take any time soon, the luxury group has been quietly making adjustments that nod to changing attitudes towards fur. It’s put in place strict sourcing standards for animal welfare and has appointed an external committee of experts to assess efforts to improve. Some brands have tried working with faux fur alternatives.

Fendi rebranded its Couture Week show in 2018 as haute couture, rather than haute fourrure. It’s given the material less prominence on the runway and started experimenting with recycled fur.

But perhaps one of the biggest barriers to any major change in LVMH’s stance on fur is that the debate has not touched its bottom line. The group’s fashion division has come roaring back from the pandemic, powered by sales from fur-selling Louis Vuitton, Dior and Fendi.

Disclosure: LVMH is part of a group of investors who, together, hold a minority interest in The Business of Fashion. All investors have signed shareholders’ documentation guaranteeing BoF’s complete editorial independence.



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Compiled by Joan Kennedy.

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