Fur is officially no longer a “thing,” that is, if you consider Kim Kardashian one of your leading ladies of fashion. In case you missed it, Kim K posted a “Kim”-stagram over the weekend captioned, “Faux Fur…it’s my new thing ❤??.”
Similar to her recent Yeezy campaign appearances, the KUWTK star posed in a paparazzi-style image wearing a delicately beaded crop top and a voluminous (faux) fur-trimmed ikat-style jacket. Never one to skimp on style, the look was completed with boxy black trousers, PVC sandals, a beaded drawstring bag, and turquoise jewelry.
Kim joins a growing number of brands, retailers, and celebrities who are all taking a stance against fur, including Gucci, Versace, Selfridges, Net-a-Porter, InStyle Magazine, Furla, and Giorgio Armani. Advocates of the growing trend are all aware of the many upsides to sporting faux fur over the real thing.
“Due to technological advances in fabrications, we now have the ability to create a luxe aesthetic using non-animal fur,” noted Michael Kors in a statement last year, when the brand decided to forgo fur in all of its designs.
Faux fur used to have a terrible reputation for its cheapening effect. Think high sheen, low impact, and lots of shedding. But, as technology has raced ahead, so have the faux furs and other synthetic fabrics available to designers and product developers. These days, faux fur can often be hard to distinguish from an actual fox or rabbit pelt.
This past March, San Francisco took the industry-wide trend a step further by banning fur sales across the entire city. Starting in January 2019, San Francisco will become the largest U.S. city to ban the sale of furs. Despite the fact that fur accounts for an estimated $40 million in annual sales for San Francisco alone, according to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the city’s Office of Economic Analysis believes that the ban of fur sales won’t have a great overall effect on the economy.
“I hope that it inspires other cities and the country to take action. Certainly we need better federal regulations on fur farming,” Katy Tang, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, tells the Hollywood Reporter. “There’s no humane way to raise an animal to peel its skin off.”
But amidst all of the discussion about faux fur and animal rights, there’s another resounding issue that’s been flagged by critics of Kim’s fur-free post: cultural appropriation.
“Wears native American style clothes, and speaks against hunting..huge miss with this one ??,” commented one user.
The comment is difficult to ignore. A quick glance back at Kim’s outfit quickly validates the argument being made against her, with many elements of her look being derived from Native American style. Her “glam,” for one, resembles the stereotypical images of Native Americans, including her sleek, straight black hair and her bronzed face, which wouldn’t really be a topic of discussion if it weren’t for her outfit. The ikat patterned coat, the wampum-style crop top and pants, and the turquoise pendants are all characteristically part of Native American style.
However, this isn’t the first time Kim’s outfit choices have been called into question for their racial insensitivity. Earlier this year, Kim wore her hair in “Fulani” braids, which she called “Bo Derek” braids across social media. The post instigated a fire storm. People were not happy with Kim’s apparent misrepresentation of the hairstyle’s African American roots. By crediting a white actress for “starting” an African American hairstyle, that African Americans have been historically derided for, we are erasing its history.
As Allure’s Danielle Gray puts it, “See, the biggest thing about this isn’t whether or not Kardashian West is “allowed” to wear cornrows. She’s free to style her hair in any way she so pleases. The real issue is the constant erasure of black women when it comes to beauty.”
For many, the issue is not about “trying on” another culture’s fashion, but rather claiming it as their own. There’s a deep history associated with every cultural’s unique style and by co-opting, or lumping it in with, a “fashion trend,” the inherent meaning of that trend is negated.
Now, the issue being flagged by critics is that Kim is endorsing faux fur in a post that appropriates Native American style. Native Americans are historically hunters and gatherers. Since the 1800s, most Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest have upheld treaties with the US government that allow them specific hunting and fishing rights. Hunting is as embedded in Native American culture as turquoise jewelry, wampum accessories, and fur.
Whether Kim knew all of this prior to claiming faux fur as her “new thing,” while wearing a Native American-style ensemble, is a fact that remains nebulous as best. We just hope Kim gets the memo that there’s a fine line between appreciation and appropriation.