fffur Free and Fabulous!
Written by Ava   

We're definitely fffeeling it.  It always warms the hearts of staffers here at Paw-Talk to see an organization promoting animal rights in a fun-loving, fancy-free way with lots of good vibes going around.  And this one had great clothes to boot! (For the fashion freaks in all of us!)

Leading animal advocacy and wildlife conservation organization Born Free USA and leading environmental publication, E Magazine, celebrate the glorious climax of fffashion, their fur free fashion design competition promoting the ethical and environmental benefits of foregoing fur fashions.  They announced the winners!

Winners were chosen by a celebrity panel of judges. Entries from all designers (student and independent) were judged together and all were eligible for the First place, Second place, and Third place awards and prize packages. The next highest ranking design by a student designer was also awarded recognition, said the event's website mention on Born Free.  

Born Free rep Monica Engebretson was on hand to give us all the deets!

What is fffashion?

“fffashion”  - is a fur free fashion design competition promoting the ethical and environmental benefits of foregoing fur fashions. The competition provides an opportunity for forward-thinking independent designers to showcase their talent and contribute to a worthy and cruelty-free cause.

How did you come up with the fur free fashion design competition and how did you team up with E magazine?

In recent years we have witnessed more and more markets embracing ideologies that support ethical consumerism at the same time the fur industry has attempted to market itself as environmentally friendly – pushing fur as a “natural and renewable resource.”

The aim of  fffashion is to help establish compassion for animals as a cornerstone of the growing ethical and green fashion movement and to combat the myth that fur is “green.”

With this in mind, we put together a proposal, and asked E-magazine to partner with us. As the nation’s leading environmental publication we thought they would be the ideal fit for this competition so they were our first choice. Lucky for us, they liked the idea.

Why is it important to promote fashion without fur and in an environmentally friendly environment?

The natural product industry is experiencing all-time sales highs, and products such as hybrid cars, fair-trade coffee, cruelty-free cosmetics and household products, free-range and organic foods all achieve measurable success. The fashion industry has begun to take notice.

For example, in a recent collection of white papers on “Future Fashion,” Julie Gilhart, Senior Vice President and Fashion Director for Barney’s New York wrote, that “Socially conscience ethical consumerism is The New Cool.”

Ironically, Barney’s is one of the major U.S. retailers that continue to sell garments made of real animal fur. In fact, Barneys is one of a number retailers recently found to be selling garments made from raccoon dog - a species from China that endures a  particularly brutal killing process including being skinned alive.  Not to mention fur is far from environmentally friendly. Consider the following:

  • Fur farms like any other factory farm produce loads of animal waste (manure) that is too intensely concentrated to be neutralized by natural processes and they type of manure produced is inappropriate to for use as fertilizer for food crops.
  • Fur farms also produce waste in the form of animal corpses – meat from animals raise for fur is typically not consumed, rather it is routinely piled up and allowed to rot, rendered, incinerated, or used as bait to lure wildlife into traps.
  • Compared to a faux fur coat, it takes nearly 3 times more energy to produce a fur coat from trapped animals and 15 times more energy to produce a farmed-fur coat, according to a study by Gregory H. Smith a transportation research engineer at the University of Michigan.
  • Environmentally harmful chemicals including chromium and formaldehyde are use in the processing and tanning of real fur garments to keep them from rotting. In 1991 six New Jersey fur processors/tanners were fined more than 2 million for releasing toxic waste into the environment. Tanneries more than any other business are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list that identifies the priority environmental clean-ups.
  • Traps set to catch wild furbearing animals are notoriously indiscriminate often catching “non-target” animals including threatened and endangered species and domestic dogs and cats. In 2008 a federal judge ruled that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources was in violation of the Endangered Species Act for allowing trappers to set traps and snares that catch, injure, and kill Canada lynx, a protected species. The case was filed on behalf of Born Free USA and the Center for Biological Diversity

Who were the judges and why were they specially chosen for this event?

2009 competition judges included eco-model, Discovery Channel “Planet Green” host, and author of Style Naturally, Summer Rayne Oakes; lifestyle icon Sophie Uliano, author of New York Times bestselling book Gorgeously Green; and E Magazine editor Brita Belli.

We focused on inviting “Green Celebrities” to serve as judges to further brand our competition as a “green” effort  and to further draw the connection between compassion for animals and concern for the environment. Of course both Sophie and Summer Rayne have literally written books what it means to be fashionable and conscientious and if Britta would compile all her writings on sustainable living  she’d probably have a couple of books. 

What kind of entries from designers did you see? Name some of your favorites. Talk about some of the creations.

We were really impressed with the quality of entries we received. Of course we were nervous at first because most entries came in the final weeks. We also had a great range of designers, from independent designers who make clothes in their homes and sell on Esty, to fashion design students, to independent designers who have studios and staff and sell their clothing in boutiques across the country.

One of my favorites was “Ice Aged Queen” by Abigail McCannon (her design can be seen in the Top 10 list) and it was actually the first entry we received. The design was very unique yet still elegant and  something that would actually be worn. In addition, she put a lot of thought into the creation of the garment – it was dyed using coffee and tea and the most of the fabric was from recycled window sheers and scrap fabric from thrift stores.

My other favorite was the 2nd place winner the “Stop the Seal Hunt Dress” by Becca Love who designs for her own label Healing Heart Designs. This was a stunning dress, and beautifully made – it made a statement even without the words on the dress, but having the words “stop the seal hunt” written in organic cotton fabric across the back made the dress go from “stunning” to “show stopping” – in a good way.  Summer Rayne was right in thinking that this dress could and should to be on worn by a celebrity on the red carpet.    

What was it about Zsuzsa Kovacs and Jessica Richard’s design that helped them win first place?

The judges unanimously selected their design as the first place winner, so there was no doubt that this jacket won the judges over. Based on the comments from the judges it was the jacket’s unique design that really pulled them in. The jacket is at once complex and pure.  This is what the some of the judges had to say:
"A beautifully-designed coat that drapes magnificently on the female form."
— Summer Rayne Oakes,

"In her hooded coat, Zuszsa Kovacs has managed to be both dramatic and understated. From the color — a rich cream — to the soft folds, pleated shoulders and attached scarf — it's the ultimate feminine winter wear. But the full ballooning sleeves and over-sized, hide-inside hood make this cover-up a striking attention-grabber, too. Paired with a pencil skirt, fitted pants or even jeans, this is a coat that will add sophisticated style to any ensemble. And it would put any fur coat to shame."
 — Britta Belli,

What did they win?

What most independent and aspiring designers want and need is exposure so the chance to have their design featured in E-magazine was the big prize.  The total prize package for first place winners was  $750 cash,  their design professionally modeled, photographed and featured in an full-page ad in E Magazine and special gift (a big bag of stuff!) from Urban Decay cosmetics which was also a sponsor.

What are your hopes for future FFFashion events?

My hope was that E-magazine would want to partner with us again – and I already got my wish on that front. They are working with us again to host fffashion 2010.  In addition, all the judges are on board again so I’m very excited about that. My next hope is for the competition to grow and have even more entries next year and to eventually have the competition cumulate in a fashion show in a major city featuring the top designers from the competition.  Of course the ultimate goal is that the competition will help to put an end to fur fashion.

First Place Image Credit: Photographer: Char Crail / Model: Stephanie Hyden