CSR Stakeholder Engagement: Fashion designers choose fur for sustainability

To inform company decision-making and accountability towards stakeholders, in April 2018, in Paris, Saga Furs conducted a mini stakeholder dialogue with three young designers – Astrid Andersen, Jens Laugesen and Francesca Liberatore.  The dialogue was a sidebar to a larger event called “Sustainable Choices” officiated by Tia Matthews, Saga Furs Fashion Business Director, where the three designers were joined by members of the French fashion community for a panel discussion on sustainability, followed by a workshop on crafting fur.

During the stakeholder dialogue, the designers talked about some of the personal choices involved in their work with fur, while sharing opinions around the following questions:

  • Do you see fur as a sustainable product?
  • Do you have expectations towards Saga Furs and the fur industry in terms of sustainability?
  • As a designer, do you think the Saga Certification programme has value?

Environmental and aesthetic quality
Each designer discussed their own unique way of creating fashion with fur including the challenges of fur as a working fabric but also its luxurious texture.

“It’s quite a magical material to get access to.” (Astrid Anderson)

“On one side, I need environmentally friendly products but I also want quality. I feel a real difference between the luxury of fur compared with other manufactured fabrics.” (Francesca Liberatore.)

Fur for future generations
All three saw fur and the natural lifecycle of fur as part of the future of fashion, noting the clear and obvious links between fur and sustainability.

“I think when you talk about fur and sustainability they really work together.” (Jens Laugesen)

“As a designer I think fur is a very relevant material with a place in fashion and the sustainability conversation.” (Anderson)

“As a product it’s pure and can be recycled and reused through generations. It starts from the environment and goes back to the environment.” (Liberatore)

Saga Certification and traceability
Saga is the only fur auction company with its own extensive supplier farm management system. The group agreed on the overriding value of Saga’s supplier certification as validation that fur farm animals have been treated humanely and that environmental processes and practices are in place.

“Saga Furs certification for me as a designer and a brand shows that I have a high-quality product –not coming from an unknown market or unknown farm, but something that can be traced back to a place where animals have been treated in a certain way and where the environment has been taken care of.” (Liberatore)

“For me it’s really important that the raw materials come from the right places and the certification I can get from Saga Furs is really important when I design for my collections.” (Laugesen)

“We need some proof of sustainability for our customers and we get it from Saga Furs.” (Anderson)

The three also agreed on the equal importance of being able to verify the origins of the fur through traceability. Saga Furs is the only fur supplier with its own traceability technology and system for verifying the origin of fur raw materials from farm to fashion outlet. This kind of transparency is also seen as something quite unique to Saga Furs and even this industry.

“If I can communicate to my customer exactly where the fur came from that’s a value-add that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the textile industry.” (Anderson)

Materiality of Sustainability
Sustainability at Saga Furs is driven by company strategy as well as a focused approach, based on assessment of those sustainability issues most relevant to our operations and core stakeholders.

For Matthews, the dialogue doubled as a mini materiality update: “We were able to reaffirm from a designer – customer standpoint that the top material aspects, where we’re seen to have the biggest sustainability impact continue to be animal welfare, product certification and traceability.”

Matthews also expressed her gratitude to the participants for their open and relevant insights. “These dialogues take us a long way towards better understanding a range of complex issues, not least the changing customer perceptions of fur as a sustainable material in design.”

Astrid Andersen:
Danish fashion designer – based in Copenhagen
“We’re not living in a way that’s sustainable for the planet and that extends to every aspect from what we eat to how we dress. In that context, the fur lifecycle: how fur farm animals are raised, how fur is used, and how it goes back into the earth again, is very a very relevant conversation.”
Jens Laugesen:
Danish fashion designer based in London
“I think fur is trending right now because sustainability is very much in fashion. When you talk about fur and sustainability they really work together and that’s very important for me as a designer.”
Francesca Liberatore:
Italian fashion designer based in Milano
“Knowing that fur comes from a trusted source adds an extra layer of value to the timelessness and luxury that go into my designs, where one piece can be for one lifetime.”