Queen Elizabeth's dresser has decreed that henceforth her boss will only wear fake fur. But what would Greta say?
I am very disappointed with Queen Elizabeth - not Olivia Colman in The Crown - but the real one residing at Buckingham Palace. It has been announced that no longer will she wear real fur. Under the guidance of her dresser (and new BF) Angela Kelly, any fur that appears on royal garments from now on will be "fake fur", or "faux fur" as the fashion industry calls it - not liking the word "fake".
Is Her Maj aware of the damage that fake fur does to the planet? Animal fur, like any other animal product, degrades into the earth organically and naturally. Fake fur is made from synthetic polymeric fibres - that is, essentially, plastic, derived from coal and petroleum. Fake fur draws on non-renewal sources, and since it is based on plastic, it is not biodegradable and just hangs around in the ecosystem, for between 500 and 1,000 years.
So, if you're thinking of ecology and the planet, fake fur is one of the worst things you could choose to wear.
Greta Thunberg would surely not approve, since textile production, especially where linked with plastics, is making a serious contribution to global greenhouse gases.
Fake fur often looks tatty, sweaty and grungy, in my view. Perhaps it has improved its appearance somewhat in recent years, and HM's faux will probably be of the best quality, if Angela has anything to do with it.
As her new book about dressing the Queen, The Other Side of the Coin, demonstrates in lavish pictures, Ms Kelly has revolutionised the way Elizabeth dresses, putting her into bright colours and cheerful hats.
The Liverpool lady has done a great job. So I'm surprised at her misstep in promoting faux fur: in an age which prizes authenticity, it's still fake, and it's still environmentally damaging.
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I've had a very hostile reaction any time I have mentioned that I see nothing wrong with real fur, so long as we are wearing real leather, or eating real pork, real lamb or real beef. The farming of minks for their fur is essentially no different from the farming of any other animal for its carcass, and of course should be controlled by the same animal-welfare laws (as it is in Denmark).
I respect the views of strict vegetarians and vegans who use no animal product whatsoever. But most of us still wear leather shoes and eat meat - there won't be that many families sitting around a Christmas dinner made of lentils and bean stew.
But it's true that a moral odium has attached to real fur that hasn't even touched leather. When I wrote, some years ago, that I loved a fox-fur hat that I possessed, I received such threats as "we're coming around to your home to burn your face off". Some women say they won't wear animal fur now because they're afraid of being spat at or having paint thrown at them - or just getting verbal abuse.
As Lord Sumption, a former Supreme High Court judge has written, fur farming has attracted a stigma (and a ban in England and Scotland) not because it is any more cruel than any other form of animal husbandry, but because it's seen as pandering to vanity. The motive is Cromwellian Puritanism, not utilitarian logic. Following other European countries, fur-farming is now to be banned in Ireland.
The Queen is, in this sense, on-trend in abandoning her fur garments. And, as a monarchy can only survive with popular support, it's a strategic move which will probably be applauded (though the environmental problems around fake fur will not go away).
But here's my suggestion to the Queen, and, indeed, to any other woman who has a fur coat stashed at the back of her wardrobe: if you're not using these pelts, give them away. Give them to a charity shop. Send them to Syria, to the Lebanon and Turkey where refugees will be shivering in camps throughout the bitter winter. Put vintage fur to humanity's use.
Full disclosure: I don't purchase new fur garments - who could afford it? - but I do wear vintage fur. That is, fur coats found in charity or second-hand shops which people have sensibly chosen to recycle, if they're not wearing the garments any more. I have a fur bolero-style wrap which dates from the 1930s and surely I'm being more ecologically compliant by donning the vintage fur wrap than by turning up the heating?
I also have two vintage fur coats. One is an old musquash, virtually in tatters as the skeins are coming loose. But it's still cosy and I take some satisfaction in informing anyone who objects that the musquash is a relation of the common rat. (When I bought the musquash from a vintage shop for about 50 quid I found a note in the pocket from the original owner, dated 1954). And I have a beaver fur, also from a discarded source. It is incredibly toasty, but never sweaty.
Real fur may be on the way out as a fashion style, but it's environmental to use the fur garments that still exist, and there's a heck of a lot of them around. QE2 should open her royal closets and donate the many furs that are stored within - there must be dozens of them.
If Angela Kelly wants her boss to keep warm, she should design ensembles in tweed and wool, which also do the job perfectly well, and are wholly authentic - not "faux".