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Unreal Fur adds vegan puffers to its line of cruelty-free outerwear

WORDS BY MAGGIE ZHOU

The brand has released its ethical alternative to down along with a new podcast.

For almost 20 years, a small family-run business has been operating behind the scenes of our fashion industry, working with Australian labels to develop their ethical practices.

Its focus has been making fashion cruelty-free, squaring on animal protection through appropriate sourcing of vegan materials and manufacturers. Anyone who’s ever sought out suppliers will know this is a hard task, made harder by the fact that two decades ago, cruelty-free production wasn’t a priority.

So when it officially branched out to launch its own label in 2012, Unreal Fur had already laid all its foundations for success.

“[We] saw an opportunity in the market to go cruelty-free before it was even talked about,” recounts global sales manager, Neomi Amit.

The business is run by Neomi’s parents; her mother is head designer and her father is managing director. Together, they’ve helped their industry become more ethical behind the scenes, as well as on the front end. Unreal Fur in its 2020 iteration offers a considered collection of faux fur and vegan outerwear, including jackets, coats, scarves and accessories.

Last month also saw the release of Unreal Fur’s first vegan puffer capsule. Made from PETA-approved vegan leather and faux shearling wool – and offered in unisex styles – the new endeavour marks a well-timed entry into athleisure for the label.

However, it wasn’t athleisure’s apparent ubiquity that drove Unreal Fur to develop the new style. Rather, it was a need to educate consumers on the problem with puffer jackets and the fact that quality alternatives exist.

You see, while increasingly consumers are perceiving fur and leather products as cruel, the same dialogue doesn’t seem to exist around puffer jackets. A large proportion of puffers are made using geese or duck down filling, selected for its warmth and lightweight properties. However, reports have continued to reveal the disturbing practices of live-plucking, whereby living geese or ducks are dumped into the scalding water of de-feathering tanks and have their feathers ripped out while they are still alive.

It’s an awful practice, but Neomi notes that fortunately, animal byproducts aren’t needed to produce an effective jacket. Synthetics are equally able to provide a similar degree of warmth, while remaining just as lightweight. 

But Neomi also acknowledges the use of synthetic alternatives doesn’t come without its own ethical concerns. Development within the fibre world in the faux fur industry is really based on plastic, which means products are unsustainable,” she states frankly.

As a result, Unreal Fur has made efforts to source materials made from recycled waste.

“We’re now using recycled modacrylic. Some jackets, especially the shearlings, are made from 150 to 200 recycled water bottles. Let me highlight that I do not think this is the solution to sustainability, because we are still using plastic.”

This use of recycled plastic is merely a temporary steppingstone on Unreal Fur’s journey to sustainability. Neomi has been working alongside various organisations to research what environmentally friendlier fibres can be brought into market.

The solutions are far from simple. For example, Neomi has found that options that are widely accepted as sustainable, aren’t really. We made some huge developments with bamboo until we realised that dyeing the bamboo used a huge [amount] of water and was highly toxic. It came back to the question, ‘what is the end goal here?’”

For Unreal Fur, sustainability means an ongoing commitment to becoming more environmentally conscious – it’s not a marketing term slapped on a hastily-made product. “Many organisations are using this word ‘sustainability’ to drive revenue and to me, that leads to bad karma,” she says.

This commitment to genuine sustainability takes Unreal Fur well beyond their materials. Like a growing collective of brands, the label has rejected the traditional fashion calendar in favour of a seasonless approach. In this way, the brand has chosen to foster conscious consumption and ease the pressure on consumers to keep up with the relentless cycle of trends.

To this end, Unreal Fur also prioritises adaptable design. When asked about Unreal Fur’s ideal customer, Neomi dismisses the question. “We’re trying to break the mould of fashion. We cater for everyone. Our target customer is anyone who wants to keep warm.”

In the design process, this means the team considers whether a young girl and an older woman would be comfortable wearing the same piece, and whether a jacket can be worn with athleisure, as well as a business suit. “We try to make pieces that are very diverse in order to give them longevity,” Neomi explains.

This thorough consideration of process extends to the very last stage of manufacturing. With a zero-waste policy, Unreal Fur used to sell its leftover fabrics to overseas retailers like Asos. But with a growing concern for the environmental impacts of transporting its products, the team has since decided to use its offcuts in-house. It recently introduced its own Mini Me range, offering its bestselling styles in children’s sizes.

We’ve had Chrissy Teigen’s children wear them,” explains Neomi. “[And] the Kardashian girls had matching ‘mum and me’ ones.”

But the label hasn’t stopped there. In April of this year, Unreal Fur also celebrated the launch of its podcast, Unreal Times. Through interviews with industry insiders, global leading professionals and animal welfare organisations, the podcast explores how the fashion industry is adapting to COVID-19.

Despite all its achievements, we can probably attribute all of Unreal Fur’s success to one common denominator: it’s pushing the fashion industry to do better.

“[We have] a unique opportunity to take the stage and lead [our industry] into a new future,” says Neomi with conviction. “To not go with the flow but to create our own flow.

“We have a responsibility to drive some sort of change within the industry. And if we can do that, why not do that and make people feel and look beautiful along the way?”

Unreal Fur’s first drop of vegan puffer jackets is now live, with a second drop coming in August.

unrealfur.com.au

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