The fur trade focuses on China, as consumers in the rest of the world shun their products, convinced by the animal-rights movement. But China’s consumers are likely to follow, says Shanghai-based business analyst Shaun Rein, and they are likely to heed the anti-fur trend, he tells Vogue Business.
For those luxury brands that are continuing to use fur, the focus is on China, the country most important to the $22 billion worldwide fur trade. A survey of 400 high-income Chinese residents, predominantly Vogue and GQ readers, by Vogue Business and market research group Dynata, shows that demand for fur in China is likely to remain robust for now — but there are some signs of disquiet among a minority of fur buyers.
Just under two-thirds of respondents say they believe that fur is an appropriate material to use for clothing versus 24 per cent that think it is not. Of the group that say fur is an inappropriate material, 62 per cent say they have changed their mind in the last year — and just under half have previously purchased fur products. Objections are not necessarily based on ethical considerations, but also embrace factors such as taste and practicality.
Younger consumers appear to be leading the shift in attitude. “I think that in the Western world there’s a feeling that China is backward [on environmental issues] and that might have been true 20 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago, but right now the younger consumers are really into morality,” says Shaun Rein, founder and managing director of the China Market Research Group, which works with luxury clients including Richemont. Rein says that animal welfare is a growing concern among Chinese consumers. However, fur has been a lower priority target than shark fin or ivory…
The continued support for fur by brands like Louis Vuitton remains important to the fur industry and its image to Chinese buyers, even if sales by luxury brands account for a small share of the overall retail trade in fur. Rein says he is doubtful that luxury consumers in China would care much whether they are buying real or faux fur, as long as the product is from a name they trust. “They care more about the luxury brand than they do about the actual ingredients,” he says.
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