By Sara Bright
If you are scrolling through TikTok these days, you might notice a lot of fur coats. Not the minimalist, understated kind, but the big, bold, and brash kind. The kind that screams “I’m rich, I’m powerful, and I don’t care what you think.” The kind that belongs to a mob wife.
The “mob wives” aesthetic, inspired by the HBO series “The Sopranos” and its portrayal of the wives and girlfriends of New Jersey mobsters, is one of the latest viral trends on the social media platform. Characterized by animal prints, heavy gold jewelry, glossy leather trousers, perfectly coiffed hair, and, of course, a massive fur coat, the trend has already racked up over 160 million views on TikTok.
The trend is fueling a resurgence of fur, both real and faux, as young consumers seek to emulate the confident and glamorous style of the fictional mafia wives. According to data and retail analytics platform Trendalytics, searches for “fur coat” increased by 21.3% year-on-year in the week ending January 22, 2024, while searches for “mob wife” increased by 1,100%.
But this fur moment is different from the past. Now, it’s secondhand and fast fashion retailers that are reaping the benefits of fur’s viral moment, as are alternative material startups and brands with good quality faux fur offerings. Meanwhile, the luxury fur market is still facing challenges from animal rights activists, environmental concerns, and legal bans in some countries and states.
The rise and fall of luxury fur
Fur has long been a symbol of wealth, status, and glamour in the fashion industry. From the Hollywood stars of the golden age to the supermodels of the 1980s and 1990s, fur coats and accessories were coveted items that signified luxury and exclusivity.
However, in the late 2010s, fur began to lose its appeal, as consumers became more aware of the ethical and ecological issues surrounding the fur trade. Animal rights groups, such as PETA and Humane Society International, launched campaigns to expose the cruelty and suffering of animals on fur farms and in the wild, and to pressure brands and retailers to stop selling fur products.
The campaigns were successful, as many major players in the fashion industry announced their intention to phase out fur from their collections and stores. Since 2017, brands and retailers including Canada Goose, Gucci, Net-a-Porter, Versace, Prada, Neiman Marcus, and Michael Kors all pledged to go fur-free, joining the ranks of Stella McCartney, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger, who had already done so.
In addition, some governments also took action to ban or restrict the fur trade, citing animal welfare and environmental reasons. In 2019, Israel became the first country in the world to enact a ban on new fur sales, while Italy and Norway announced they would stop fur farming. In 2021, California became the first US state to ban the sale and manufacture of new fur products, followed by Hawaii in 2023.
As a result, the global fur market, which was valued at $35.5 billion in 2018, according to the International Fur Federation, saw a significant decline in demand and revenue. According to a report by Grand View Research, the market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of only 1.3% from 2019 to 2025.
The shift to secondhand and faux fur
While the luxury fur market is struggling, the secondhand and faux fur markets are thriving, thanks to the “mob wives” trend and other factors. According to a report by ThredUp, the online resale platform, the secondhand fur market grew by 111% in 2023, compared to a 16% decline in the new fur market. The report also found that 72% of ThredUp customers who bought fur in 2023 said they would not buy new fur.
The popularity of secondhand fur is driven by several reasons. First, it is more affordable than new fur, which can cost thousands of dollars. Second, it is more sustainable than new fur, as it reduces waste and extends the life cycle of existing products. Third, it is more ethical than new fur, as it does not involve killing or harming any more animals.
Another option for consumers who want to achieve the “mob wives” look without buying real fur is faux fur, which is made from synthetic fibers that mimic the appearance and texture of animal fur. Faux fur has improved significantly in quality and variety over the years, thanks to technological innovations and design creativity. Some brands, such as Apparis, House of Fluff, and Stand Studio, have made faux fur their signature product, offering stylish and colorful coats and accessories that appeal to fashion-conscious consumers.
Faux fur is also more accessible and affordable than real fur, as it is widely available at fast fashion retailers, such as Zara, H&M, and ASOS, as well as online platforms, such as Shein, Boohoo, and Fashion Nova. According to Trendalytics, searches for “faux fur coat” increased by 18.6% year-on-year in the week ending January 22, 2024.
However, faux fur is not without its drawbacks. While it does not harm animals, it does harm the environment, as it is made from petroleum-based materials, such as acrylic, polyester, and nylon, which are non-biodegradable and contribute to microplastic pollution. According to a study by the European Commission, the production of one kilogram of faux fur emits 165 kilograms of carbon dioxide, compared to 101 kilograms for mink fur and 28 kilograms for wool.
The future of fur
As the “mob wives” trend shows, fur is not going away anytime soon. Despite the ethical and ecological controversies, fur still has a strong appeal for many consumers, especially younger generations, who are drawn to its aesthetic, tactile, and emotional qualities. Fur also represents a form of escapism, nostalgia, and self-expression in the post-pandemic era, when people are craving for more excitement, comfort, and individuality in their lives.
However, the fur market is changing, as consumers are becoming more conscious and discerning about their choices. The demand for fur is shifting from luxury brands and retailers, many of which have pledged to go fur-free, to secondhand and fast fashion platforms, as well as alternative material startups and brands with good quality faux fur offerings.
The future of fur will depend on how the industry adapts to these changes, and how it balances the needs and preferences of consumers, the welfare of animals, and the health of the planet. Fur may be a timeless material, but it is also a timely one, reflecting the values and trends of each era.