Sustainability and responsibility are an integral part of fashion business today. Although the words are ‘trendy’, fur has always been a biodegradable natural product and something that people have chosen for generations due to material’s warmth, durability and longevity. Saga Furs has been leading the fur industry in initiating sustainable and responsible practices all along the supply chain for more than 80 years. And still today, for example, our product development team strives to create new ways of using fur, keeping sustainability in mind before they design. While working on Fur Vision 22 collection we collaborated with Greek manufacturer INNOV. Here we discuss with Theo Gogas about their brand, collaboration with Saga Furs and most importantly sustainability in fur.
Could you tell a little about INNOV and the history behind the company?
The INNOV company was established in 1965 by my grandfather Petros. It was a family business set out in Kastoria, which is the city where the heart of the Greek fur industry has been beating for centuries. Now, at the age of 31, I am a 3rd generation furrier, also having completed my studies in Economics.
INNOV collections are made of high-quality mink, fox, sable, lynx cat, raccoon, Finnraccoon, beaver, swakara, and chinchilla pelts. We mainly manufacture whole garments because it is the area in which we have always been active, however the challenges of the time, the spread of e-commerce and changes in consumer habits set new rules that we will have to study in detail in the near future.
What’s your history with Saga Furs?
An inviolable rule of INNOV, which has been passed down from one generation to the next, is the use of high-quality raw materials in production, the high standard manufacturing and the originality and uniqueness of the garment. We (INNOV) have found all these elements in Saga Furs and that is why we have been collaborating for the last decades, either in terms of buying fur pelts from the auction house or in terms of design and innovative fur techniques. Also, we have been participating in seminars at the Saga Furs Design Centre (currently known as Saga Furs Creative Hub) or in Fur Vision. In terms of the raw material, I personally have attended the International Grading Course in 2016.
How did you experience this year’s collaboration between Saga Furs and INNOV in the context of Fur Vision 22?
From a collaboration with Saga Furs, what one expects is creativity and professionalism. These expectations were once again met to the fullest. It was a great opportunity to be reminded, how an otherwise known material, can be redesigned from the beginning and give a completely different result.
SAGA approaches fur in a holistic way. It is not limited to the raw material but deepens in their study, discovers new ways of use, and envisions a final product beyond the ordinary. This is a holistic design thinking of a material that evolves into a product. This is a vision.
What does it mean for you to work with fur and when did you realize that fur is a unique material which you can fall in love with?
Working with fur is a constant challenge both in terms of design and manufacturing, but also in terms of society. In terms of design, fur is extremely demanding because the material itself sets many restrictions, but at the same time encloses so many secrets which when discovered, you get a rewarding result.
From my very early age, I discovered that fur had a special and inexplicable influence on me, perhaps because its texture and softness give it a special identity. In addition, the way you approach fur, the different processes needed to turn the material into a garment and the challenges it presents, builds a relationship in which you understand that to achieve the desired result, you have to give yourself completely. That is love.
Who is your favourite fur designer and why?
The designer who particularly impressed me was Alexander McQueen. This is because despite his young age, he seems to have had a very complete opinion of the fur material. He knew very well the volume he could achieve, the shape he could give, he had the right colour contrasts and on top of all that he had a rhythm.
And which is your favourite Saga Furs technique and why?
The SAGA technique that has impressed me the most is the skin piercing. This technique has achieved in providing solutions to some technical problems, such as length or width, but at the same time had an excellent visual effect. Also, by the way the product could be addressed to milder climates, with milder winters but also from autumn to spring.
Sustainability in fur
Can you speak a bit more on your approach to sustainability?
The COVID pandemic has brought to the foreground many distortions and on many levels. In terms of fashion and sustainability however, the pandemic underlined in the strongest way that nothing good can come out of the fast fashion tactics followed in the last decade. This is because on one hand the consumer buys something cheap and then easily discards of it, on the other hand because the environmental burden from this process increases at the speed of light.
Fur has always been a sustainable fashion, either because of its slow and difficult manufacturing process, or because its price as a product requires some thought before buying, or because it remains a natural product with very high remodelling capabilities even after years. The fur will keep you warm for a long time and in the end it can either be processed or sold again. Its lifespan can reach 50 to 60 years, and even more, if we would like to give a number as an example.
Finally, even in case of disposal, its recycling is extremely easy and with a minimum environmental footprint. Fur is one of the few materials in the field of clothing that does not leave pieces unused. Another such material, say, is the precious metals in jewelry.
What is your opinion about ‘slow fashion-no plastic’, also in relation to the global pollution problem?
To understand what the meaning of ‘environmental pollution’ of the planet is, we have to refer to things that are considered very common, which we regularly do and very few have thought about the concepts of. A very big source of pollution is the synthetic clothes washing. Each time we wash them, a part of the synthetic fiber composition at the molecular level gets discarded from the garment and is rejected to the environment through the water. It seems like a minor issue, but it is not, because the synthetics can break down up to the molecular level, not further, thus penetrating into our food chain and consequently into all organisms, plant or animal.
Slow fashion gives the fashion industry the opportunity to spend more capital on the development of fabrics that have better features and better quality. Of course, they will be more expensive, but expensive is not bad by definition. The garment will last longer in use, will be of superior quality, will be manufactured in smaller quantities and will have a resale value. As you can see, slow fashion is the vehicle with which the fashion industry will be able to contribute to the protection of the planet.
How do you see fur in the future?
The fur will have to regain its glamour. But not as a social status it had in the past, but as a natural garment made of materials that are all eco-friendly and not petroleum based. This is a big challenge and a bet to be won.
Sustainability is a one-way road and while fur is largely characterized by it due to its nature, it is not enough. Actions must be taken by the whole fur industry – we need to study, make improvement and finally to communicate this to the world, comparing fur to other products of the same category.
Most people, when talking about “ecological fur”, have in mind the synthetic, which is anything but ecological. Most synthetics are products that basically offer nothing to the circular economy. The noticeable difference between fur and plastic fur is the ecological footprint. This of course is incorrectly measured momentarily most of the times, while it should be measured in relation to the life cycle of the product. Therefore, in the process of fur production, the aspects of recycling and remodelling the garment should be underlined and communicated.
What are INNOV’s wishes and business plans for the future?
Our wishes are to regain the lost ground of the fur, to restore the wrong impression that currently exists for this material and to re-introduce it in the consumer wardrobe. Our plans are to work intensively in this direction.
To learn more about INNOV, check their website here.
To read more about Fur Vision 22 collection and the inspiration behind it, please check our previous article here.