When Kayla Trivieri, 28, posted a TikTok in early January, she didn’t expect to start a movement.
“Clean girls are over, the era of mob wives is here…we wear vintage furs all winter,” she said in her voiceover. “We’re already seeing the cheetah prints, the sequins, the glitter, the glamour, the fur, the big hair,” she continued over photos of Adriana La Cerva and Carmela Soprano, characters in the HBO series. The Sopranos.
Trivieri had older Italian women (including her grandmother) in mind when she made the video. But “mafia aesthetic” also refers to the glamorous and ostentatious style of female characters in popular films and television shows about the mafia. The look is characterized by bodycon dresses, leather, fur coats, chunky sunglasses and flashy gold jewelry.
Trivieri’s 26-second video, filmed in his New York apartment, now has 1.7 million views. Its audio has been used in over 2,200 other videos at the time of publication. The trend skyrocketed in Google searches, appearing on social media and in magazines, going viral within days.
Some believe this trend appropriates Italian culture or glorifies the criminal lifestyle of the mafia. But others have a problem with the outfits themselves — particularly the vintage furs Trivieri mentions in her TikTok.
Wearing vintage fur has been a controversial topic for decades. The consensus among the public, policymakers and even many major fashion houses seems to be that new furs are unethical and a line that many will not cross. But this border becomes blurred for vintage.
Growing demand for vintage
Interest in vintage fur has nearly doubled compared to December 2020, according to Google Trends data. Meanwhile, the Google search cycle for “fur coat” has remained fairly constant over the past three years. So why are more and more people turning to vintage?
“Vintage fur is the best of both worlds,” Gilda Chestney, 23, said in a message to NPR. “Because it allows me to wear a beautiful coat that will keep me warm and last a lifetime without supporting industries that pollute or contribute to animal cruelty.”
Chestney’s passion for sustainability is why she buys vintage fur, she said. This is also why she isn’t as interested in faux fur.
“Faux fur has almost none of the benefits of real fur. It’s made of plastic, so it doesn’t biodegrade, and it doesn’t last as long or wear as well as real fur,” explained the Atlanta-based actor.
Johnny Valencia, 35, is the owner of Pechuga Vintage, a Los Angeles-based Latin American store that specializes in vintage and archival lines, and counts celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Lori Harvey and Grimes among its customers.
Valencia said she recently tried on a Dolce & Gabbana faux fur coat.
“And it was disgusting. It’s plastic on your body,” Valencia told NPR. “Like, really? You – you want me to pay $4,000 for plastic?”
Valencia sells vintage fur pieces for up to $18,000. This type of investment, he believes, ensures that the item goes to someone who appreciates it, can pay for its upkeep and has a place to wear it. The animal’s life was gone, he added. Giving a piece of fur a second life helps them feel like it wasn’t a waste.
There are certain furs he won’t go near, including endangered cats like jaguars, which are sacred in Latin America. One day he sold her a monkey fur coat and the negative reaction was enough to put him off exotic furs. He occasionally receives negative comments online about selling fur, but doesn’t get involved.
Not everyone agrees that vintage fur is an ethical practice. PJ Smith, director of fashion policy at The Humane Society, said that even wearing vintage fur can have harmful consequences: it implies that it is acceptable to wear fur, which normalizes a cruel and unnecessary practice in the society.
“It’s almost impossible to know whether this fur is used or not,” he told NPR. “And that could lead to more animals being slaughtered for the fur trade, because that could lead to additional sales.”
It was a hesitation of artist and vintage fashion enthusiast Tina Lynn when she first started wearing vintage fur.
“The biggest fear, and I stopped wearing (my furs) for a while, is that it will inspire more fur manufacturers and animal cruelty,” she told NPR. “I think we should question everything we wear and use and its ethics.”
Ultimately, Lynn feels her fur has a decidedly vintage look. “I think anything second-hand is better than anything new. I want to use what’s already there until it’s worn out,” she explained.
Faux plant furs arrive on the market
California banned the sale of new fur in 2019, and the law took effect on January 1, 2023. The state was responsible for about 25% of all fur sales in the United States, according to the Humane Society.
Inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs have launched into a disrupted industry. BioFluff, for example, is a new plant-based fur used by fashion brand Stella McCartney.
“There’s been so much investment because they realize there’s a gap in the market,” Smith said. “Faux fur is getting better and better in terms of quality and environmental impact.”
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
BioFluff is a startup specializing in transforming nettle, hemp and linen into convincing faux fur. Other brands, like Apparis, reduce the environmental impact of vegan fur by using plant-based fibers and recycled polyester.
Beyond the potential ripple effects caused by wearing vintage fur, people should also ask themselves whether the skin of an animal slaughtered for fashion is something they want to wear, said Emma Håkansson of Collective Fashion Justice in an email to NPR.
The founder of the Australia-based charity inherited two furs when her grandmother died.
“I wore them as a teenager, aware that animals died for them, but without any specificity, and without considering what wearing them said to the world – about wearing fur and about me,” she declared. When she began researching the practice, she said she donated it to an organization that redistributes fur to animal sanctuaries.
“I now have photos of these coats being used as bedding by native animals like orphaned baby kangaroos,” Håkansson said. “These animals need familiar, furry comfort, and they can get it through these coats – from animals who have had no comforts in their shortened lives. I see this as a kind of exercise in balance.”
Mitigating the negative effect of trends
Valencia wonders to what extent the mafia women’s aesthetic actually influences purchasing habits.
“We live in a time where micro-trends appear every other day,” he said. “But how many? How many of these ‘mafia wives’ do we see out there?”
Yet policy changes may prevent even a single sale of a new fur item inspired by the mafia bride aesthetic, according to Smith. He said they ensure that fleeting trends do not have harmful consequences on animals and the environment.
Trivieri also encourages the public to use discretion as TikTok and social media broadcast trends, including her own.
“We don’t have to participate in every trend. Just remember that,” she said. “Personal fashion and fashion are supposed to be fun. They’re supposed to be a reflection of you and who you are, and whatever makes you feel good.”
News Source : www.npr.org