How to stay on top of the fur world
Through hard work and the desire for complete, all-round perfection, Kopenhagen Fur have built the biggest fur empire in the world
Danish kings of fur, Kopenhagen Fur, have revolutionised the industry with their commitment to quality production and heritage produce. We paid them a visit to talk about their history, the challenges they face, how they brand themselves and the future direction of both their business and the wider industry.
How did it all begin?
“Kopenhagen Fur is a cooperative owned by the members of the Danish Fur Breeders Association, founded in 1930. From thereon, it quickly gathered momentum, coinciding with the sweeping agricultural crisis of the 1930s, and consequently providing struggling farmers with a new path and production line. In its pioneering years, the skins were sold by ‘Kjøbenhavns Pelscentral’ (Copenhagen Fur Centre).
In 1946, the Danish Fur Breeders Association acquired Kjøbenhavns Pelscentral and the foundation of a Danish-born international name was established. Under a new title, Danish Fur Sales quickly became a familiar name around the world and in 1963, the auction house moved just west of Copenhagen. Today, Kopenhagen Fur HQ is spread across more than 100,000 square meters in Glostrup, Denmark, where millions of skins are sorted and sold in large, uniform bundles - ready for dressing and sewing into fur garments.”
What are the biggest challenges being a worldwide company in the fur industry?
We live in a time where we as humans are becoming increasingly more aware of everything we put in, and on our bodies; however, at the same time, less and less people have a connection to the reality of where our possessions come from. The consequence is that there is often an overall disconnect between reality and perception, which is also reflected in the perception of agriculture in general. This not only creates a situation where our rural areas and historic lines of work are slowly staved - it also detaches people from the very fact that food production and fur farming are inherent in our culture. So how do we at Kopenhagen Fur take part in creating a solution? Every year, many of our farmers have ‘Open Farm’ days, where people from all over Denmark are invited to a day of activities and tours of our farms. Furthermore, we work with schools – both primary and technical colleges, as well as design universities - offering educational programs on farm life, animal welfare, the meaning of fur farming to our rural areas as well as the versatility of the trade.
Who delivers your fur?
We get mink skin from breeders from all over Europe, the USA and Canada. Besides that, we sell Greenlandic seal skins hunted by the indigenous Inuit people in Greenland and Swakara skins from Namibia.
How are your fur products unique compared to the rest of the fashion industry?
The consumption of clothes is one of the biggest environmental challenges we are facing. Resource usage in fast fashion is extensive, and there is a general agreement that we must adjust the way we consume. Fur is the opposite of fast fashion, lasting for many years with the ability to remake, remodel and hand down. It’s also recyclable, which naturally in the world of fashion has its appeal. But it is not only in the use-phase in which fur is a prime example of sustainability – the trade of fur farming is one of the best examples of circular bio-economy there is.
By-products from the Danish food production, those that would otherwise be discarded, are used as the main ingredients in our mink feed, which reduces food waste. In addition, after a mink has been pelted, all parts are used: the fat is used in biodiesel, while the remains are processed into bone meal, which is then used in fertiliser as well as components for asphalt and concrete.
Where in the world do you experience the biggest success?
Almost 100% of skins sold at Kopenhagen Fur are exported primarily to Asia, where they are manufactured. From there, the finished fur garments are sold to pretty much all countries in the Northern hemisphere – US, Canada, Europe, Russia and Asia. Worldwide, 60% of all skins sold through auction houses originate from Kopenhagen Fur, which has resulted in revenues adding up to DKK 7,3 billion in 2017.
How do you work on your branding in a highly pressured industry?
Fur has so many sustainable qualities and is the definition of slow fashion, which we believe is a vital solution to the environmental challenges we face. Our goal is to engage as many people as possible in this conversation and for that reason, we have launched a global initiative, where the entire fur industry enters into an even closer, fact-based dialogue with consumers, the fashion industry and other vital opinion leaders.
What are your key foci to keep growing your business in the future?
Our biggest task is to stay transparent and engage in all conversations about fur, raising awareness of the high standards of animal welfare on our farms. We are currently working on the most ambitious animal welfare certification scheme of any animal industry in mink and fox production: WelFur. Modern consumers are demanding transparency and assurance of good animal welfare and Kopenhagen Fur is dedicated to deliver on both parameters.