Heritage fur debuts at Paris Fashion Week to save SA’s leopards

Posted on 7 July 2023

Heritage Fur premiered at the Paris Fashion Week as a new biobased fur as an alternative to traditional leopard skin and fur garments.

Religious sects and traditional leaders in southern Africa are being encouraged to embrace this synthetic alternative, which animal rights defenders claim will help reduce the hunting of wild leopards.

The Koba, a bio-based fur incorporating corn fibre and designed by Stella McCartney, made its debut at the prestigious fashion event. The regalia falls under the newly launched “Heritage Fur” line.

According to Jack de Gilio, a publicist for Ecopel, the manufacturer of the Koba, these textiles will be utilized to replace leopard furs traditionally used in religious ceremonies across southern Africa, effectively saving the lives of countless leopards. Ecopel told News24 that the fur is of high quality and offers a sustainable and ethical solution

Panthera, an organization dedicated to the conservation of wild cats and their ecosystems. The organization states that the demand for fur is contributing to the decline of leopard populations in South Africa.

To combat this alarming trend, Panthera launched the Furs for Life Leopard Program, collaborating with digital designers to create synthetic leopard fur caps, known as amambatha, for use in religious gatherings.

Over 18,500 synthetic leopard fur caps have been supplied to the Nazareth Baptist Church eBuhleni (Shembe Church), resulting in a 50% reduction in the use of authentic leopard fur and the prevention of numerous leopard deaths. S

The Shembe religious community, a major user of leopard skins and furs, will now be a target market for the Heritage Fur line. Panthera and Ecopel have joined forces to market the line as a luxury garment, appealing to the community’s followers and leaders.

Through this alliance, the Shembe community will receive 600 meters of Koba-blend textile for the creation of 1,200 amambatha. Furthermore, the initiative will generate employment opportunities and ensure that the Shembe community directly benefits from both employment and future Heritage Fur sales.

With Heritage Fur paving the way for sustainable alternatives, the hope is to preserve southern Africa’s precious leopard populations for generations to come.

Picture: Panthera

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