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The 'mob wife' aesthetic is in. But what about the vintage fur that comes with it?

DON GONYEA, HOST:

Are vintage fur coats unethical? These old pieces inherited from great-aunts or taking up space in thrift stores. Fashion enthusiasts have been wondering about that lately just as a TikTok trend took off. NPR's Halisia Hubbard reports.

HALISIA HUBBARD, BYLINE: Kayla Trivieri didn't expect to start a movement. But then she made this TikTok in early January.

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KAYLA TRIVIERI: We're wearing vintage furs all winter - the cheetah prints, the sparkle, the glitz, the glam, the furs, the big hair.

HUBBARD: It got 1.8 million views and counting and ushered in a wave of responses and trend stories all asking about the mob wife aesthetic, the ostentatious style of female characters in Mafia movies and TV shows. The look is all about formfitting dresses, flashy, gold jewelry and old fur coats.

GILDA CHESTNEY: Vintage fur is the best of both worlds.

HUBBARD: That's Gilda Chestney, an actress based in Atlanta. For her, old fur is about fashion and sustainability.

CHESTNEY: 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.

JOHNNY VALENCIA: I always ask people, what else would you rather us do with these things - throw them away?

HUBBARD: Johnny Valencia is the owner of Pechuga Vintage in Los Angeles. He sells vintage fur pieces that can reach prices of $18,000. The animal's life is gone, Valencia said. Giving a fur piece a second life helps him feel that it wasn't a waste. Not everyone agrees with that moral assessment. P.J. Smith, the director of fashion policy for the Humane Society of the United States, said that even wearing vintage fur can have harmful consequences.

P J SMITH: It's nearly impossible to know if that fur is used or not. That could lead to new fur sales if you're going to wear fur, contributing to that animal cruelty somehow.

HUBBARD: New fur sales are now banned in California, with legislation pending in other states. That's one reason that artificial fur is now attracting interest. The fashion brand Stella McCartney is using a product made with plants, like nettle, hemp and flax.

SMITH: Faux fur is getting better and better in quality and environmental impact.

HUBBARD: Smith advocates for faux fur as an alternative to the real stuff, but Pechuca Vintage owner Johnny Valencia said the products he's seen have a long way to go.

VALENCIA: Flat out, it looks cheap.

HUBBARD: He recently tried on a Dolce and Gabbana coat.

VALENCIA: It was gross. It's plastic on your body, and I'm just like, really? You want me to pay $4,000 for plastic?

HUBBARD: Four thousand dollars, for many, is a steep price to pay to participate in a trend. And the life cycle of a TikTok aesthetic moves quickly. Remember cottagecore, tomato girl and coastal grandma? By the time you hear this story, the mob wife trend might already be over.

TRIVIERI: We don't have to participate in every trend. Fashion is supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be a reflection of you and your identity and whatever feels good.

HUBBARD: Kayla Trivieri encourages people to use discretion as TikTok and other social media pump out trends, but vintage fur enthusiasts have noticed the attention boost. In January, Google searches for vintage fur had nearly doubled compared to three years ago. Halisia Hubbard, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Halisia Hubbard

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