After an extensive career in various industries, Mike Brown joins the fur industry as the IFF CEO of the Americas Region. After some rough years for the fur industry dealing with the consequence of the covid situation and the war in Ukraine, Mike believes the only way is up from here. Still, there is a lot to be done in terms of voicing the truths about the fur industry to the general public.

How did you make it to this position?

Prior to working for IFF, I’ve done a couple of different things. I did some work for the White House and the Obama administration in housing, urban development and small business administration. I also worked for a few municipalities with government affairs, public affairs and communication work.

I thought there were natural synergies to the fur industry. It is highly regulated, and the opinions are incredibly divided. People tend to think fur is perfectly fine, or they don’t. This division is something I’ve been used to from previous jobs, so it was a natural fit for me to come over to the fur industry.

What about the Natural Fibers Alliance, can you expand on that and how it is connected to the industry?

I felt the need to build a coalition to put like-minded industries and people together so we can protect our interests collectively. That is people working within the industry of natural fibers and animal-derived products. So, the Natural Fibers Alliance is a broad coalition focused on protecting and promoting natural fibers.

How is the sustainability approach in America at the moment?

Sustainability is at a talking point right now, it is not as advanced as in Europe yet, but we are getting there. I believe sustainability is about being a couple steps ahead, and encouraging sustainability within fast fashion puts us at the forefront as a thought leader.

Sustainability is a big topic for the next 10-15 years, and I think that is where natural fibers have the opportunity to get themselves in the middle of this conversation since it’s the future. 

What is the general attitude towards fur farming in North America?

Based on surveys and polls that we’ve done, a lot of people just don’t know. They only know what they’ve seen on TV or YouTube. And the small minority of folks wanting to see the complete liberation of animals are diehards, and unfortunately, they have somewhat consumed the conversation.

I think we’ve been successful here because we’re able to speak to elected officials and have real conversations. Once they find out the truth, what really happens in the lives impacted, and what animal welfare is, they tend to agree and side with us.

All they know is the message that’s been given to them.

Do you think the attitude towards fur is the biggest challenge in America at the moment?

I do. Fighting these misconceptions is one of our biggest hurdles, and also getting our message out there. The general public is something that we continue to work on.

The organizations working against fur have been around for about 40 years. So you’re dealing with a whole generation of folks, where all they know is the message that’s been given to them. And those individuals are now part of senior management and decision-making. So a lot of the decisions made now are based on false narratives from the past. A big part of what we’re doing now is cleaning up some of those misconceptions.

How do you see the fur industry evolving for future generations in North America?

I think a lot of it starts with leadership. The CEO of IFF, Mark Oaten, has really led the charge and put the stamp on Furmark®, pushing the conversations around sustainability. That’s where the future lies, getting that narrative out there.

As for the industry, we’ve got a lot of young folks coming in, a lot of passion has been seen, and a number of new designers. We just have to continue to equip folks with the truth. I think the fur industry is bright. I think our future is bright.

We’ve had a tough three years just with Covid, sanctions and the war in Ukraine. So we can only go up from there.

Do you think there will be growth in the American market in the future?

I think it will be steady. US and Canada will remain the same. The US will continue to drive fashion, especially New York. And as long as we can get pieces on the runway and designers to have those products, specifically minority designers, it will be key.