Finding a knockoff version of the fur you want under the Christmas tree would ordinarily be a disappointment. Not this year. Faux is the new black this season for holiday gifts.
A $198 fuzzy brown coat at Banana Republic has a prominently placed tag that reads "faux fur."
Dresses with "vegan leather" accents are flying off virtual shelves at shopbop.com. And at luxury retailer Barney's, a Marni faux leather three-quarter-sleeve jacket sells for $1,900. This definitely isn't the "pleather" of the 1980s -- that cheap, plastic-looking material made popular by Michael Jackson during his "Thriller" days.
Faux is gaining popularity in part because of advances in technology enabling designers to make better-looking fakes. In a still-shaky economy that has made Americans more frugal, faux also can be seen as a good way to be trendy without breaking the bank. And a movement toward socially conscious shopping makes some people feel better about faux purchases.
It helps that some A-listers have given faux their seal of approval. Models have been seen on the runway wearing faux leather pieces in shows for big-name designers, and actresses Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson have strutted on the red carpet in faux leather and fur.
While it's difficult to pin down overall sales for faux goods, retailers say they are benefiting from their growing popularity. Banana Republic's $69.50 faux-fur neckwarmer and faux-fur leopard vests have been bestsellers. Target says faux-fur home goods such as pillows and throws are performing "exceptionally well." And Macy's says new techniques with faux leather, such as scalloping and quilted stitching, have given tops and jackets "new relevance."
"It used to be that 'faux' meant less expensive and quality less than desirable, but not any longer," said Josh Saterman, vice president and fashion director for millennials at Macy's.
Andrew Dent, a vice president at consultancy Material Connexion, said the trend is being fueled by the fact that faux fur and leather are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.
Buying faux is a matter of simple math for some shoppers. A $69.50 faux-fur neckwarmer is much cheaper than a designer version with real fur, which can run as much as $1,000.