The latest hairball is over a high-end costume brand.
When it launched last, Zweitesich branded itself as the “world’s first designer fursuit brand” for people who dress up in anthropomorphic animal suits. The company’s aesthetic would have made a high-fashion brand proud. Zweitesich (German for “second self”) launched with a sleek website, where it sold anthropomorphic animal masks, each with a Louis Vuitton-style brand on the cheek. But furries aren’t conventional fashionistas. As parts of the fringe subculture creep toward the mainstream, the furry fandom is grappling with what it means to go commercial. So almost as soon as Zweitesich launched, the company became the center of a catfight. On Twitter, furries accused Zweitesich of being “insulting,” “fuckery,” and hopefully “just a social experiment.” One furry made a parody Zweitesich mask, covering their own wolf costumes in upscale logos. The furries were responding to Zweitesich’s price tag (originally marked at $6,000, according to furry news site Flayrah), the fact that buyers wouldn’t even receive a full-body fursuit, and Zweitesich’s claim to employ “designers” rather than “tailors.” Some furries interpreted the designer creds as a dig at other fursuit creators.
Looking back, Zweitesich's founder sees where it went wrong. Behind the company's flashy exterior was Albino Topaz, a high-profile fursuit maker, whose creations (like a lavender corgi) have sold for more than $8,000. Like many in the scene, she goes by a pseudonym, which she ditched in favor of the brand name. That's when the trouble began, she said. Furries took issue with the high-fashion stylings, assuming it to be the work of a larger company, rather than one artist. "In my opinion, what seemed to set people off was the idea of a big corporation coming into the fandom and cheapening the hard work of individual artists," Topaz told The Daily Beast "It’s a sentiment that I too, agree with. The Furry Fandom revolves around creativity and individuality, the idea of commercialization has a hard time fitting into that equation [...] When companies try to come in and make mass-produced fursuits (often stealing designs from existing artists/Fursuit-makers) it comes as a real kick in the teeth." Controversies like these are common in the subculture, Patch O’Furr, founder of the furry news site Dogpatch Press said. “You see this pretty regularly. You’ll see somebody catch ire, everybody piles on them, and a month later it’s forgotten. I think this was a thing that wouldn’t matter to anybody else except furries,” O’Furr told The Daily Beast. “But I think it really struck a nerve. It really got to the root of this possessiveness that the subculture has about itself and what it built for itself.”
For decades, furries got no love in mass media, which cast them as weirdos. That outsider status became central to furries’ do-it-yourself spirit, O’Furr said. While historically nerdy pastimes like gaming and cosplay go mainstream, furries have largely escaped mass commercialization. Retail stores might sell Fortnite T-shirts, but they’re not ready to sell full-sized wolf fursuits. But some of that fringe factor might be fading. Furries have become more common in popular culture, with brands as large as Disney appearing to wink at them. (The community hotly debates whether Disney’s Zootopia movie borrowed inspiration from furry culture.)