How the fake fur boom has brought REAL fur back to the High Street
When Kate Moss stepped out for a shopping trip in London recently, her coat - a sky blue, three-quarter length mink from Fendi's 2013 cruise collection - was not the choice of a woman ashamed to be seen in animal pelts.
Indeed, the supermodel is so taken with this latest addition to her wardrobe that she even took it to the balmy Caribbean this week.
Eccentric popstar Lady Gaga is equally enamoured, reputedly spending £132,000 on two fur coats in a boutique in Moscow, putting the seal of approval on a trend that has been gathering pace for a while.
Kate Moss is seen shopping together in London last Wednesday wearing a real fur Fendi coat
For some - including style icons such as Anna Wintour, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez - it seems fur, far from a dirty word, is a highly covetable part of a fashionista's winter wardrobe.
And it's a lucrative market. Over 400 catwalk labels currently use fur in their collections and, since the millennium, the global fur market has almost doubled from £5.7 billion to £9.4 billion.
Luxury fashion houses such as Prada, Chanel, Burberry, Fendi, Maxmara and Gucci have long used premium pelts - such as sable, mink and chinchilla - but it's only recently that sales have started growing exponentially.
Now younger, more contemporary - and often more accessible - designers including Isabel Marant, Diane von Furstenberg, Christopher Kane, Erdem, Jonathan Saunders, Alexander McQueen and Roksana Ilincic (some of them favourites of the Duchess of Cambridge) have shown catwalk pieces trimmed with or made from real fur.
As a result, fur sales increased by more than 30 per cent in the UK between 2010 and 2011, while sales of farmed fur now amount to £1.2 billion a year in the EU.
So why has fashion fallen back in love with fur?
Less than two decades ago supermodels including Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Elle Macpherson said they'd 'rather go naked' than wear it.
Harper Beckham is also recently seen wearing a coat with real fur
The upsurge in popularity is an unintended consequence of shoppers' love for fake fur. For years now, High Street chains have been churning out faux-fur coats at pocket-money prices.
In turn, a number of celebrities paraded vintage garments - both faux and real - and made the fur 'look' desirable.
'Pelt prices have been slashed so low that it has become cheaper for unscrupulous manufacturers to use real rabbit and pass it off as fake'
Even little Harper Beckham was seen sporting a realistic-looking fur-trimmed hood when in London with her family earlier this month.
High-end British brands, the likes of Jaeger and Joseph, have long sold fur, and on their rails it is possible to find £995 raccoon skin jackets, £1,600 panther-print rabbit-fur coats and £299 rabbit-fur shrugs.
Burberry sells a vast range of garments with a variety of fur trims, while a designer childrenswear brand offers £230 raccoon-trimmed duffle coats for girls aged three.
And where designers lead, the High Street is quick to follow.
Lady Gaga was seen wearing a real fur hat a couple of months ago
Trendy store The Kooples stocks a parka trimmed with raccoon fur (£282), while at Comptoir des Cotonniers you can pick up a coat with a rabbit fur collar for £120.
And ASH - a label whose wedge trainers have proved a hit in recent seasons - have been selling a popular £250 Zabroska fur ski boot, made from leather and rabbit fur.
Even shops such as Zara, which in 2004 announced it wouldn't stock fur, have been keen to cash in on the trend, going so far as to brand a £149 Mongolian gilet as 'goat fur' when in fact their website clearly states it is 100 per cent sheepskin.
Astoundingly, shoppers on a tight budget can buy real fur even cheaper than sheepskin.
On the Miss Coquines website, you can pick up rabbit fur gilets for just £36 and knitted rabbit fur cardigans for £71, while a rabbit hair scarf will set you back just £13.49 - cheaper than many neck-warmers in acrylic.
Such prices are made possible by eastern European rabbit farms, which feed both the region's culinary appetite and a wider market for clothing.
In fact, pelt prices have been slashed so low that it has become cheaper for unscrupulous manufacturers to use real rabbit and pass it off as 'fake' to appeal to consumers who like the look and feel of fur but don't morally agree with buying the real thing.
What shocking irony. 'The killing of animals for their skin is just as repulsive now as it was 20 years ago,' says Elisa Allen, UK Operations Manager of the anti-fur lobby group, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
'This is why genuinely talented and innovative designers refuse to use fur.
McCartney is not alone in her refusal to use animal products in her fashion. Designers such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Vivienne Westwood and Calvin Klein have all publicly sworn off fur, as have many High Street chains and shops. 'Stella McCartney is proof that compassion is what's truly in fashion. The suffering of minks who go mad from confinement in tiny boxes and foxes who chew off their feet to escape traps will never be “in fashion”.'
Stores belonging to Philip Green's Arcadia Group (including Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and Wallis) have a long association with PETA and Arcadia is 'committed to not selling any items made of real fur'.
House of Fraser, Jigsaw, Karen Millen, John Lewis and New Look also have anti-fur policies.
Some would argue that, for people who wear leather and eat meat, swearing off rabbit fur seems hypocritical.
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