Fur Coats Fur Jackets Sales Booming

Fur Coats booming after swing from fashion faux pas to catwalk favourite

Figures show farmers stepping up production to meet soaring demand for mink, sable, fox and ferret pelts

Fur pelts
Buyers and sellers trade animal fur pelts at a fashion fair in Hong Kong. Photograph: Alex Hofford/EPA 

They are not alone in falling off the anti-fur wagon. Figures from the International Fur Federation show that the industry is enjoying another year of considerable growth. The demand for mink, sable, fox and ferret has soared and farmers have stepped up production.

In 2013/14, 87.2m mink pelts were produced around the world, worth a total of £2.2bn, with 35m produced by China alone.

China also remains one of the biggest producers of fox pelt, and together with Finland was responsible for 91% of the 7.8m fox furs produced globally.

The figures – the first to show a breakdown of different pelts – follow on from research by the IFF last year which valued the global fur trade at more than £26bn.

On the British catwalks last year, more than 60% of shows featured fur, and at New York fashion week the figure topped 70%. While luxury labels such as Fendi have a long history of featuring real fur in their shows, fur is increasingly being used by newer brands as well. In New York, the up-and-coming label Cushnie Et Ochs said fur was its favourite material of the season, adding that it was “not ashamed”.

This month Karl Largerfeld said he would be putting on a special “couture fur” show to mark his 50th anniversary of working for Fendi. “For me, fur is Fendi and Fendi is fur, fun furs” he said. “Fendi is my Italian version of creativity. The Fendi haute fourrure fashion show is the opportunity to stage the royal furs of furs.”

He told the New York Times: “For me, as long as people eat meat and wear leather, I don’t get the message. It’s very easy to say no fur, no fur, no fur, but it’s an industry. Who will pay for all the unemployment of the people if you suppress the industry of the fur?”

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In the 80s it was a serious fashion faux pas to step out in real fur, but today’s celebrities are rarely seen out of it. Rihanna and Rita Ora have recently been pictured in real mink coats, and Kim Kardashian dressed her one-year-old daughter North West in what was thought to be a $3,500 (£2,300) crystal fox fur coat at last month’s New York fashion week.

Lady Gaga made a Naomi Campbell-esque turnabout on the issue. Having initially denounced fur, she was later pictured in a full-length coat made of white pelt, and went on to say: “You see a carcass, I see a museum pièce de résistance.”

Mark Oaten, CEO of the International Fur Federation, said he was unsurprised by the growth in productionas the taboo around wearing real fur was fading into irrelevance. “We knew from the catwalks that fur is certainly being used much more by designers and from some of the retail figures, which can be patchy and difficult, that the sales are going strongly,” he said. “So with this increase in demand, farmers are deciding to invest more in fur farms and increase production.”

Oaten, a former Liberal Democrat MP, said Asia and Hong Kong remained the big players in the fur trade, both in terms of demand and production, but emphasised there was a shift towards buyers in America and Europe.

“Designers appear to be embracing it, customers appear to be embracing it and we certainly find the younger generation have less of an issue with fur than the younger generation of the 1980s,” he said.

“But it’s changed rapidly, even in the past three or four months. We’ve seen a change of patterns of the kind of consumers in Asia. Six months ago I would have said Beijing and Shanghai are really hot markets, but now we are seeing a shift away to the second- and third-tier cities in China as well. We’ve also seen an enormous increase in America because fur has had an incredibly busy runway and it has also been extraordinarily cold.”

In the UK, members of the British Fur Trade Association reported a 20% increase in sales last year. The association’s chief executive, Mike Moser, said the growth was being driven as much by younger generations as by foreign millionaires.

“It’s hot stuff because fur is being used in a real fun way in fashion now,” he said. “It’s more accessible for young people because of the increase of fur trims on coats and fur accessories.

“The BFTA runs an annual competition for design students using fur and this year we’ve seen a 50% increase in the number of students taking art. They just want to use fur in their designs which proves there such a strong interest in the younger generation.”

While the fur industry in countries such as Canada, the US and Europe remains heavily regulated, concerns remain over China, which is much more lax about the welfare of animals. Oaten conceded it was a concern for the IFF and said cleaning up the Chinese fur trade remained a priority.

“Obviously with so much mink coming from China, one of my big priorities is to make sure that they understand what the requirements are for welfare,” he said. “I was in China a couple weeks ago meeting with government officials. They have already adopted Council of Europe guidelines on welfare and we’ve had a long dialogue with them to implement even stronger welfare protocols. The difficulty does still lie in ensuring these regulations are always enforced in such a large country.”

Oaten said he was a personal fan of pelts. “I use a lot of fur for interiors,” he said. “Though I’ve not yet found a fur coat that suits me.”

Sales for fur jackets and coat selling strong.

Blackglama Mink Coats

Blackglama photo exhibit features fur coats and the stars who wore them

Shirley MacLaine, photograph by Bill King (cropped), From the Collection of Peter Rogers (Ogden Museum of Southern Art)

By Doug MacCash, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art exhibition “What Becomes a Legend Most? The Blackglama Photographs from the Collection of Peter Rogers” will seem alluring to some and alienating to others. The subject is the lustrous jet-black fur of minks and the A-list celebrities from Bette Davis to Liza Minnelli to Ray Charles who wore it.

Back in 1968, mink ranchers from the Great Lakes Mink Association (GLMA) sought out a New York advertising firm to help pump up the prices of their pelts. They hit pay dirt when they hired the Jane Trahey firm.

The trouble with photographing black fur for magazine ads, Trahey and company realized, is that the fur sort of disappears. As you gaze at the 60 images that line the Ogden walls, you’ll notice that the furs often become Manet-esque featureless black shapes. So, forget the fur. Concentrate on who’s wrapped in it.

Blackglama.LucianoPavarotti.photoBillKing.1981.jpgPhotograph of Luciano Pavarotti by Bill King, from the Peter Rogers collection.Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Peter Rogers, the advertising firm’s 34-year-old art director at the time, recalls that the first five subjects were mega-celebrities Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand and Melina Mercouri. These were stars of such universal appeal that they needed no introduction. So the ads didn’t introduce them. Instead the ads were dominated by the catch phrase “What Becomes a Legend Most?”. The identities of the stars were emphatically self-evident.

It probably didn’t hurt the fledgling campaign that the photographs were taken by fashion legends Richard Avedon and Bill King.

In a telephone conversation Monday (May 20), Rogers, who was born in Hattiesburg, Miss., and now lives in the French Quarter, explained that it didn’t matter if the luxurious black mink coats were rather illegible in the photos, because the campaign wasn’t meant to promote individual designs. It was meant to create an across-the-board demand for the black mink itself, thereby pushing up the prices at the fur auctions and making the Great Lakes Mink Association happy. The stars each got a custom coat in the bargain.

“Glamour was basically the concept,” Rogers said.

The title of the campaign blended the description of the fur with the GLMA acronym. It was genius. According to Rogers, there was a time when nine out of 10 mink coats sold bore the Blackglama label.

Rogers said that the biggest names in entertainment were eager to see themselves in a Blackglama ad. He attended practically every shoot and became buddies with some of the stars. In 1974, he bought out the ad agency and became boss. Needless to say, he has the best stories.

For some reason, he said, Shirley MacLaine wanted to wear majorette boots with her black fur. Rogers argued that the boots disguised her gorgeous legs. So they tried the shots boots on and boots off. In the end, even MacLaine agreed that Rogers was right.

Carol Burnett spent the first part of the shoot imitating the smoldering poses of the glamour girls who had come before her in the ad campaign. In the end, she leaped jester-like across the picture frame.

Rogers said that when he and Joan Crawford went to eat at “21,” she entered the restaurant dragging the black fur on the ground behind her to raise eyebrows.

Julie Andrews did the Blackglama shoot in her androgynous Victor Victoria personae. The young Liza Minnelli scandalously smoked a cigarette in her shot. Rudolf Nureyev behaved as if he was the very best ballet dancer in the whole wide world … which, of course, he was.

Blackglama.AnnMargaret.photoBillKing.1985.jpgPhotograph of Ann Margaret by Bill King from the Peter Rogers collection.Ogden Museum of Southern Art

The original Blackglama campaign came to a close in 1994, but it was renewed under new management in the 2000s at the demand of furriers, according to Rogers. If you Google Blackglama, you can find several seductive shots of a mink-clad Janet Jackson. Rogers moved to New Orleans four years ago. He said that since he grew up in Hattiesburg, he always looked on New Orleans as the big city and always knew he’d live here some day.

Times have changed, of course. Part of the Ogden audience will look on fur fashions as more stigma than style. Rogers, 79, fears that the era of true entertainment glamour may have evaporated, but the popularity of the product persists. Even in New Orleans, where winter isn’t especially wintery, he said he still spots plenty of fur.

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