Hull girl Hannah making a controversial career out of fashion fur

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Young designer Hannah Pickering is not afraid of getting a foot in the door of the fashion fur trade – despite being a former vegetarian. She explains why to reporter Phoebe Jackson-Edwards.

But student Hannah Pickering was calm walking through the maze of pelts, even if it did “smell a bit strange”.

“You wouldn’t know what it is, it didn’t stink but it didn’t smell normal,” she says, explaining the tour she was given by the British Fur Trade.

The 20-year-old fashion student recently made it through to the shortlist of the British Fur competition and was treated to a tour of the British Fur Trade warehouse, in London, as well as a workshop showing her and seven other finalists the tricks of the trade.

The shortlisted students were all shown how to cut and sew their pelts, as well as different techniques to change the fur’s appearance.

Hannah was not keen on the macabre sight of lifeless foxes, minks, raccoons and even badgers, suspended from the ceiling with “heads without eyes”.

“There was literally rails and rails,” she said, and it was strange “to see what it was”.

But some of the other girls were not bothered in the slightest and were stroking the carcasses.

Hannah, who studies fashion and clothing at Hull College, was the only college student to be shortlisted and the more experienced entrants had already used real fur before.

She had never even touched a pelt and was amazed how soft the fur is.

“You can really feel the difference,” she said.

“When they bring the fur out in squares, it doesn’t even look like an animal.”

Another room in the warehouse was full of coats, capes and gilet, all worth thousands of pounds, and Hannah could not resist trying on a fox-fur trim cape, worth £1,500.

Although it was not a path Hannah had set off to go down, when the opportunity came up she thought it was worth taking.

Those on her college course were all encouraged to enter into the competition and out of 30 other universities and colleges, the west Hull student’s designs were picked.

She was in good company, with another student shortlisted in her final year at prestigious art college Central Saint Martins in London.

The brief was simply to design something with fur and Hannah plumped for capes.

Although she was cautious taking part because of the obvious controversy of fur farming, she felt it was a chance she had to take.

It was only “imagination on paper” so she wasn’t worried about animal cruelty until she was faced with fur.

But the company put her mind at rest.

“None of the animals were killed for fur,” she said.

“They don’t put anything to waste. There was a metre of scraps all stitched together.”

She said the trade was keen to show transparency and enforce strict guidelines about the welfare of the animals killed.

The firms involved with the workshop, Danish company Saga Furs and British business Hockley, both use Origin Assured furs.

This means there is a strict independent inspection process of the wellbeing of the animals farmed to achieve a stamp of approval.

It is a surprising statistic with the recession in full force, but fur has still been big business. Last year’s sales in the UK increased by 30 per cent on the previous year.

Although there are still designers who spotlight the cause and forgo fur – Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood are notable examples – the list of those in the pro-fur camp is much longer.

There has been a creeping comeback on the catwalk, with fur adding a luxurious touch to many autumn/winter collections and our favourite fashion barometer Kate Moss is steadfast in her love of a fur coat.

Hannah may have only taken part in the competition out of curiosity, but it could lead to a new career path.

Now she has finished her course, Hannah is heading to the University of Huddersfield to study fashion, buying and marketing and her first question was: “Do you have a fur machine?”

With such a lucrative market, it is no wonder it seems like an attractive option when jobs are scarce.

But Hannah is approaching the subject as a new material to explore.

She is open-minded to carving out a career in the fur industry in the future, even as a former vegetarian.

For five years she did not touch meat, until Christmas last year.

“I just didn’t like the look of it,” Hannah said. “I didn’t want to touch it so I didn’t eat any.”

But after health problems – Hannah was diagnosed as anaemic – she decided it was better for her wellbeing to start eating meat again.

It was a huge lifestyle change for her and Hannah admits she probably would not have been as open to the fur competition if she was still vegetarian.

“In fashion, lots of opportunities come up and you might not agree with them all but it’s worth giving them a go,” Hannah said.

With such a head start, she is hoping to build momentum and find her fashion feet in the industry.

Marc Kaufman (left) with legendary NY Jets quarterback “Broadway Joe” Namath

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