The fur flies back into fashion
The world's biggest names once said they'd rather go naked - but now bolstered by celebrity endorsements, fur is experiencing a revival, writes Gillian Fitzpatrick
As the air begins to chill and the evenings shorten, celebrities have lately been eager to adapt their wardrobes to accommodate the changing seasons. The result is a dazzling array of autumnal attire sourced from the world's leading designers: boots, jackets and skinny jeans dominate - replacing the skimpy skirts, sandals and crop-tops of summer.
But for those mingling in stylish circles and who insist on standing out from the crowd, it's clear that the fashion statement of the moment champions one thing alone: fur.
Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour proudly sported a white and pink mink wrap to the wedding of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin at the weekend. Singer Ciara wore a fur-lined gilet to a meeting at Ginvenchy's Paris offices last week. Earlier this month, Kim Kardashian landed in LAX with a dramatic orange-tinged fur scarf draped around her neck. Indeed, the biggest names in showbiz - Cara Delevingne, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, and Britney Spears (who once received €20,000 worth of pelts for her birthday) - have all been spotted draped in elaborate furs. Joan Collins has a collection worth millions, with some items running to €250,000. You can forget about being practical too; Marc Jacobs wore his Prada fur walking on a Caribbean beach.
Of course, the look enjoyed huge popularity in the 1970s and '80s, before falling out of favour in the '90s. Now - and whether a subtle trim and stole, or dramatic full-length coat, fur is undoubtedly enjoying a revival. Even protesters seem to do little to dent recent affections: Elizabeth Hurley has had red wine poured over her at a Hollywood bash, while designer Donna Karen had the sounds of screaming rabbits played outside her New York office during fashion week three years ago. Kim Kardashian was doused with flour at a red carpet event in 2012 and Anna Wintour had a dead raccoon thrown at her plate at an upmarket Manhattan restaurant.
Two decades ago, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Elle Macpherson were famously photographed for the animal rights organisation Peta under the slogan: "We'd rather go naked than wear fur." The black-white-image became an iconic campaign of its time but, since, the message has run out of steam. Tellingly, Naomi and Kate are now often spotted in fur-trimmed attire, while Cindy went on to be the face of American fur company Blackglama.
The world's highest paid supermodel Gisele Bundchen has regularly been beset by protesters because of her many modelling jobs involving fur (though away from the catwalk, Gisele insists she's an animal-lover who has no interest in wearing skins).
The trend has also been updated for a younger, edgier audience. The classics are still there, but as fur becomes more commonplace, it's being presented in new, quirky ways: bleached furs with florescent lining, or neon yellows and hot pinks are being paraded by the likes of Roberto Cavallli and Versace.
Earlier this year Fendi - the Italian fashion house that unashamedly uses oodles of animal produce to make everything from bags and boots to outerwear and accessories - sent its models down a runway lined with metres of real goat fur.
Alexander McQueen, the label headed by Sarah Burton, went all out with her Beauty And The Beast-themed A/W 14 Paris show. Models were enveloped by over-sized hooded fur coats, while hand-cut pom poms and gilets also dominated.
The show proved to be divisive, but celebrity stylist Alex Longmore acknowledged in response: "It does not surprise me one bit that there is fur on the McQueen catwalk. It's everywhere and is not just reserved for autumn. This SS14, Louis Vuitton have shaved mink dresses and the Fendi catwalk is full of fur -and that's for the summer!
"Once fur was deemed non-PC but now that rule has been totally sidelined. Fur seems to have been made not only fashionable but the ultimate in luxury by design houses."
Frank Zilberkweit, owner of the upmarket Hockley fur store in London's posh Mayfair, has admitted that the industry was not so long ago "in a mess".
"We have worked hard to get the message across about our products and how they are produced. We have had to prove that we have good standards of welfare on the farms and improve our products to appeal to younger customers," he added.
"As we see it, the anti-fur argument is fundamentally flawed; we use animals for food, shoes, sheepskins - it is pure inverted snobbery against fur wearers."
In Ireland, there are a total of three farms that contain more than 200,000 mink. In November, most of these animals will be killed and then sold on the international markets in time for Christmas.
Indeed, aside from the ethical considerations, not everyone wants to part with such large sums for a single item. But attitudes have now changed considerably since the 1990s. Rather go naked than wear fur? Well, as a host of A-list names in 2014 will attest, that depends primarily on the fur's label.