It's fashion's final taboo -- but could you wear fur?
From vintage style to winter warmers, the vogue for wearing fur -- and slamming it -- is here to stay, writes Deirdre Reynolds
From Janet Jackson's infamous wardrobe malfunction aka Nipple-gate to Lady Gaga's meat dress, when it comes to fashion, these days we're pretty unshockable.
But there's still one trend that has the power to divide designers and spark outrage on the red carpet -- fur.
More than 90% of women here have never worn real fur, according to new statistics. And 64% agree with a Green Party plan to outlaw Ireland's remaining five fur farms -- which hit headlines last September after thousands of farmed mink were released into the wild in Donegal -- by next year.
Fashion's final taboo isn't going anywhere without a fight, though. In fact, from collars to cuffs and capes, the F-word has made a comeback in recent months thanks to the vintage glamour of shows such as Mad Men -- as well as the freezing winter weather. Even the most conscientious stylistas have been rocking the feral look in faux fur.
But would you dare don a trend made famous by Cruella de Vil?
Celebrity style icons are torn on the topic. While animal-loving A-listers Charlize Theron, Pamela Anderson and Beyoncé have all declared their wardrobes fur-free zones, others including Paris Hilton, Jennifer Lopez and Liz Hurley proudly parade around in animal pelts.
Even under the same roof, fur-fan Kim Kardashian and sister Khloe, a PETA spokesmodel, are at war over their respective wardrobes.
"Celebrities are in such a powerful position to influence young people regarding fashion," says Mary-Ann Bartlett of Compassion in World Farming Ireland. "It's great that some celebrities like Natalie Portman choose to promote ethical fashion -- but disappointing that others continue to wear fur just to be controversial on the red carpet.
"If the likes of Kim Kardashian took the time to find out how fur is produced, they'd think twice about wearing it. Personally, when I see a fur coat, all I can see is the suffering behind it."
But even those who think they're being green not mean by choosing faux fur may be inadvertently supporting the trade, she warns.
"Fur coats are traditionally associated with older women," adds Mary-Ann, "but younger women often accidentally buy garments with a real fur trim on the high street. As a rule of thumb, if it feels like your pet cat -- it's probably real!"
The animal welfare group is lobbying for fur farming to be made illegal here, bringing us in line with Northern Ireland.
However, if the manufacture of fur is actually banned, fashion stores can still import it from even bigger players in the industry such as China and the US.
And whether you're for the trend or against it, it's here to stay, says Ireland's oldest furriers.
"Over Christmas, we were busier than ever," says Liz Barnardo of JM Barnardo Furriers on Grafton St, Dublin. "We have a very loyal clientele -- and contrary to opinion it's not all grannies who don't 'understand' about fur. We get lots of young students from Trinity and women aged 30-50 coming in looking for vintage fur, for instance.
"At the end of the day, it's all about freedom of choice," argues Liz. "It's very easy to attack fur when you think it's only worn by the elite. But while the €20,000 chinchilla coat in the window has the wow factor, we also sell rabbit-fur jackets for around €800 -- over the course of a lifetime, that could well end up being the cheapest thing in your wardrobe.
"We've been here for six generations," adds Liz, "and we'll be here for another six."