Animal rights campaigners protest as fur comes back into fashion

There is a popular uniform for many of those attending the present round of fashion shows in the world's hippest cities – skinny jeans, trainers and a fur coat. Big-name design houses including Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Tom Ford have been pushing fur on the catwalks, and the fur coat for the male market is a major new trend for next winter.

This month the biggest auction of furs ever seen in the industry will take place in Helsinki, when dealers and designers will be vying for 11 million mink pelts, two million fox and one million assorted wild animal furs. Prices are expected to reach record levels.

Mark Oaten, chief executive of the International Fur Trade Federation, says that demand for fur is so huge that the industry is suffering a desperate skills shortage. According to Oaten, a younger generation has discovered fur, while recent technological advances mean that the industry can do far more with fur in terms of mixing it with other fabrics, thinning it and dyeing it.

"The traditional fur was grandma's fur coat, which was a one-off luxury buy that you bought and treasured all your life," he said. "But five or six years ago technology moved on and allowed designers to use fur in fashion, allowing it to be used in a million ways. It can be affordable and there is a whole new generation to fall in love with fur."

The renaissance of fur poses a major challenge to anti-fur campaigners such as Meg Mathews, who is now leading the latest effort by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) to persuade people to stop wearing furs.

Mathews was behind last week's decision by the nightclub Mahiki, frequented by London's young rich, to announce that it would no longer admit anyone wearing fur. She spent last Thursday evening at the Mayfair venue's front door, handing out "no fur" badges to customers. "The idea of wearing an animal's fur has always made me feel sick," she said. "You only have to see the videos of skinned animals lying in a heap, still breathing and lifting their heads, to understand that stealing an animal's skin for the sake of vanity is wrong.

© Skylar Long, all rights reserved