Fur industry targets rich warm countries for future growth

Federation CEO says where there's money there's a market for fashionable goods

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 3:44am


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Fur on Copacabana beach? Why not. Boosted by a 10-year surge in sales to Asia, the global fur industry is primed to take on what it sees as the markets of tomorrow.

Hobbled during the anti-fur campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s, the trade has rebounded as all but a few designers put fur back on the catwalks, and luxury-hungry China sent global sales surging 70 per cent over the decade, to US$15 billion in 2011.

But Mark Oaten, a former British MP who took the helm of the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF) last year, is already scanning the horizon beyond Asia and its six billion dollars in annual fur sales.

"We know Brazil is going to be an economic powerhouse, we know Brazil loves its fashion - this is the market in my judgment," he said.

"This industry tends to follow where the wealth is. Our product has always been associated with the cold. But now it has changed, and we are able to follow the wealth into warm climates."

To woo new markets, the IFTF is launching a multi-pronged public relations drive, with an advertising campaign in Vogue highlighting fur as a fashionista must-have.

Another advertisement in GQ magazine, in tandem with US designer Rick Owens, will be aimed at men, "the 50 per cent of the population that's still untapped".

Full-page advertisements in The Economist will emphasise fur's performance throughout the recession, while a campaign in Home and Garden magazine will push fur for home furnishing.

Oaten's new job brings more than its share of controversy, as champion of a trade - fur farming - that is banned outright in Britain, Austria and Croatia, could soon face a ban in the Netherlands, and remains contested elsewhere.

None of the IFTF's upcoming campaigns tackle the issue of animal welfare head-on, but since 2007 it has been working on a global welfare labelling scheme called "Origin Assured".

The OA label - which applies to two thirds of the fur sold worldwide - ensures fur comes from a country that enforces Council of Europe standards on cage size, access to water, type and regularity of feed, housing conditions and painfree killing techniques.

The countries that meet OA standards are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States.

The big exception is China, which produces 25 per cent of the world's fur, much of it for the domestic market.

The IFTF set up a Chinese branch to try to push its farmers towards European standards, but Philippe Beaulieu, head of the French Fur Association, conceded "it will take time".