TENDER-HEARTED readers with impressionable children should be warned about the glossy pelts in the photograph opposite: the animal which supplied them was the possum. If that has you choking over your breakfast, then be assured that possum fur - handmade into cushions, throws and even hot-water-bottle covers by a company called Octavia Fox - is apparently an eco-friendly solution to the current fashion for filling rooms with animal skins, either real or fake. Trends on the catwalk are now so speedily transferred to the home that it was only a matter of moments before the resurgence of fur found its way into the sitting-room. Octavia Fox, in fact, started with cow-skin cushions a few years ago, at about the time Michael Kors was showing his Friesian-cow skirt and everyone with a finger on fashion's erratic pulse was buying cow-print bags. When fur re-emerged, like the groundhog, from its dark hole, the company looked at possum potential. Octavia Fox is Annabel Graham, a New Zealander, who chose that pseudonym because, as she blithely says, it sounded 'a bit snotty and discerning'. The fox bit is entirely coincidental (she doesn't offer vulpine skins), but she used the name in 1998 when she went into the Thai silk business with friends who had a weaving operation outside Bangkok. Shortly afterwards, she heard about the potential in cowhide and possum skins. She now combines silk and possum, backing the glossy fur with vivid colours, in a range which she and Catherine Bardolph, divisional merchandise manager at Joyce, worked on together. 'I'd say, 'I'd like a beanbag', and she'd say, 'Oh my God, let me see if I can do that',' says Bardolph. 'We wanted to take fur and give it a Hong Kong attitude and add some humour.' What about the ecological aspects? 'Being an Australian, I was horrified when she told me,' says Bardolph. 'Annabel's reply was that they run rampant in New Zealand and are culled anyway.' Graham explains that possums were introduced to New Zealand in the 19th century, were later released into the wild, now cause serious damage to trees, eat the eggs of flightless birds such as the kiwi, and are estimated to have a population in excess of 62 million. 'All conservation groups in New Zealand call for the culling of possums as a last resort to save the unique local flora and fauna,' says Bardolph. As for the cow-hide home accessories, she says: 'If you eat meat and wear leather, you shouldn't have a problem.' Shoppers in Hong Kong with thick skins, of course, buy real fur - that is, mink - throws and cushions. Lane Crawford has its own private label. Susanna Santi, a consultant for Lane Crawford's home fashion, has just completed a circuit of all the spring trade fairs and can do a geographical analysis. 'In Paris, yes, some fur. In New York, no fur except fake. In Italy, everyone has fur from years ago - I don't think there's a home in the mountains or the countryside where they don't have these fur things. But the fashion for buying fur is still very much here in Asia,' she says. Sensitive but fashion-savvy folk may prefer to buy fake products. Lane Crawford stocks La Maison de la Fausse Fourrure which, as the name suggests, is synthetic (although the borders of the throws are woven out of fine wools) but exceptionally soft. La Maison de la Fausse Fourrure also has the advantage of being able to create, say, leopard-skin cushions which would be illegal if they were the real thing. Faux fur is also more durable; it doesn't shed and it can be more easily cleaned if someone spills red wine over it. Fake fur, needless to say, is also cheaper than the real thing. Lane Crawford quotes their fake range prices at 'about $6,000 to $7,000' while the real animal starts at $14,000 and goes up to $20,000. Those who want to play possum can purchase an Octavia Fox bolster at Joyce for $3,200; cushions are $1,050. If you want to go the whole hog, Octavia Fox also has an extraordinary sleeping bag for those chilly nights camping up in the New Territories. It costs $26,000, it can accommodate you and your best friend, and it even has a mobile-phone holder (in case of attack by a living wild animal perhaps). The cheerily enthusiastic Bardolph suggests an alternative use as 'the ultimate picnic rug'. Of course, you can always nip down to Ikea which sells fake animal beanbags for $298, indulge the moment's trend, and wait until fashion moves on.