March 4, 2011 9:55 pm

Fantastic Mrs Fox

Vanessa Friedman reports on the biggest trend to come out of Milan fashion week – fur
 
Designs from Prada, Gianfranco Ferr�?, Fendi

From left: Prada, Gianfranco Ferrè, Fendi

There was one trend in Milan that overwhelmed all others. One trend that surpassed, say, a love of 1970s shades like purple, teal and mustard, or an embrace of tuxedo dressing, or a strange attraction to gold pleated palazzo pants, all trends which appeared on many, but not every, runway. This trend showed up on nearly every catwalk and in nearly every presentation and next season, like it or not, will be impossible to ignore.

That trend was fur, and though some of it was fake (see Prada and Bottega Veneta) and some of it was “eco” (see Emporio Armani, though what exactly “eco” fur is was never defined), most of it was very, very real.

Now, before you go and say, “But there is fur on the runway every autumn/winter, especially in Milan, home of traditional skins houses,” know this: even given that truth, it is still impossible to remember a season that involved so much animal attraction. The lone hold-outs were Jil Sander, where Raf Simons was busy exploring the technical side of skiwear and couture, and Valextra, where the newest launch was the “Madison”, a cross between a structured handbag and a briefcase. But everywhere else, as far as the eye could see: fox and raccoon and chinchilla and mink and sable and skunk. And not just on coats.

 
Designs from Gucci, Versace, Giorgio Armani

From left: Gucci, Versace, Giorgio Armani

There were floor-length fur skirts at Giorgio Armani; intarsia furs at Versace; furs in all colours of the rainbow at Gucci; fur bibs at Prada. There were sheepskin spike-heeled boots and big smooshy bags at Bally; Mongolian lamb cross-body totes at Furla and Mongolian lamb sleeves on cashmere sweaters at Ballantyne; mink fur booties at Jimmy Choo; and mink stiletto sandals at René Caovilla. There were even matching white fox bags and boots at Tod’s. A girl could be forgiven for thinking she had taken a wrong turn at the catwalks and wandered on to the set of Wild Kingdom.

 
Designs from Salvatore Ferragamo, Alberta Ferretti, Dolce & Gabbana

From left: Salvatore Ferragamo, Alberta Ferretti, Dolce & Gabbana

The question, of course, is why, and for that we go to Tommaso Bruso, the chief executive of Furla. “It’s the perception of value,” he said. “Brands need to show consumers what they are paying for, and this is one way to do it: by investing heavily in materials.”

 
Designs from Marni, Brioni, Emilio Pucci

From left: Marni, Brioni, Emilio Pucci

But aren’t they afraid of a backlash? Before the shows, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) sent around a group mailing describing, in graphic terms, the problems they saw with fur, and young actresses/role models such as Natalie Portman and Emma Watson are vocally anti-fur.

The answer, pretty much everywhere, was: “no”. They did their due diligence, they are satisfied with their suppliers, the ethical questions were asked and answered. Get ready for things to heat up, in every sense of the word.

For more news on the shows, visit Vanessa Friedman’s blog, www.ft.com/materialworld

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