ROME (Reuters) - Sales of fur reached record highs this year, the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF) said on Thursday, as China's growing appetite for luxury goods put the once-taboo material back on the catwalks.
The value of the global fur market should exceed $15 billion (9 billion pounds) this year, compared with $9.1 billion in 2000, driven by demand from the growing affluent classes of China and Russia, the industry body said.
"The growth in inland China is really what's driving growth at the moment and we think for the next 10 years or so that will continue to rise," IFTF Chief Executive Mark Oaten said. "There are 90 cities in China that buy as much fur as New York."
After animal rights campaigns backed by several celebrities, and protests that included fake blood being thrown onto people wearing furs in the streets, top designers keen to tap into Chinese demand are once more including fur in their collections.
"If you look at the origins of man, what were we wearing? Fur," Ottavio Missoni, founder of Italian fashion label Missoni told Reuters at the 2012 IHT Luxury Summit in Rome. "Once upon a time it was something that poor people wore, for the cold. It wasn't always seen as something only for the rich."
Designer Vivienne Westwood said she has used the pelts of common animals in her clothes but would draw the line at using rare species.
"I think it's okay to use sheepskins because we eat sheep," Westwood said. "But rhinos killed for their horns, tigers killed for their penises, that sort of thing is horrific."
Sales in North America were $1.3 billion last year, a third more than when anti-fur protest movements were at their height in the 1990s, according to IFTF figures.
Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Robin Pomeroy