By  on February 14, 2005

Coat makers have a lot to thank the hip-hop stars for.

After all, it is the flamboyant sartorial style of the rapper set that many said led to stellar sales in outerwear last year.

Indeed, despite animal rights activism, furs are back. Even companies that do not focus on furs are enjoying healthy sales, provided their looks are suitably glossy.

Color also is newly important, as vendors said blacks and other neutrals have saturated the market.

Lastly, pricing is key. As one vendor said off the record: “The customer is now either going to Wal-Mart or to Saks. There’s nothing really in between.”

THE FUR IS FLYING

After years of suffering from declining sales, furs once again are heating up the market.

Mitch Fazekas, owner of Mitchie’s Matchings in Montreal, which makes fur accessories such as vests, hats, scarves and gloves that wholesale from $40 to $90, said his company registered a 10 to 15 percent increase between 2003 and 2004. He anticipates a rise in sales of at least that much, if not more, for 2005.

“Fur is alive, and fur is back right now,” he said. “It’s everywhere — on coats, cuffs, boots, blouses. And more and more people are getting into it. The biggest challenge to me is that six years ago, there were three people down my back. Now there are forty.”

Andrew Vaios, director of operations for coat manufacturer Kaitery/Dena Products of Long Island City, N.Y., said sales for 2004 were 30 percent higher than they were for the preceding year, and he is expecting a similar outcome for this year. He conceded that much of the company’s business has been driven by both designers using fur in their lines and movie stars wearing it.

“It’s really brought out the fashion in real fur, and there seems to be a lot more interest in fur for fashion as well as for a necessity in the cold,” he said. “That is equally the case if we’re looking at lower-end furs like rabbit, or using mink, chinchilla and Russian sable.”

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