Saga Furs’ Charles Ross, left, with Zang Toi and models.

NEW YORK — Saga Furs, a co-operative of fur breeders, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a cocktail party and book unveiling at Scandinavia House Wednesday night.<BR><BR>Zang Toi revved up the bash when he arrived halfway through with three...

NEW YORK — Saga Furs, a co-operative of fur breeders, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a cocktail party and book unveiling at Scandinavia House Wednesday night.

Zang Toi revved up the bash when he arrived halfway through with three mink-clad models. Strangely, they were practically the only people wearing fur in the room.

Toi will be going to Saga’s Copenhagen design center along with two newcomers to the fur scene, Peter Som and Jeffrey Chow. Recruiting designers is part of the group’s plan to focus more on fashion and product development.

“I’m a big fur lover and have been using fur since my first collection 15 years ago. I’ve always stuck to it even during the antifur protests,” Toi said. “Saga has been really good to me all these years. I wanted to come tonight to support them.”

As the fifth-generation furrier, Gilles Mendel, who designs under the J. Mendel label, said, it was only natural that he would want to help Saga Furs celebrate its milestone.

“I feel I’m a very active player in the fur business. For the past five years in America, I have helped to bring fur to a different level,” he said, referring to his designing fur to look like fabric and using it in ready-to-wear.

In honor of its golden anniversary, Saga has published a “short and informative” book that is heavy on photographs, especially ones of celebrities wearing furs, said Niels Bastrup, design director. Madonna, Kate Moss, Elizabeth Taylor and even Nelson Mandela are among the subjects shown in fur pieces.

“It is the story of fur — the real Saga,” Bastrup said.

The book also touches upon the controversy associated with fur. More simply put, he told the crowd, “We love animals and we also love to wear their fur.”

In other news, as of this month the group’s ownership shifted from Norwegian and Finnish breeders to solely Finnish ones. In response, the label has been tweaked from Saga Furs of Scandinavia to Saga Furs, said Charles Ross, executive director of marketing for North America. Saga Furs continues to sell skins from breeders in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

This story first appeared in the October 26, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Danish contingent plans to open its own design center and sell raw material under the Kopenhagan Fur label, Bastrup said. — R.F.