BACK FUR MORE; Pelts are making a massive fashion comeback but old debates still rage.
THE ultimate girl-next-door Coleen Rooney poses glamorously in haute couture real fur on the front of the latest Hello magazine.
The WAG is the latest celebrity unashamedly sporting a pelt, following Kate Moss, Lindsay Lohan and Naomi Campbell, who regularly wear fur.
But you only have to look at the High Street shops to see that fur is no longer just for the rich and famous.
And as the temperatures plunged this week, I pulled out one of my most prized possessions, hidden in the wardrobe like a guilty secret.
I've never worn the fulllength mink fur coat, given to me by my mother-in-law, although it feels luxurious and I know it was expensive when she bought it many years ago.
I still remember when it was the ultimate no-no, when wearing fur was considered morally wrong and even dangerous, if you encountered an animal rights extremist.
Now wearing fur is no longer fashion suicide and it has crawled back into the collections of designers around the world. But where does vintage fit into the fur debate?
Despite shivering with the cold, I was confused as to whether it is morally OK to wear fur these days, so I left my generous gift languishing in a cupboard.
The strong opinions I once had as a student have abated and I now wear leather and gave up being a vegetarian years ago.
But I abhor cruelty to animals and hate the idea of a creature suffering for fashion and vanity alone.
Harold Altman, the last remaining furrier in Glasgow, says the demand for vintage fur has seen a remarkable resurgence in business.
A new generation of women are suddenly desperate to wear fur, he says, hauling out hand-me-down fur coats or snapping them up in vintage shops.
"I've never come across a coat that has been vandalised but I have come across a few that have been attacked by moths," he said.
"Fur is fashionable again and the demand has been huge in recent weeks."
New fur can range from pounds 300 for a rabbit jacket to over pounds 2000-plus for a mink or sable, but it's not expensive to remodel or repair a vintage fur - around a tenth of the price of new designs.
The last furrier in a once thriving industry that all but disappeared in Glasgow following the outcry against cruel fur farming, Harold stresses he is against the inhumane treatment of animals.
"The way some animals are farmed is horrific but if they are bred in a proper way, that's fine. If they aren't bred properly it reflects on the quality of the fur."
Some people swap their old, ofteninherited furs for another style and Harold suggested I tried a luxurious red fox coat, then a wonderfully soft blue fox pelt.
But a weasel coat on the hanger had a touch of Steptoe about it and I was suddenly reminded that these garments are made from small furry animals.
Nevertheless, I asked Harold to reline my mink coat and alter the sleeves.
In the Vintage Guru clothes shops in the trendy west end, owner Jennifer Cocozza revealed she simply can't get enough real fur.
The trendy west end, owner Jennifer Cocozza revealed she simply can't get enough real fur.
"We're probably selling 40 to 50 coats a day," she said. "We're selling to young girls and students but there are a lot of older women who like the longer coats. We sell more real fur than fake.
"People value real vintage fur because it is authentic, it is recycling, it keeps you warm and they don't want to wear acrylic.
"We only sell - and I would only wear - vintage but people have a choice. If we don't wear it what do we do with all the fur we have? Throw it in the bin?"
In the 1980's the famous PETA animals rights campaign declared 'I'd rather go naked than wear fur' but a new generation has missed the message. Apathetic to the cause, our fashion and celebrity-obsessed culture suggests that if Kate and Coleen wear fur, it's fine.
Louise Stevenson, from the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade (CAFT), urged people to stop and think about the ethics. She said: "In terms of vintage, it is irrelevant whether the animal was killed irrelevant whether the animal was killed five years ago or 45 years ago. The fact is fur farming and conditions haven't changed that much.
"If you wear fur, it promotes the idea that wearing animal fur is acceptable."
Louise added: "We live in a consumer, celebrity society which is influencing young people but there are plenty of other famous people who remain anti-fur."
ALTHOUGH fur farms are now banned in Britain, campaigners say legislation on farms abroad is inadequate.
"If anyone actually witnessed the conditions in which these animals are kept and killed, I would challenge them to wear fur ever again," said Louise.
The British Fur Trade Association (BFTA) argues that real fur is a natural sustainable resource, which is ultimately biodegradable, and if you look for the Origin Assured (OA) label it proves they were reared and killed humanely. Fake were reared and killed humanely. Fake furs, on the other hand, are manufactured with non-renewable petroleum-based products - it takes a gallon of oil to make three fake fur coats.
Andrea Martin, a BFTA spokeswoman, said worldwide retail sales of fur had risen by over 58 per cent to pounds 8billion in 2009 compared to the end of the 1990s.
"The cold weather is increasing sales and fur is a stylish and practical way to keep warm," she said. "In a democratic society, it should be up to the individual to make their own choice about fur."
As I tried on my mink, altered to fit, it felt so warm and glamorous, while the dark brown fur is still soft and in perfect condition despite its age.
In the back of my mind I know it probably took 60 minks to make my coat, that they probably endured a life of misery, were confined to a small cage then gassed or electrocuted and skinned.
I'd rather wear fur than go naked but my coat has been put back safely into the wardrobe... for now.
Emma Jane, 21, student from Glasgow
"I 've got two mink and "I'd than a cupboard.
"I've got two mink and two fox coats and a floor-length ocelot that I inherited from my great-grandmother, who was a furrier.
"I've also got an ermine bolero jacket I bought in a vintage shop, which I love, and various other rabbit hats and jackets.
"I object to people spending thousands of pounds on new fur but I think there's nothing wrong with vintage fur.
"There's so much vintage around these days. It's easy to buy an old jacket and have it reworked to look modern.
"My grandmother was in the fur business and her coats are all hand- embroidered inside and still look beautiful.
"I'd rather wear them than lock them away in a cupboard.
"In this cold weather, I've been wearing a fox coat and hat. There's nothing better than fur to keep you warm.
"I've only ever had compliments for my furs but my mother was in New York last year wearing it and someone starting shouting at her.
"Nowadays, it's so hard to tell fake and real fur apart.
Most people probably don't realise my coats are real fur.
"In the summer, I hang them in the garden to let them breathe, because animal pelts need fresh air and shouldn't be shut away."
Tracy Murray, 38, partner in Cove Boutique, Kilmarnock
"I'm absolutely horrified at the thought of real fur to the extent that I can't even touch it and I wouldn't have it in my s h op.
"I know it's in fashion and I see fur everywhere, but I think people need to be reminded and re-educated about exactly what happens to these animals.
"I can't bear the thought of the cruelty to them. I still do not know the full picture of what happens to them because I can't listen to the end, it's so horrific.
"When you can make fake fur that's so authentic you can't tell the difference, I don't see why we should use the real thing.
"It's tricky knowing what to do with vintage fur. I do understand people using fur if it's a family heirloom but if someone handed down a fur coat to me, I couldn't accept it.
"I'm not militant about it and I'm not a vegetarian.
There's a difference between wearing leather, which is a by-product from a cow that people eat for survival.
"But killing an animal purely for vanity for a fashion item is just totally unacceptable."
DIVIDED OPINIONS: Katrina models a mink coat, far left, and a red fox coat, left. Furrier Harold Altman, below, disagrees with Tracy Murray, right