Who needs the real thing?

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Last week Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of US Vogue, championed a woman's right to wear real fur. The response was dramatic; while she was dining in the Four Seasons, a woman threw a racoon carcass on her plate and - quelle horreur -- denounced her as a "fur hag". Wintour should have known better - it's much wiser to fake it.

In Britain, imitation is less a safety precaution and more an appreciation of the art-form itself. From kitsch candy-pink fur nylon picture frames to zebra skin cushions, fluffy dogs and high-class chinchilla duvet covers, it's clear that punters aren't interested in the real thing.

Dalmatian fur fatigue may already be taking grip, but in its wake a whole range of other lavish synthetic fakes have cropped up. Tyler Brule, editor of Wallpaper, explains, "I think some of it has to do with marrying political correctness with people's desire for luxury goods. Good fake veneers are also popular because we disagree with destroying the rain forests. The flip side is that we also want to experiment with technology which has allowed us to make products look like the real thing - it's about pushing technology to the limit."

For designer and manufacturer Patrick Quigly, synthetics enable him to retain an element of exclusivity. He produces wall lights and chandeliers in fake fur. "It's beautiful to look at but hell to work with - the hair gets everywhere," he says. "I like that because mass manufacturers won't touch it for that reason. So I'm about the only person designing things in this material."

At the mass-market end, the chain-shop Accessorize is still selling leopard skin and the ubiquitous Dalmatian-spot hats and scarves like hot cakes. "It's about texture," says one spokesperson explaining their popularity. "And with so much chocolate brown around, leopard skin livens things up."

But fur isn't the only product that's enjoying a fake following - plants, flowers and animal skin rugs are also proving popular. Yet cultural commentator Peter York believes this penchant for deceptive design is nothing new. "Among most sophisticates there's a recognition that fake has a wonderful history. It's about fantasy and effects; the order of marbling done in the halls of 18th-century houses and trompe l'oeil."

It's also about a desire for decadance without paying the price - morally and materially. As Brule says, after enthusing about a fabulous line of all-fur baggage that caught his eye in the latest Milan menswear exhibition, "It's about wanting to be over the top; feeling like Liberace but also keeping a clear conscience."

Emma Cook