Regardless of how cold it gets, the streets of Russian cities in winter are reminiscent of a fur fashion catwalk, with a kaleidoscope of women in pelts of all sizes, colors and designs.
Despite the financial crisis, and an increasingly vocal animal-rights movement, there are no signs that the nation's women are ending their pursuit of luxury.
A fur coat for a Russian woman is akin to a baptism: you are not a woman unless you have a mink pelt hanging in your closet.
Event coordinator Lyudmila Andronova says she is not a fashion victim. She is just a lover of fur. And, like tens of thousands of Russian women, she claims to have her own sound reasons.
“It’s 100% an element of prestige, because even though a fur coat keeps you warm, first and foremost it opens doors to nice places, and that’s why many women in Russia wear them,” Lyudmila is convinced.
Although recent winters have not been that cold, fur sales have not suffered from the lack of snow – even though they did dip due to the unfavorable financial forecast. If you travel on the Moscow Metro, you will find it hard to believe women there are feeling the credit crunch. Pelt, after pelt, after pelt – fur coats are everywhere.
Animal rights activists are not happy with the situation:
“People don’t care about the animals that were killed. This comes from our socialite figures who wear furs, and people want to follow their example in order to get closer to the so-called upper class,” says Svetlana Gerasimova, coordinator of the Center for Animal Protection “Vita”. “If public personas brought animal welfare up, I’m sure people would listen, but no one does.”
However, Helen Yarmak, head of a fur fashion house, does not see anything wrong with building an empire on animal pelts.
“Animal rights activists simply have too much free time on their hands, and no way to get noticed besides scandalous situations. For some reason, they’re not against hunting, they’re against fur. I guess some people choose to love humans, and others choose to love animals,” Helen believes.
That is an opinion many Russian women support. They just have to have their pelts, and environmental and ethical concerns are far from their minds in their quest to at least give the appearance of high status.