Boyd, who earned a tidy $530,000 by selling more

The skin trade war

Thousands of pelts dangle from racks in the hangar like building near Toronto’s Pearson Airport where Don Boyd has come to seek his fortune.

A second generation mink rancher from Manitoba, he has hauled the cream of his crop to the sprawling offices of North American Fur Auctions (NAFA), and keeps a close eye on the electronic board that tracks bids in what amounts to high quality designer replica handbags a global fur bazaar.

“Last aaa replica designer handbags year we saw the biggest crowd ever,” boasts Mr. Boyd, who earned a tidy $530,000 by selling more than 7,000 pelts to buyers from around the world. “It’s nice to know where the furs are going.”

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And they are going, more than ever, to China.

Five years ago, Chinese buyers barely registered in the marketplace. But growing demand for luxury goods has seen interest in fur coats soar, and mainland China now accounts for almost two thirds of all furs sold in Canada.

Thanks to this growing appetite, the Canadian fur trade is experiencing its greatest transformation since the Hudson’s Bay Co. started shipping beaver skins to Britain in 1670. For more than 300 years, the business on which the Canadian economy was built a consolation prize when the storied trade route to the Far East failed to materialize supplied hats and coats to the rich and famous of Europe.

Now the Bay has an American owner, and China the initial object of the early explorers’ desire has replica louis vuitton handbags reversed the flow; cities such as Beijing, Shenyang and Harbin have overtaken London and New York as major fur fashion centres.

Trappers and ranchers love it. Since 2000, Canadian auctioneers have witnessed a 50 per cent increase in sales, soaring to an all time high of roughly $200 million last year. In November, China officially removed many import restrictions on the industry, opening up trade in raccoon and fox pelts.

“The Chinese are very showy high quality designer replica handbags wholesale ,” says Diane Benedetti, international marketing director for NAFA. “They like their Mercedes and Rolexes and furs. The consumer is very fashion oriented there.”

But there is a serious downside to the fake designer bags trend. Canadian designers and garment makers not only must pay higher prices for their furs, they have to compete with Chinese companies that enjoy much cheaper production costs. Even worse, they are watching helplessly as some of their signature designs are being knocked off, further undercutting their sales.

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Perched on a chair behind the auction’s glassed in “bull pen,” Mr. Boyd scribbles prices in his catalogue as traders and trappers vie for the best deal.

The pace is relentless. Over six days, the auctioneers must sell almost four million furs a warehouse stacked with everything from black mink and silver fox to bearskins. With a quick nod of the head or flash of the paddle, Designer Louis Vuitton Replica Handbags lots go in a matter of seconds.

All this activity comes none too soon for the aging trappers trying to eke out a living in the hinterland.

Max Clement cheap louis vuitton bags from china has worked his Northwestern Ontario trap line for six decades, and he has seen it all from albino beavers to bear attacks. But the strangest twists are in the marketplace: Between 1987 and 1991, he watched his income plummet as anti fur protests raged and groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) stigmatized fur here and abroad.

Sales of wild pelts dropped to $18 million, and then a growing Russian market helped to soften the blow, cheap replica handbags bringing replica louis vuitton bags the tally back to $50 million in the mid 1990s, only to have a ruble devaluation in 1998 leave trappers in the lurch again until the rise of the Asian dragon.

“If the economy of the Chinese goes the way we think it will,” Mr. Clement says from his home in Atikokan, “we won’t be able to keep them in fur.” He predicts China’s market will be more stable because the Chinese “don’t give a damn about the ‘antis’ the tree huggers and the save the world folks.”

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The traders who have flown in for the auction appear to bear him out.

Frankie Sun drags on a cigarette as he checks out what high quality replica handbags china NAFA has on offer. Like other members of the large delegation from mainland China that can make or break the sale, he is sitting out the bidding on white mink. Their market just isn’t interested, so they’ve gathered in a back room to play poker a little recreational gambling before the high stakes battle begins on what their customers do like: black mink.

The buyers stick together at the auction, but they never confuse business with pleasure. Many are looking to capitalize on the fact that NAFA has scheduled the event too close to Chinese New Year, prompting some of last year’s big players to stay home.

“They made a mistake,” says Mr. Sun, who divides his time between Germany and China, and is keen to stockpile before prices climb.

His own fortunes have soared in lockstep with those of China’s fur trade. He started two decades ago as a trade representative for a state owned enterprise, but turned entrepreneur in the mid 1990s when the Russians came to China to make coats. Then he switched to supplying raw furs to the 1:1 replica handbags domestic market, starting with two manufacturers in Xina Zhong, a town in northern Hebei province. “Six years later, I have 30 customers,” he says. “It’s become a fur village now.”

NAFA’s Ms. Benedetti has witnessed the Chinese transformation firsthand. In the 1990s, she was based in Hong Kong and moved to Shanghai in 2004 because “I could see things were changing.” The pendulum was swinging toward emerging economies, and the Canadian fur industry was looking for new territories to conquer.

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Her company now spends more money promoting Canadian furs in China than anywhere else in the world, supporting local runway shows and promotions. The Chinese have an appetite for Louis Vuitton and Prada, says Ms. Benedetti, who is trying to market Canadian fur as a distinctive brand and boasts it is gaining ground in the marketplace.

Last year, Guifuren Fur, a major retailer in Harbin, paid the highest recorded price at auction: $65,000 for a lot of 50 wild black mink pelts. Then the company, acting on NAFA’s recommendation, hired Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri to fashion a Perfect Quality Louis Vuitton Replica dramatic coat, complete with crystal studded collar and sleeves, accessorized with a $10,000 diamond broach.

Dubbed the “Million Dollar Coat” (it’s worth 2.88 million yuan, or almost $440,000) Designer Louis Vuitton Replica Handbags , it was modelled by movie star Rosamund Kwan for the opening of Guifuren’s new Harbin store in December. “When she came out aaa replica designer handbags , the cameras were flashing,” says Ms. Camilleri, who was at the gala opening dinner and spent two weeks in China promoting her designs to a market she says is becoming increasingly sophisticated.

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