The Fur Is Flying (Off the Racks)

Fur sales are up and it's not just due to the brutal chill. Retailers say fur has shed its image as something just wealthy grandmothers wear, and is newly popular with the hipster set.

"It's clear the driving force behind the increase we've seen is fashion," said Keith Kaplan of the Fur Information Council of America. "Yes, the cold weather helps, but we're seeing so much in the realm of trims and fanciful pieces because fur is a beautiful fabric."

But the latest resurgence in fur-buying begs the question, where have all the paint-spraying protesters gone?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say they've succeeded in their mission of turning fur into a four-letter word. PETA is notorious for aggressively targeting the fur industry  -- doing things such as hurling tofu pies, red paint and insults like "fur scum," at people wearing animal pelts.

Indeed, in the 1990s, when the group launched some of its more high-profile anti-fur campaigns, sales in the industry did drop.

"We feel as though we've done our job," Dan Shannon, a PETA spokesperson said. "People understand that wearing fur is cruel and unnecessary and we don't really need to continue to educate people about that."

Of course, not all the protests are over. In November last year, PETA members interrupted the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, leaping onto the catwalk when supermodel Gisele, who appears in fur advertisements, strutted by. The model, however, ignored the protesters and didn't even break her stride.

In the past, fur fashionistas have been hunted by PETA relentlessly, but none as much as Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue. Wintour once had a dead raccoon thrown onto her plate at lunch by an animal activist who shouted, "Anna wears fur hats!" and has been splattered with red paint.

PETA members have even stripped in front of the White House and displayed a banner reading, "I'd rather go naked than wear fur," continuing a campaign launched in 1991 that has featured celeb supporters like Pamela Anderson in the buff.

However, the group is now shifting its focus to protesting other animal rights causes such as meat-eating and the leather industry.

Industry leaders say PETA did make people think twice about fur, but with record low temperatures in much of the country, fur coats have come out of their long hibernation.

"They're coming in to buy fur in unprecedented numbers," Kaplan said.

In 2000, fur had its best year in a decade with $1.7 billion in sales nationally -- almost twice what it was in 1991.

Fur fashion has gone beyond the classic full-length coats for uptown ladies: Accessories like fur hats and bags, are popular, as are colored fur coats.

And women aren't the only ones enjoying the luxurious trend -- men have started wearing fur like never before.

"Our men's sales have increased 500 percent," Kaplan said.

Fox News' Amy C. Sims contributed to this report.