KASTORIA – Furs aren’t what most people are thinking about in Greece in the summer, especially when it’s blistering hot and they’re packing beaches and islands but fur buyers from a number of countries, including Ukraine, Russia, China and Korea among 64 business owners from around the world attending the 47th Kastoria International Fur Fair that began Aug. 25.
It wasn’t explained how the Russians would get there as Russian airlines are banned under European Union sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine, nor what relations would be like between Russian and Ukraine buyers.
The fair is “returning to normalcy” even during the waning COVID-19 pandemic and gaining keen interest despite the negative economic climate globally, Apostolos Tsoukas, President of the Kastoria Fur Producers Association said media reports from Reuters and the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA.)
The four-day event will host new designs of professionals and fashion school graduates from West Macedonia.
“We want to provide an opportunity for young people of our region to promote their creations, and we promised this will become an annual event for fairs to be held in the future,” Tsoukas said.
Kastoria is the heartland of a centuries-old fur industry in Greece, Europe’s last remaining fur manufacturing center and one of the few EU countries still allowing fur farming despite pressure from animal rights groups, it was noted.
But the report about the interest in the furs is at odds with what Reuters reported in July that Greece’s fur business was at risk because of the EU sanctions that were shutting out the Russians.
The news agency reported the dire effect on the fur businesses in a city on Lake Orestiada, west of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city in Macedonia, where the firms have been a mainstay.
Antonis Disios said he fears he will lose a fur business that has operated for decades, with wealthy Russians who are major buyers now locked out by the sanctions that exempt Russian oil and gas because Greece and the EU need it.
He had to close the business in March when the sanctions went into effect, lay off 23 workers and hope it would be able to open again because there is no domestic market in Greece for the furs.
There are hundreds of fur workshops there and they’re all in the same position of waiting and trying to hang on while essentially put of business, the New Democracy government providing some subsidies for now.
“This city is going through its worst,” Disios said, standing in his silent showroom. “We’re in despair,” he told the news agency, showing a coat made from Russian sable that sells for 30,000 euros ($30,722) because it’s one of the most expensive furs in the world and there were plenty of buyers.
“They must set us free. Or they can come take them and sell them themselves,” Disios said, pleading for the sanctions to be lifted the same way the EU has made concessions over Russian energy.
“Russians have traditionally been big buyers. The war has obviously stopped that, which is extremely good news,” Mark Glover, a spokesperson for Fur Free Alliance, a coalition of more than 50 animal protection groups, also told Reuters.