1. Headline
  1. Headline
AP & Oscar de la Renta/FICA
This Oscar de la Renta (R) ensemble features hat and trim made from the rich, hardy fur of the nutria. The prolific, beaverlike rodents (L) are damaging the Gulf Coast ecosystem, and the government is paying trappers for their tails.
TODAY contributor
updated 9/13/2010 12:49:51 PM ET 2010-09-13T16:49:51

A fur that’s politically correct and even ecology-friendly to wear? Is such a thing possible?

Well, maybe. Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, Patrik Ervell and Gilles Mendel are among the designers who might be described as nuts for nutria fur.

Nutrias are large semiaquatic rodents that are indigenous to South America. In the late 1880s, fur trappers imported these beaverlike creatures to Louisiana to breed. But the business wasn’t as lucrative as they expected, and many of the critters were released into the wetlands of the Gulf Coast.

    1. Bobbie's Buzz: Best buys for guys
    2. 'Snow White' mania inspires fashion, beauty lines
    3. 'Hipster' eyewear new trend for defendants on trial
    4. Our 12 favorite nourishing oils — for face, hair and body
Too many nutrias
In addition to sporting a thick, lustrous fur, nutrias are quite prolific. So 100 years later, it was found that the nutria population of Louisiana was decimating the wetlands by devouring marsh grasses, eroding and damaging the area’s delicate ecosystem.

In response, the Coastwide Nutria Control Program was introduced in 2002. Managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and funded with federal dollars, the program is currently paying $5 for each nutria tail turned in to the program, enabling coastal trappers — many of them survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita — to make a living.

“Lots of coastal trappers are earning money through the Coastwide Nutria Control Program,” Edmond Mouton, biologist and program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, told TODAYshow.com. “We took in about 300,000 tails in the years before Katrina and Rita. Post Katrina and Rita, it dropped a bit because of the impact of the storms, but this is a fairly resilient group of people. In the past year, they set a record of 445,963 tails.”

This intake has had a direct effect on the wetlands. “We’ve gone from 100,000 acres damaged in 2001 to a little more than 8,000 acres damaged now coastwide,” Mouton added, “It’s a successful program.”

ROBIN LOZNAK  /  for msnbc.com
The nutria population of Louisiana has decimated the wetlands.

After the state takes the tail, the trappers can then sell the pelts for additional income. “A lot of the fur is shipped to China and used in the Russian and Eastern European markets to make hats and coats — medium-price type garments,” Mouton explained. “They get $1 to $1.50, sometimes $2 per pelt, depending on the quality.”

“China is the single biggest fur market today and Russia is right after that,” Keith Kaplan, executive director of the Fur Information Council of America, told TODAYshow.com. But, he added, each fur has its own “fashion” cycle.

Back in fashion?
“Nutria has been quiet in the past few years,” Kaplan said, but it is on the rise in fits and starts: “Last season, Oscar de la Renta did a nutria vest.” Michael Kors has used sheared nutria to line raincoats, which is a perfect application. “It’s a durable, dense fur that is traditionally used as trims or in linings. It can have a rich, rugged look.”

Designers de la Renta and Kors are in the last stages of preparing their Spring 2011 collections to show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York this week, and consequently declined to comment. However, Mel Castro, product development director at Pologeorgis Furs, which holds the license and makes Michael Kors’ furs, said, “We’re not currently using a lot of nutria, but who is to say it’s not going to be the big trend next season?”

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Hillary Clinton: Granddaughter led me 'to speed up' political plans

      Clinton said she is inspired to keep working to ensure that Charlotte and her generation are provided equal opportunities ...

    2. Lauren Hill, inspirational college basketball player, dies
    3. Marathon dad's victories help raise money for son with spina bifida
    4. Will it work on Vale? Savannah tries tissue sleeping trick at home
    5. Listen to the chilling 911 call Sandra Bullock made during break-in

Images of the latest styles in the spotlight at New York Fashion Week

In addition to fashion dictating what is popular, current events also affect what is socially acceptable, Kaplan said. “There have been coyote incidences in Los Angeles and Chicago, so there are calls for increased trapping. In Maryland, there was a law passed about not trapping beavers, and all these trees started coming down. Now there’s a movement to trap beavers. In New York, there’s a raccoon problem,” he cited. “States don’t have the budget to deal with these problems, so things like financial incentives help wildlife agencies manage overpopulation.

“Fur is a renewable, sustainable resource,” Kaplan added. “And faux fur is a petroleum product.” Which is a particularly sensitive issue for residents along the Gulf these days.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: Wackiest Fashion Week styles

loading photos...
  1. Would you wear this?

    Top designers at New York Fashion Week Spring 2011 sent down an array of unique, odd, and downright bizarre styles.

    Pom pom pretty Celebrity designer Georgina Chapman said she was inspired by Orientalist paintings for the Marchesa Spring 2011 presentation. (Dario Cantatore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Something's missing

    Designer Jeremy Scott is known for his lavish, eclectic designs and he certainly didn't disappoint with the Jeremy Scott Spring 2011 fashion show. (Fernanda Calfat / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Thin and bones

    With Kanye West in the audience, the Jeremy Scott Spring 2011 fashion show featured models in bizarre 80s styles and eclectic designs, including a revealing dress made of fake prosciutto. (Fernanda Calfat / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Howdy there

    The Zang Toi Spring 2011 collection was inspired by the Texas fashion of the 1956 film "Giant." Models strutted in cowboy hats, big hair and dramatic capes. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Cupcake couture

    Betsey Johnson, known for her lavish and cute designs, revealed a sweet pink design in her Spring 2011 collection during New York Fashion Week. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Fashion logger

    A model holds a wooden creation during the Toni Francesc Spring 2011 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Knit wit

    Marc Jacobs looked to 1970s disco excess for his Spring 2011 collection during Fashion Week. Frizzy hair, psychedelic prints and striped knits made a groovy splash on the runway. (Seth Wenig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Varsity blues

    It was high school wackiness at the Gerlan Jeans Spring 2011 fashion show. Models strutted in bright varsity jackets, short skirts and loud prints. (Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images ) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Take a bow

    A model presents a dramatic creation by Marc Jacobs during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at the Lincoln Center. (Peter Foley / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Layer cake

    No stranger to ruffles, designer Betsey Johnson presented a neon-bright gown reminiscent of a Barbie birthday cake during the designer's Spring 2011 collection. (Diane Bondareff / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Graphic detail

    Inspired by "color," Alexandre Herchcovitch sent down models in colorful graphic prints for his Spring 2011 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. (Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Glow getter

    Designer Betsey Johnson said she was inspired by a bike ride through New York City for her wild Spring 2011 fashion show. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Barely there

    A model shows off his bare midriff during the Edwing D'Angelo Spring 2011 fashion show. (Leigh Vogel / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Hit or myth?

    The Greek gods would be proud. The Vassilios Kostetsos Spring 2011 fashion show drew inspiration from Greek mythology and the natural elements of Greece itself. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. What a mesh

    A model shows off an avante-garde creation at the Vassilios Kostetsos Spring 2011 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. To dye for

    Titled "Fiction and Reality," the Custo Barcelona Spring 2011 fashion show opted for dazzling, bohemian colors. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A multitude of skins

    Known for theatrical shows, the Richie Rich spring 2011 collection included models in teeny-weeny outfits. (Mark Lennihan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Is it cold in here?

    Suggestive, to say the least. A model walks the runway at FASHION NEXT the ELLE RISD Design Award runway presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2011. (Neilson Barnard / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Cut off

    Where's the rest of the jacket? A model shows off a contemporary ensemble at FASHION NEXT the ELLE RISD Design Award runway presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2011. (Neilson Barnard / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Gladi-eather

    Thigh-high gladiator sandals make an austere statement at the Malandrino Spring 2011 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. (Jason Kempin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Seeing spots

    A spotty design from the Project Runway Spring 2011 collection during Fashion Week in New York. (Bebeto Matthews / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  1. Image: Marchesa - Presentation - Spring 2011 MBFW
    Dario Cantatore / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (21) Wackiest Fashion Week styles
  2. Image: Victoria Beckham Dresses - Presentation - Spring 2011 MBFW
    Frazer Harrison / Getty Images
    Slideshow (16) Top Fashion Week trends
  3. Image: Jeremy Scott - Front Row & Backstage - Spring 2011 MBFW
    Andy Kropa / Getty Images
    Slideshow (63) Stars come out for Fashion Week

Video: From the catwalk to your closet

  1. Transcript of: From the catwalk to your closet

    ANN CURRY, anchor: This morning on TODAY'S STYLE , fall fashion. Fashion Week is considered a very big deal here in New York City where all the designers showcase the collections that you'll be seeing in stores about six months from now. So we went behind the scenes at Fashion Week last February with Glamour magazine 's editor-in-chief Cindi Leive , who's checking out looks for fall.

    Ms. CINDY LEIVE: It's the last show of New York Fashion Week . This is Tommy Hilfiger 's show. It has been a whirlwind this week. And this show has particular significance because it is the last show to be held here in the Bryant Park tents, where the shows have been for ages. We move next season to Lincoln Center , so this show has some special sort of sentimental value.

    Ms. LEIVE: There are a number of trends that have bubbled to the surface so far in New York Fashion Week , we're looking at metallics. This is something that's been in the stores for a while, gold, silver, copper, bronze; the difference is you're wearing them for day, we saw this at a number of different shows, Tory Burch , Vera Wang , Isaac Mizrahi . You're taking your metallics up and you're not just wearing it out at night, you're wearing it potentially to work with a great little camel-colored coat over it.

    Ms. LEIVE: Another big trend for fall that we're seeing is neutrals and I'm not talking about black and navy and gray, although those are still fine. The big trend is towards sort of camel-colored clothes. We're seeing a lot of denim, a lot of fringe, a lot of leather, little cowgirl shapes, shirts, everywhere from Derek Lamb to lots of other places. It has been a real Wild West frontier on the runway this week. And it's a very wearable trend , so I'm all for it.

    Ms. LEIVE: Another trend we're seeing, furry touches. Neutral-colored or brightly vivid yellow or blue. Everything from coats to fur showing up on boots, on bags, little bits at the neck, around the wrist, fur piled on top of fur. If you like the soft stuff, you're going to be happy.

    CURRY: And Cindi Leive is Glamour 's editor-in-chief and she joins us now. That was really fun to watch, Cindi .

    Ms. LEIVE: Thanks, Ann.

    CURRY: And it's really interesting to see how these might work, and this is really what the designers hope will become a trend . I mean, that -- they're unveiling it, really.

    Ms. LEIVE: Yeah. We see this stuff at the shows and then you wait to see what actually makes it into the stores. So those clothes are now in the stores and showing up on women everywhere.

    CURRY: Let's take a look at one of these runway trends, and it's called metallics.

    Ms. LEIVE: Yeah.

    CURRY: It's under that name and under -- Cara is actually our model today. Hello, Cara.

    Ms. LEIVE: Yeah. I love her dress, this is a little silver dress. And one thing that you notice about it, by the way, is that it's not Tin Man silver, this is not super bright. These metallics become much more wearable for day, as she's wearing hers here, if they're a little bit more textured, a little bit more subtle in their shine. And this, by the way, is $40 from H&M , which is just an amazing price.

    CURRY: So they're already are knockoffs of the -- of the trends on the runway.

    Ms. LEIVE: You're seeing metallics everywhere.

    CURRY: Mm.

    Ms. LEIVE: I mean, you know, every price point, highest-end designer and very affordable things you can find at the mall.

    Ms. LEIVE: And, you know, I like this idea of pairing it with black, putting it with flats, it makes it more casual, you know, it doesn't feel as sort of out on the red carpet as it might.

    CURRY: Does this mean that the all-black dark leg is still in fashion this year?

    Ms. LEIVE: Yes, you can still do that...

    CURRY: Oh, good.

    Ms. LEIVE: ... and I intend to.

    CURRY: Cara -- me too, it's fun -- Cara , thank you so much this morning. We've got -- now we've got Tina wearing the camel and denim pairing.

    Ms. LEIVE: Yeah, you're going to hear the word "camel" a lot when you read about fashion this fall. And we're not talking about the animal, we are talking about the color, just to be clear. So this is a great sweater. And, you know, what's new here is that you're wearing it with denim, it's a very all-American look. This reminds me of those supermodels from the '70s, Lauren Hutton and the old Charlie fragrance ads. And it just feels very relaxed but still kind of put together. And, you know, one interesting point is that you can see she's actually mixing her shades of camel, the shoes don't match the sweater exactly, and that's good...

    CURRY: Oh.

    Ms. LEIVE: ...otherwise it gets a little too matchy matchy.

    CURRY: Yeah. So actually, you know, exactly, that seems like it's more liberating.

    Ms. LEIVE: Yeah, you don't have to sweat it.

    CURRY: And does it need to always be in this kind of a preppy look, or can -- is it being used in a different way?

    Ms. LEIVE: No, you could really wear it with anything.

    Ms. LEIVE: In fact, I think this sweater would look great over a little sparkly dress.

    CURRY: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. LEIVE: So if you have a little gold dress and you want to mix it with something camel colored, I think that would look spectacular.

    CURRY: Cindi , you've got it going on. All right. Thanks a lot, Tina . Well done. And we've got now our third spring trend , and it's called -- actually fall trend .

    Ms. LEIVE: Fall trend .

    CURRY: It's called fake fur . And we've got Jessica as our model.

    Ms. LEIVE: Yeah. There was so much fur on the runway, Ann. I counted one day, there were seven straight shows where we saw fur. But one really nice thing was that there was a lot of faux fur ...

    CURRY: Mm.

    Ms. LEIVE: ...so if you don't like to wear real fur either because of cost reasons or ethical reasons, there's a lot of great-looking stuff out there. And I love the idea of a vest because it's more casual, feels a little younger and more fun than wearing a full-on fur coat , which can sometimes make you feel like Chewbacca .

    CURRY: Mm.

    Ms. LEIVE: So, you know, I think this is a great -- a great little find, and this one is from BB Dakota and it's $75.

    CURRY: And you can zip it or unzip it. I wonder if you could belt that as well.

    Ms. LEIVE: You could absolutely belt it. You could wear it over a little short-sleeved top if you wanted a more kind of casual rock 'n' roll look for evening. You could easily put it over a turtleneck and jeans on a Saturday morning. There's a lot you could do with it.

    CURRY: Mm-hmm. All right. Well, that's terrific. Thank you so much . We're going to bring all of our models out for one last look as we talk about what people should be thinking about. I mean, obviously, people want to save a lot of money this year and you're basically showing us looks that can be affordable if you look around.

    Ms. LEIVE: Absolutely. And these are also looks that are going to pay you back because you can wear them with so many different things that are already in your closet, they're super versatile.

    CURRY: All right.

    Ms. LEIVE: So you'll be happy.

    CURRY: Cindi Leive , thank you so much . I know you're running around with this Fashion Week for this coming spring.

    Ms. LEIVE: That's right . Looking into my crystal ball.

Vote: Would you wear fur from a rodent?

More on TODAY.com

  1. @HillaryClinton/twitter

    Hillary Clinton: Granddaughter led me 'to speed up' political plans

    4/10/2015 3:58:42 PM +00:00 2015-04-10T15:58:42
  1. Courtesy Bryan Morseman

    Marathon dad's victories help raise money for son with spina bifida

    4/10/2015 5:54:50 PM +00:00 2015-04-10T17:54:50
  1. YouTube

    8 great celebrity impressions of other celebrities

    4/10/2015 6:44:22 PM +00:00 2015-04-10T18:44:22