The Art of Fur: The Making of a Fur Coat

There is a reason why a fur coat has always been a luxury item. Each fur coat is unique. Each one is an authentic work of art. Up to 100 hours of meticulous craftsmanship are required to create a fur coat. A fur coat is handmade, using artisanal skills maintained through centuries-old traditions.

This video shows in 3 minutes what could take weeks to create and to ensure flawless perfection. I can hardly wait to also share the pictures of the Beautifully Canadian FW 2011-12 campaign!

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Tom Ford Autumn Winter 2011, Finally!

Tom Ford loves to keep us all in suspense… By restricting the guests, and the photographers at his fahsion shows, he manages to keep his collections a secret until HE is ready to release them. For autumn winter 2012, he made us wait until last week, when he released this video lookbook. And guess what? There is tons of fur in the collection! From the looks of things, we can expect quite a lot of goat and fox, but we are very excited to get a closer look!

When a fantasy comes true…

 

vintage picture, vintage raccoon fur coat, vintage fur, remodelling grandma's fur coat

This is what a vintage raccoon fur coat looks like

My great grandmother’s coat will meet today’s fashion and designers– it won’t look bulky and heavy anymore folks! Something significant is going to happen when it’s complete transformation occurs–I will be contributing to my family’s heritage for generations to come. I can only imagine what my daughter is going to say when she sees the coat for the very first time. Hopefully she will say something like” Nice! My mother was hip and had a sense of style!” I would be extremely proud and this adds some pressure to do this right!

musi, jean crisan, lynx fur, sheared beaver, naffem, fur on the runway

A mix of sheared and long-haired furs for a feminine silhouette

There are three characteristics that are going to make this coat a winner– a timeless style, practicality and coverage. When I look at my re-styled coat for the first time I want to say ” Wow! It’s gorgeous, it will make my curvy silhouette look elegant and feminine. My pockets are just the right size for my iPhone and keys! Look at it’s amazing, soft, warm and reversible hood! By the looks of it, it’s going to cover all the right body parts.” I’ll know then and there that it’s transformation was a complete success.

abbey lee, fur photoshoot, fur hood, chanel fur

A giant hood is a must to survive a big chill!

But before any of this can take place we need to address one more issue–who is going to make my fantasy a reality? Who is going to play my fairy godmother and turn a thirty year old fur coat into a wonderful and magical possession? My prayers were answered when I immediately connected with  Marie-Victorin’s 2011 Collection. At College Marie-Victorin Gala, I fell in love with the upcoming designer’s fur creations. Make no mistake, a mentor such as Martin Faucher which contributed at the Gala will become an asset for my kind of fairy-tale ending!

Vintage picture of the couple in raccoon coats from here
Runway picture from naffem.com
Abbey Lee picture from FashionGoneRogue.com

Unforgettable Moments – My Raccoon Coat

There I was waiting impatiently for my grandmother to ring the door bell, as if expecting her to arrive with a treasure box. In fact, she was. The treasure was a very special gift, a link to our family’s history in Canada — and what could better represent our family’s migration to this great northern land than… a fur coat!

vintage, fur coat, raccoon coat, grandma's fur coat, heirloom

My first vintage fur coat

I got so emotional when my grandmother arrived with a red box; inside was my very own raccoon fur coat! She looked at me, laughed and said, “Dear..this raccoon coat could fit three of you! You look so small in it!

Then, more seriously: “You know, you are continuing a family tradition, because this coat belonged to your GREAT grandmother!” I was astounded; this coat was more than 30 years old — but it was still in very good condition. I begged for her to stay a while longer to tell me the story of how this coat came into our family. So she did.

my grandma

Vintage picture: young Siliezar driving to Canada

In 1980, a young Siliezar experienced her first Quebec winter — quite a shock! — and the story of my own life could have been very different if she hadn’t been given this coat. No other gift could compare for a Salvadorian immigrant who was seeing snow for the very first time.  If she hadn’t received it, who knows what she might have done? I may have been brought up somewhere else!

And little did she know that, thirty-one years later, this special coat would be warming the heart — and soon the body — of her own great-grand-daughter.

vintage fur raccoon coat, leather

The leather band still in perfect condition 30 years later!

vintage raccoon fur coat, grandma's fur coat

The beautiful flower details of the lining

In additon to keeping generations of Siliezars warm, fur coats have an additional attribute: they can be re-cut and re-styled as fashions evolve. To celebrate this latest stop in the voyage of this remarkable raccoon coat, I now intend to remodel it to fit my own personality and style. Coming soon! I will visit Montreal furrier to transform my coat and hopefully I will have some material left to design more accessories!

Shaty is the new Montreal correspondent for A touch of Luxe. Read her 2 previous posts here and here

Fur Tips: Buying Vintage Fur

vintage fur, fur coat, fur tips, buying vintage fur, fur care

Vintage fur is a great alternative to new fur, as the designs can be very unique, and it is often a lot less expensive. But vintage furs need to be carefully selected, as it is easy to buy a “bad” vintage fur. I bought a beautiful vintage leather coat with chevrons of white fur (I believe it was fox) and one of the chevrons tore when I was out at a party. Within hours, the coat had torn in about eight more places. I freaked out, as the coat had cost me $100, and this was the second time I was wearing it. I took it into Pappas Furs, in hopes of getting it fixed. Unfortunately, I was told “Dry rot, throw it away.” They told me it wasn’t even worth making into a blanket. I won’t ever make that mistake again.

vintage fur, fur coat, fur tips, buying vintage fur, fur care

Here are some tips I got from Walter, the master furrier from Pappas Furs, about what to look for when buying vintage fur.

  1. Look at the fur, if it is oxidized, you shouldn’t buy it. If the fur has a yellow tinge, then it means it is oxidized. Look for the yellow tinge on the areas that are exposed to the sun, for example the shoulders, and the sleeves.
  2. Touch the fur and its leather, if it is brittle, forget it. The fur should have a soft, supple feel. If it is brittle and crunchy, it means it has dried out, or has dry rot.
  3. vintage fur, fur coat, fur tips, buying vintage fur, fur care

  4. Another way to test for dry rot is to pull on the leather a bit (the underside of the fur.) If there is no elasticity, then the fur is nearing end of life.
  5. Another sign of dry rot is rips, If there are several rips in the coat, chances are the fur is dried out. Check areas like the arm holes, shoulders, and neckline for rips.
  6. If the fur is shedding quite a lot, it might be infested with moths. Keep in mind that some delicate furs can break (for example rabbit or chinchilla) and most furs shed a little bit but if there are a lot of hair coming off the garment, or the hairs are coming out in clumps, then do not buy the coat.

Thanks to Walter from Pappas Furs in Vancouver, who kindly supplied me with these useful vintage fur buying tips.

Read more fur tips:
Repairing Tears
Dealing with Moths
How to Store a Fur Coat

Images from here, here, and here.

NAFFEM – Fur Fashion meets Innovation

 marie-victorin, fur school, design student contest, naffem,

 
“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” Coco Chanel  

I was admiring an award winning fur piece displayed at the 2011 Naffem show, when these words resonated in my mind. Comfort and fluffiness seemed to be key characteristics for these students when transforming garments mainly used to keep warm into fashionable items. The amount of talent and creativity exhibited for the public’s enjoyment was surreal. Before me was this beautifully handcrafted white fox coat mixed with a knitted wool pattern which gave it an urban style. Marie-Victorin College students redefined youthful expression through the fur fashion craftsmanship. Every detail meticulously stitched and sewed resulted in endless possibilities for their luxurious creations.       

Marie-Victorin fur collection display at NAFFEM

I was given a guided tour of Naffem, one of the most prestigious North American fashion trade shows and I was glad to be surrounded by generations of fur trading traditions. From a novice perspective, I had the pleasure of exploring the various layers behind the fur industry. Our “tour guide”, Tony Jay from www.yourKloset.com, explained the different stages of production that make this a unique industry. The cooperation between trappers, farmers, designers and retailers, creates a premium quality product. Every year the Exibition Hall of Place Bonaventure in Montreal is filled with international manufacturers that display their collections for buyers to see. Naffem is the most anticipated time of the year for buyers to shop for Fall and Winter outerwear that will be sold to fashionistas around the globe.       

naffem, raincoat, mink, reversible raincoat

Fellow bloggers Lisa Sim and Todd Kingston Plummer admire the Kopenhagen Fur reversible raincoat

Innovation is synonym of branded designers such as Zuki, Beautifully Canadian, Kopenhagen Fur, Gliagias and Jean Crisan to name a few. These visionaries not only redefine elegance but have left their blueprint by carefully using different properties of fur. For instance, if we admire the rain coat by Kopenhagen Fur collection, you are immediately seduced by it’s beauty and practicality. Who says you can’t look your best under the rain!

Have you ever seen a girl walk the walk with exquisite Zuki flower mink coat and not get a single tear of excitement? Learn more about who else made the catwalk of the Opening Night Fashion Show in an upcoming post!

Kopenhagen, cell phone pouch, mink, fur heart, pink heart, naffem

I was delighted to receive so generously from Kopenhagen Fur these accessories which are natures true gifts. Everything the heart desires!

  

         

        

How Green is Fur? Synthetics Are Not a Green Alternative

There are a lot of misconceptions about the fur industry, and it’s no secret that we love fur here at A Touch of Luxe. This is the first of many posts that will shed some light on why fur is green.

A pile of Fox pelts, sorted and ready to be made into a coat or other garment.

To start us off,  one of the first fur myths that come to mind is the claim that synthetic fur is a much more sustainable choice. The answer to this depends on what you define as “sustainable”.  Now, we all know where fur comes from and how we obtain it. Some people may not consider killing 30-50 million animals a year (a loose approximation of how many animals are used by the fur industry) sustainable. For one mink coat, about 30-60 mink pelts are used. That sounds like alot, but when you take into account that a mink takes one year to reach age of maturity, and a female mink produces a litter of 4-6 pups, that’s a quickly renewed resource. Can you think of very many other resources that renew in a year? Certainly not petroleum, or even wood.

Image Courtesy of eoearth.org

The petroleum used to make synthetic fur is a non-renewable resource: once we use it all up, that’s it for the next 40 million years. The petroleum doesn’t come out of the ground ready to be spun into faux fur, either. It must undergo many chemical treatments and use large amounts of energy to convert this oil byproduct into a wearable fibre.

A close up of faux fur. Image Courtesy of sharonsews.blogspot.com

Fur, on the other hand, does not require much treatment. Native Americans and Inuit people have been “processing” fur and leather long before the invention of faux fur. Surprisingly, fur treatment, aside from special colour treatment, hasn’t changed much. And fur is going to be around forever, as long as we take care of the environment that these animals can thrive in, and that the animals aren’t over hunted. Organizations like the International Fur Trade Federation, and the Government of Canada, have strict regulations in place to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Michael Kors, classic, relevant fur coats. Image from runwaypicks.com

Another way to interpret sustainability is the longevity of a fur coat vs. a faux fur or other synthetic coat. Fur coats, due to the cost, are usually cut in classic styles that are relevant for years and years. Faux fur, however, can be found in “styles” like this:

Image from etsy.com

No one is going to wear a coat like that for more than a season. And even with a flattering, classic cut, over a few short seasons the faux fur is going to mat and become unwearable (sadly, my knock-off Kate Hudson a la “Almost Famous” coat is a testament to this). However, fur coats have consistently proven to be long lasting, heirloom pieces that get passed down from family member to family member.

Even vegetarians have a hard time turning down a vintage mink coat. Image from the TV series "Friends".

Fur can be worn for generations, and even if the coat becomes un-stylish, it can be taken apart by a skilled furrier and reworked into a new design completely. A fur coat can even be made into a smaller fur piece if portions of the coat are no longer usable.

Let us know what you think about this new addition, and if you have any questions about fur, or maybe your own myths you’ll like to see dispelled, let us know in the comments!

Some great resources to learn even more about the sustainability of fur:

Slate.com Article on the sustainability of fur vs. faux.
A PDF from the government of Tennessee outlining how to treat fur.
Furisgreen.com

Fur Lovers Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen Stand Up for Their Right to Wear Fur

Olsen Twins in Gorgeous Fur

Depending on what celebrity rag you’re currently reading and what day of the week it is, Mary Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen are either being praised for their unique personal style, or condemned for wearing strange combinations and unflattering proportions. However, there is no denying that the pair can rock a gorgeous fur.

The twins have been a huge target of PETA for several years, facing angry mobs at book signings, on the street, and many online smear campaigns. None of this dreadful behaviour on PETA’s part, however, has discouraged the Olsen’s decisions to wear fur. They stick to what they believe and instead of retaliating in any way, simply refuse to acknowledge these ignorant threats. Not many celebrities can do this: there are several instances of celebrities being publicly attacked for wearing fur, and they immediately stop (for some great articles on such celebrities, check out our “fur hypocrite” posts). Mary Kate and Ashley have showed no signs of giving in to the pressure: Mary Kate was even featured on the cover of Marie Claire’s September issue, and the photos inside feature her in lovely fur garments.

Mary Kate in Marie Claire

Mary Kate and Ashley also include a healthy amount of fur in their collaborative luxury brand, The Row. The collection is primarily designed by the twins, with the help of specialist furriers, handbag designers, and leather makers. The brand is designed in New York and made primarily in the USA, with an importance put on ethically and locally sourcing all materials possible. The pair have managed to put out some beautiful, classic collections in the past 4 years, bringing the Row (named after Savile Row in London) to a higher standard of celebrity-turned-designer wear. This season’s collection includes beautiful fur coats and hats paired with simple, elegant tailoring that is reflective of the twins personal style, on their better days.

The Row Pre-Fall 2011

More looks from the Row to come!

To read more about The Row, check out this great article on Vogue.com
Photos of the Olsen twins courtesy of The Daily Mail.
Marie Claire Editorial from Lela London.
The Row photos from Vogue.com