When a fantasy comes true…


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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.
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  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.

Vintage Fur jacket GIVEAWAY!

100 days of fur was a personnal experiment and it has been a great opportunity to learn a lot about different fur types and styles. I received great support from the fur industry, which was wonderful because I had thousands of questions (thank you again Beautifully Canadian, Fur Council of Canada and Pappas Furs). I also want to give special thanks to Theo from Trend Furs who sent me a special package all the way from Germany: a box full of vintage furs, including a beautiful jacket that I wore at London Fashion Week. Also thanks to Steven Goodman, in Toronto, who also sent me some fabulous vintage to round out my wardrobe!

I want to share the generosity with my readers so I saved this coat for a GIVEAWAY!

After asking around, we came to the conclusion that this coat is made from mink pieces — the parts cut off when the original coat was trimmed to the pattern. The oval shapes create a beautiful effect. The pictures don’t do it justice, the fur is really lustrous, light brown with golden tones, in great condition for a vintage piece. The lining was worn, so my friends at Beautifully Canadian asked Montreal designer Minos at Jean Crisan Furs to change it. The jacket fits a size 8 or 10 US, but as you can see in the photo, it can be belted to fit smaller, and can probably work on a size 12 too!

Here is your chance to be the proud owner of a vintage fur coat! Easy steps to enter the giveaway:
– Follow us on FaceBook and Twitter
– Leave a comment on this post!
– Winner will be chosen at random.
– Contest ends Friday, April 8th.

(The winner will be contacted via the email you use for the comments form)

Good luck!

Brand Feature: Venetian Decor

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A vintage fur stool, from Venetian Decor.

Here’s a short interview with Pamela Beattie, the founder of Venetian Decor, a Canadian home accessories brand best known for its use of vintage fur.

Yasmine: How did you get started in this business?

Pamela: Fashion and decor were part of my history, my great aunts were seamstresses, and one had a boutique in Oakridge, and always loved french furniture and fur and vintage brooches. I wanted to make something different, and knew there were so many people who had old fur coats that were hidden somewhere in an attic. I also wanted to capture something that related to the heritage of our country.

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Bolster pillows

Yasmine: What are your most popular items?

Pamela: I like to work with clients who have vintage fur pieces and design a piece that can be passed down. I recently met  a woman who inherited a dark mink coat and wanted to have a stool made for her daughter. I ordered the frame in (all our furniture frames come from Italy) If you have have any vintage brooches or jewelry, I can combine them into the stool. I finished the stool 3 days before Christmas, and when I delivered it, the woman nearly began to cry. That is what I am trying to capture and create for people, memories they can keep in their homes.

Fur in the home, recycled fur, vintage fur, fur furniture

Yasmine: Do you work with new fur?

Pamela: The furs for the collection all come from Montreal and they are all vintage. They need to be high quality furs, which can’t be deteriorated, if not the products will not have a long life.

Yasmine: You do custom and you have a ready-made collection, which includes lots of chairs and stools and pillows, what else does Venetian Decor sell?

Pamela: I am working on a smaller boutique line, one key item will be eyemasks, with sheared beaver on the inside and Italian leather on the outside.

Fur in the home, recycled fur, vintage fur, fur furniture

Yasmine: Do you make everything yourself, here in British Columbia?

Pamela: I have a few seamstresses, but it is a small business, so I like doing the hands on. I do most of the work myself.

Yasmine: What’s your background? Have you made furniture before Venetian Decor?

Pamela: I was taken under the wing of a professional upholsterers and worked with him for 2 years before starting Venetian Decor.

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Venetian Decor does ship internationally, contact Pamela through their website.