As recently as the 19th century almost any furry four-legged animal was considered a potential garment by the fur coat lovers of the time. Today’s animal lovers and environmentalists can hardly believe the variety of creatures that used to be turned into coats, collars, hats and muffs. In those days, only the rich could afford precious furs, meaning the furs of animals that looked beautiful and expensive without much processing. The majority of the population has to put up with ordinary furs of more modest origin that required a lot of “making good” before being halfway acceptable. But apart from the esthetic and fashion drawbacks, fur enthusiasts today would have serious ethical misgivings about wearing the fur of an ape or a squirrel or the skin of a mute swan.
There are three sources for both precious and ordinary furs: nature, fur farming, and the food industry. In the 19th century, nature was the main source of fur. Today the major sources are fur farms and the food industry, which together represent almost 85% of the fur supply.
The furrier is the person who makes fur garments from raw materials, fleeces or skins. Only the finished garment is called fur, and the skin or fleece undergoes several more or less lengthy processes before it is turned into a coat, jacket or cape. The various processes depend on the type and origin of the skins and what is expected of the finished garment. Before the skins arrive in the furrier’s workshop, they have usually already been washed, salted, dried, then washed and dried again.
Fur is still very fashionable in haute couture, as is shown by Balmain’s inclusion of silver fox hats and stoles in its winter collection. The luxury label Loro Piana presents a discreet variation on the theme of the fur coat, using snug, cozy fur as the lining of the fur coat. After a few seasons of relative absence on the catwalks, fur has made a fashion comeback even among the young.
Like other garments, fur coats can also be bought off the rack. But a lady who wants a perfectly made, well-fitting item should have it made-to-measure by the furrier. As usual, the cost is greater but so is the satisfaction given by the result.
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