Natural fur gets a second look as artisans restyle, upcycle and repurpose the sustainable material into outwear, apparel, accessories and home décor.
With natural fur, the garments are true investments since the material is extremely durable. With proper care, cleaning and storage, fur can last for decades. And it can be reworked, and recycled. In fact, the “upcycling” of natural fur is being touted by environmentally aware Millennials, who are embracing fur as a sustainable choice and a material that designers are repurposing in a variety of ways.
Susan Romano, Restyle Specialist for Madison Avenue Furs in New York, restyles older fur coats. Romano, who previously ran the J. Mendel remodeling center, takes clients’ old furs and resizes and/or reshapes the coat to contemporize the look. Old fur is also transformed into scarves and hats or earmuffs and headbands. Romano also reimagines furs, transforming the material into home décor such as pillows and throws.
“I have created so many new products with re-purposed fur,” Romano said. “Items include handbags, accessories, coats for pets, children’s coats, trimmings for cloth or leather garments, home furnishings, remodeling a coat into a completely new silhouette and combining mixed fur types from older garments together to create interesting textures in a single unique garment.”
The finished products are gorgeous. And for her part, the benefits of restyling fur are numerous. “The obvious benefit, of course, is environmental,” Romano said. “We are all aware of the push to be more responsible and conscious of landfills when disposing of unwanted items.”
Restyled fur also serves as a gateway for aspirational luxury consumers. “Re-purposing fur is not only responsible but offers an opportunity for those to own fur when buying new may be cost-prohibitive,” Romano said.
Romano said the restyling process requires “staying current” with fashion trends. She creates a small collection every season of samples that are culled “from pre-owned fur that allows the customer to actually see the possibilities.”
“We then spend time transforming it from there,” Romano said. “I also spend time asking key questions about lifestyle to ensure they are making the best choice for their remodel not only creatively but economically as well.”
Romano said a “heightened awareness” of a consumer’s responsibility in regard to the environment “has only helped increase the choice of choosing pre-owned over new, especially among those who had never considered it an option before.”
Romano said restyled fur satisfies the demand for affordability with responsible fashion. “And the look, feel, and warmth of real fur cannot be duplicated,” she added.
FURB also keys into the demand for restyled, repurposed and upcycled fur. Indeed, the brand touts that the “future is upcycled.” Handmade in Montreal, the FURB collections include old fur used in new ways such as liners in fabric garments, handbags, scarves and other items.
Managing Director Christina Nacos said repurposed fur has numerous benefits for “both the planet and the consumer.”
“By reworking something old and creatively making it new again, we are eliminating waste and repurposing something which still has the same intrinsic value it always had: warmth,” Nacos said. “The ‘style’ of that original garment may have become outdated, but what is wonderful about fur is that the very property which made it so valuable remains intact – its ability to keep you warm.”
Nacos said the brand’s mission aligns with what today’s consumers are demanding, which means less waste and greater sustainability. “The idea of throwing everything out once it no longer ‘works’ is something we felt very strongly about,” Nacos said, adding that led to asking: “How can we ‘fix’ this coat and make it relevant for today?”
Most of the recycled fur is used as zip out liners for its outerwear. Doing so offers extra warmth needed for winter conditions. “We also use it for creating accessories, such as mittens, hats, scarves and of course our wonderful bags – all crafted in our Montreal studio.” Peter Dawe, creative director, finds inspiration for the collection from trips to Copenhagen. Nacos describes the design approach as “pared-down minimalism,” which allows the unique qualities of fur and its functionality “to do the talking.”
Family ties too
FURB also taps into another underpinning trend amongst consumers: nostalgia. “We love when people come in with their mother’s or grandmother’s old coat and want to know what they can do with it,” Nacos said. “The combination of nostalgia plus an unwillingness to ‘just throw it out’ really sparked a notion in us that people really were examining more closely what they were willing or rather not willing to toss in the garbage.”
Romano echoed Nacos’ perspective. “Remodeling furs is not a new concept, but the approach has changed dramatically over the past few years,” Romano explained. “I’ve seen an increase of young women coming to me with inherited garments from their grandmothers. The reasons are not only sentimental but also the thrill of owning their very first fur.”
Nacos said repurposing fur makes sense on many levels. “We use every little bit of that old fur coat – nothing goes to waste.” She said repurposing fur also “speaks to the versatility of fur. It can be re-cut, re-blocked, and re-sewn into something new.” And repurposing fur also reiterates the attribute of fur as a sustainable material. It’s a win for eco-conscious consumers and the planet as well as for business as the items are sold and then resold again.
“The fact that fur is a renewable resource should definitely factor in on a consumer’s choice when purchasing a garment, as should the longevity and versatility,” Nacos said. “I also think respect and appreciation for the value and workmanship for what you just bought should also be factored. Perhaps if we cherished more, bought less and more thoughtfully we would, in turn, throw out less – a great thing for the planet.”
For more information about fur fashion, sustainability, celebrities in fur, and much more, visit the Fur Information Council of America (FICA)’s luxury fashion blog, Furinsider.com, which brings you a “unique perspective on the things we love – fashion, celebrities, runway, lifestyle, culture – all in a fun-to-read format that is fashion focused and fur friendly.”