Illustration by Kirsten Ulve
After decades of being the bull’s-eye of animal-loving protesters, fur is back with a roar, thanks to a movement toward things fuzzy and textured. But instead of grandiose floor-length coats, this fall fur appears as scarves (Alexander Wang), decorative trim (Lanvin), skirts (Michael Kors), and on handbags (Marc Jacobs). “I think of it as a polished version of a leather jacket,” says West Hollywood resident Samantha Greer, a 24-year-old graduate student who spent $1,600 at Saks Fifth Avenue on a Cassin fox vest. During the summer she wore it with a tank top and cutoff jeans—and didn’t attract a speck of red paint.
It’s not that fur doesn’t raise people’s ire anymore, says PETA spokeswoman Ashley Byrne, but rather that the public believes much of it is fake. Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, and Wet Seal have opted to go pelt free, and young designers at Otis College of Art and Design have eschewed fur. Still, its appearance on New York runways is up 41 percent over last year, more than at fashion shows in Europe, according to the Fur Information Council of America. Sherry Cassin, who designed the fox vest, was aiming in part for young, warm-weather customers when she started her New York-based company in 2000. By weaving the pelts like a yarn, Cassin creates fluid, lightweight accessories that are sold at Neiman Marcus and trendy chains such as Intermix. “I grew up in L.A. and remember when there were 35 fur salons in Beverly Hills,” says Cassin, who adds that half her client stores are in comparable climates. Those same coats that filled the old salons are being repurposed by L.A. designer David Alexander, who admits to a nostalgia for period glamour. He deconstructs vintage coats to make vests and boleros. “People are tired of looking like bums in a T-shirt and jeans at formal occasions, and they’re making a steady turn toward a more elegant and sophisticated look,” he says.