Posted on December 22 2014
By Marjon Carlos
Fur, in a real, un-ironic “Gossip Girl” sense of the word, is just not well-received amongst young women these days.
While zipped up into our menswear-inspired flight jackets or duster coats for the season, the site of these fuzzy toppers can induce eye-rolls and slack-jaws from an eco-friendly generation that prides itself on being aware of its “anthropocentrism”. Displays as indulgent as the long-hair goat-lined runway that Fendi sent it’s Fall 2014 menswear collection trudging down last January sends shivers up my era’s collective spines and makes these young folks hug their Vitamixes a little harder.
Instead, the new-fledged idea of furs is to reclaim them from former generations. We’re here to rummage through our mother’s closet to pluck out her shearlings, rabbits, beavers, minks, and the like, add a pair of Timbs, and enjoy our kale salad without a hint of guilt (or irony). I was initially confused by the trend when I noticed it emerging last winter in New York, where the polar vortex brought us all to our knees. It seemed odd to see mink fibers bouncing to and fro off the shoulders of girls dashing into hot yoga studios, or floor-sweeping shearling coats dragging behind their owners, as these young women trailed the aisles of the neighborhood organic food market. But my gleaned eye detected the mid-century and vintage silhouettes to these coats, and realized that vintage and inherited furs were actually brushing past me in the subway, speckled with leopard spots or squares of patchwork fluff.
Rather then giving into the influx of the utilitarian Canada Goose that had seemingly seized our metropolis, these fashionably green young women were wrapped up into something warmer, fuzzier, and more sustainable. While this observation explained so much, I still wanted to know more about this apparent juxtaposition between eco-friendliness and recycled furs, and reached out to one my closest friends, Carolyn Lazard, who boasts a collection of inherited furs.
A curator’s assistant at the MoMA, Carolyn applies her French culture to her minimalist chic closet and “whole foods” pathos to her diet and lifestyle, so she was the perfect girl to ask. But as she assured me throughout our talk, she is a self-described “aspirationally healthy person”, claiming she is not “perfect” but works to maintain a diet of well sourced meats and vegetables, with very little grains, soy, or sugar. “I think health is about a balance. I don’t think it’s this static thing you can just be healthy all the time. I think you do your best.”
Despite this unnecessary caveat (I’ve seen the girl eat: she’s a bunny!), she admits that besides being aesthetically drawn to these beautiful garments, she feels vintage furs are a much more sustainable approach to consumption. As she explains, “It’s not like I can afford to go and buy a $4,000 mink coat, but even if I could it would seem a little irresponsible to me!…I think it’s important to me that the fur I wear most of the time is a gift or vintage….As we know fashion is cyclical so there is no reason why I can’t look to the past or find something beautiful, relevant now, or isn’t actively apart of some malicious fur trade.”
With this in mind, Carolyn salvaged her paternal grandmother’s elegant suede and mink cape and found that nostalgia was an even greater implusle to it all. “I have a complete sentimental, fetishistic attachment to [the cape]. I feel like I become her when I put it on and I was very close her.” The energy and memories passed through this coat gives depth to an assumed luxury. Carolyn also added her maternal grandmother’s floor-length fox-trimmed, black leather duster to the mix this winter, which gives total “Maleficent” vibes, and she’s long worn a modish faux leopard coat that, again, was passed down through the family. She is able to tactfully absorb these items into her wardrobe by remaining conscious of a bioethical perspective: “I think we just have to have a way more nuanced and complex understanding of ecology to understand how our consumer decisions effect [the environment].” Siting the ever-rotating (albeit wasteful) cycle of fashion and anthropocene, she reminds us we have a greater responsibility to nature that is more than just becoming vegan. I think Stella McCartney would agree.
But it’s not sustainability and nostalgia alone that makes reclaimed fur such a novelty amongst us millenials: it’s all about how they’ve been styling this seemingly staid outerwear. “I strangely like to wear fur down and I think that’s my preferred way to wear it because it can look so over the top”, Carolyn explains. I reassure her it’s hardly strange: in fact, when she has come to meet up with me in the past, casually wearing a lush fur with a vintage tee, high-waisted tees, and pair of Nike Free sneakers, she looks totally spot on. Although they are our mother’s furs…they aren’t. Rather than donning these styles with pearls and a bouffant, we throw them over bell bottoms like Vogue’sChioma Nnadi or with a riot of colors and prints like Wonderland’s, Julia Sarr Jamois.
We’re subverting these styles, just as much as with our ecological and consumer politics, as we are with styling cues. By flipping furs on their heads, entirely, we create fashion and style that actually endures.
Now, back to that kale salad.
Street Style Images by Tamu McPherson
Other Pictures sourced at: