Some faux furs simulate animal pelts, while others are frankly phony


November 08, 1990|By Karen H. Harrop

The credits listed on the cover of yesterday's Today In Style were incomplete. The faux fur jacket can be found at Furry Fakes, 1606 Kelly Ave.

The Sun regrets the error.

FAUX FURS ARE popping up in designer collections from Milan to Paris to New York, no longer as a poor woman's alternative to real fur, but as a fashionable new outerwear option with wide appeal. Even to those who can well afford the real thing.

In fact, the more colorful and obviously fake, the better.

Although simulated furs that look like animal fur still hold their share of the market, many top lines highlight frankly fake furs in outrageous animal prints in vibrant purples, red, bottle green and gold.


According to a recent report in Women's Wear Daily, faux fur sales continue to rise and this year will double or triple sales of last year.

"Everyone's jumping on the bandwagon now," says Shirley York, owner of Furry Fakes in Mount Washington Village, where she began selling fake furs at a discount 22 years ago.

"Our [fake fur] coats sold very well last year," says Georgeann Riley, sales associate at Macy's in Hunt Valley. "This year people were asking for them before we even got them in."

Why the sudden faux frenzy?

Growing concern and publicity over animal rights certainly fueled the market. Other factors, such as quality, price and the whims of fashion have contributed to the explosive growth of the category.

Many designers have discovered that faux fur fabric adds an interesting flair to their collections. It's a fabric they can experiment with, unlike expensive fur pelts.

"Faux fur is a luxurious, drapeable fabric with its own textures and colorations," says Ed Oberhaus, senior vice president, Kaneka America Corp., marketers of Luxaire, a fiber used in many faux fur fabrics. "It's really not fake fur, a term used for consumer identification, it's a whole new fabric."

Philip Monaghan, vice president of marketing for Express (formerly the Limited Express), agrees. "Our styles aren't supposed to look real, that's part of the fashion. A rust-colored ocelot, one of our hot prints, certainly can't be found in any jungle."

(In an interesting twist, designers of real animal furs are also following the trend toward frankly fake by dying real furs unlikely colors so that the pelts look artificial. Just how much of this trend is a matter of following fashion and how much is simply aimed at disguising real furs from animal rights demonstrators is up for debate.)

In the Baltimore area, customer tastes in faux fur seem to run th gamut from "real" to outrageous.

Although the coat-buying season hasn't quite hit Baltimore yet this year, Ms. York says the three-quarter length, traditional mink tends to be the most popular style with the older women, while younger women opt for sporty, short jackets with leopard, lynx or jaguar prints.

At Macy's Ms. Riley says her customers seem to prefer the solid color coats over animal prints.

Nancy Sachs, fashion merchandise coordinator at Saks Fifth Avenue in Owings Mills, says "Our fake furs just hit the floor, but we anticipate it to be a good season.

"We also expect to move lots of fake fur accessories, such as hats, scarves and hoods."

Consistent quality has long been an issue in fake fur fabrics and one that now appears solved.

The technology for making quality faux fur fabric has improved to the point that it really is a whole new concept, a major factor in the successful comeback of the fake fur.

Today's faux furs can be silky smooth, supple, warm and lightweight. As Neil Haimm, president of Donnybrook Fashion was quoted in Women's Wear Daily, "We are not selling a bathroom carpet coat like we did years ago."

"There's no difference in my mind between the two [real and fake furs]," says Carole Sibel, an active volunteer in the Baltimore community who has not worn a fur coat in eight years because of her concerns about animal rights.

"I like wearing my fake furs as much as I did my real fur," says Mrs. Sibel, who owns three fauxs, a leopard print, a solid, and a new colored coat for dressy occasions. "I can find something equally fashionable and pretty as a fur."

Certainly not the least important factor in faux fur popularity is the price.

While a real fur costs thousands of dollars, a quality faux fur may be as little as $150 with prices ranging to $1,000 or more for some designer labels. In addition, the costs of caring for the coat and alterations are a fraction of those for real furs.

With the increase in quality and the reasonable prices, faux furs are more than a fleeting fancy. They are here to stay.

After all, say Mr. Monaghan of Express, "It's hard to resist something that's well-made and so cuddly and warm and fashionable."

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