Clothiers make a killing with faux fur designs that could fool a mink Warm & fuzzy

August 25, 1994|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,Sun Fashion Editor

This is the season faux fur will become a reality in many a closet. Designers have found a compromise between the touchy issue of real pelts vs. the tacky reputation of fakes. Their solution was to declare faux fur trendy.

Something had to give after too many severe fashion winters, with the older generation putting their status ranch minks out to pasture and the younger crowd facing any and all occasions dressed like lumberjacks.

It was the young and tough who have pushed fashion into its new fuzzy phase. The youngsters missed out on the age of glamour furs, when sables and fox were the hunting trophies of starlets and socialites. Their glamour garb was the black leather biker jacket -- hard and edgy but hardly flirtatious. They tired of that look once it showed up in kiddie departments and mom's closet. The young took a new look at grandma's wardrobe and found it appealing. The more daring scouted vintage stores for her old '50s Persian lambs, fake leopard swing coats and mouton toppers -- anything but mink. They found that a bit of fluff cheered up their black mood and the distance of time separated them from animal guilt.

Designers paid attention, as they always do to savvy youth, and are now letting the fur fly. The line between real and fake, however, has become fuzzy.

"Some of our leopard and Persian fabrications are an exact copy of the real thing," says Chi Chi Labarroque, regional fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue. "I believe fake is not completely against fur. If you don't believe in killing a leopard for the sake of a jacket, why would you wear something that looks just like the real thing? It seems like a hypocrisy."

Top fur designers are using a radically different approach, she says. "They don't want to miss out on the sales or the trend. Their high-fashion customer is more concerned with being fashionably correct and that now means fake. The irony is that fake no longer imitates real; real imitates fake."

That means real pelts sheared, sliced and dyed in colors not found in nature and fake trims that could fool an expert's eye.

"The fakes are here in everything from jackets to full-length coats. Fur textures have a strong position in the stores, not only in the mainstream, but also the couture lines," says Ms. Labarroque. "Lagerfeld and the Fendis showed fake fur trim mixed with real fur. It was a decision to make a fashion statement -- the point being that it has become so fashionable to wear fake, that even furriers are using it."

A long wiggle from Peg Bundy's penchant for leopard.

As for the real thing, says Ms. Labarroque, "our Revillon fur salon continues to hold its own. We continue to have a fur business. Our customer from the Far East and Europe still invests in the big-city coats for northern climates where wearing fur is a function of comfort. Furs are warm."

Accessory counters are looking warm and fuzzy, too, with piles of fluffy hats, fuzzy trim on gloves and the collar of high-heeled boots.

There's a fake fur furor at Hecht's also. "We think it's going to be bigger than we anticipated," says Nancy Chistolini, regional fashion director for the stores. "It's shown in both casual and dressy modes, but particularly strong in details such as trimming a collar or the hood of a parka. We have it in the "natural" shades of brown and black, but it is trimming suits and coats in this season's brighter suits and dresses."

Fabulous fakes are a way for today's woman to have a fling at glamour without guilt, not like the old days of Hollywood, when fur coats were acquired on the casting couch.

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