Byline: Allegra Holch
NEW YORK — Some call it fun fur, others faux, or the more blunt, fake. But whatever the handle, synthetic fur, once thought of as a fashion frivolity, has been growing in importance over the last two fall seasons and is well on the way to becoming a cold-weather staple.
Mills, designers and retailers attribute the increased demand to numerous factors: affordability, political correctness, advanced technology that has made fabrics lightweight without sacrificing warmth and the tremendous fashion range, from the overtly phony to fakes that look and feel a lot like the real thing.
“Fake fur has been consistent on the runway for at least the past couple of years,” says Melissa Krinzman, director of sales for Tyber, an upscale fabric house. The Belgium-based mill supplies its cotton and acrylic blend piles to design houses as diverse as Chanel and Todd Oldham. In addition, for fall ’95 the firm introduced a line of coats for St. John, which is also serving as U.S. agent for Tyber’s fake fur fabric.
“This fall, fake fur is stronger than ever, with rich textures and the increasingly innovative designs we’re creating with the advances of modern technology,” says Krinzman.
“There’s so much ingenuity in synthetic materials — they look amazing,” says Todd Oldham, who is partial to what he calls an “unabashedly fake” look. “I think fake fur looks really good when it’s non-traditional — like fake giraffe. I use fake fur for one reason: I love animals.”
Others note the playful attitude of many fake furs. “A lot of young customers feel funny about wearing real fur — it’s so serious and overstated,” says designer Jill Stuart, who also buys from Tyber. Fake fur is more fun.” New York-based Monterey Inc. manufactures fake fur fabrics as well as moderate-to-better coats. “Last year was the best year in our eight-year history of selling fake fur coats,” says company president Don Eatz. “We had a complete sell-through even though it was not the strongest season for coats in general.” The company is a fake fur resource for designer Anna Sui as well as Liz Claiborne.
Eatz notes a 15 to 20 percent increase in sales over the past year, and says that new, thinner piles are allowing for the less bulky, more fitted silhouettes consumers want. He also stresses the range of available textures, from authentic-looking shaggy mongolians and persians to more imaginative “ecological” floral-embossed designs.
“We’ve noticed a 10 to 15 percent increase in sales of our fake furs in the past year,” says Katy Seifert, director of marketing for Tex-Tenn, a mill based in Gray, Tenn., that has been manufacturing fake fur for both apparel and toys for 13 years. Seifert cites the advent of computerized knitting machines and new fibers such as Kanecaron from Japan, as well as a new MicroSupreme microfiber acrylic by Cytec Industries as key elements in the improved quality of fake fur.
“The new fibers make better fabrics, and our ability to translate patterns, such as animal prints, is better than ever,” Seifert says. “Not only does it look better, but it performs better.”
Retailers are noticing the difference. “Something frankly faux is fun,” says Carolyn Moss, fashion director of Macy’s East. Moss cites fake leopard as one of the easier-to-wear looks this fall. “Leopard seems to be a natural accent to the browns and camels of the season,” she says. “It’s practically a neutral.”
“The whole classification has been intensified this season,” says Nicole Fischelis, vice president and fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. “In our private label line The Works, we’ll be doing short skirts, pants and jackets in a zebra fake fur. It is something we really believe in.”