By  on March 24, 2010

MILAN — Following a flurry of fur on fall runways in diverse forms like patchwork textures, dramatic trimmings and wafer-thin cuts resembling fabric, the fur industry’s resurgence continued to show an evolving face at the latest edition of Mifur here.

Lightweight wild furs, including raccoon, beaver, and unlined mink paired with sporty fibers such as jersey and nylon showcased the industry’s strong creative side at the 15th edition of the fur and leather exhibition that ended its four-day run on March 6.

Some 200 exhibitors participated in the fair. Thirteen labels paraded in an off-site runway show, including American designer Zac Posen, French luxury house Nina Ricci and Italian design talent Gabriele Colangelo, whose fur collection made its debut.

Exhibition visitor figures indicate fur’s increasing momentum within the fashion sector. Attendance was up 8.3 percent this year — 8,263 visitors compared with 7,627 in 2009. Russian attendance jumped 41 percent to 1,548, and the presence of U.S. buyers shot up almost 14 percent to 131.

“This year will be challenging, but our sector looks to remain a point of reference for traditional luxury as well as new markets, as it moves toward more fashion-led products,” said Norberto Albertalli, president of Mifur and co-owner of fur maker Albertalli.

According to Pambianco, a consultancy that follows the Italian fashion industry, fur sales fell by 22 percent to 618 million euros wholesale, or about $843 million at current exchange, in 2009. The drop is credited to a sharp downturn in Russian exports. Pambianco predicted, however, this figure will rise by 2 percent in 2010.

Trends veered between lightweight sharp cuts and sporty shapes referencing the runways’ minimalist elegance, an abundance of trims on hoods, cuffs and necklines, and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, an artisan approach seen in embroidered pelts and artfully disheveled long-hair fur.

Despite a tough year ahead, executives at the fair were mostly upbeat about where the industry seems headed, stressing the versatility of fur and its ready-to-wear potential.

“Fur is definitely undergoing a revival. Young designers are seeing it beyond a final garment, and are keen to use it again,” said Tina Jagros, executive director of the North American Fur Association.

“Zac Posen has helped to relaunch wild fur at a whole new level,” Jagros added, referring to the designer’s use of beaver and raccoon.

Posen’s collection for New York-based furrier Pologeorgis set the fair’s contemporary tone with a capsule collection aimed at hip young women. Funnel-neck fox coats, striped furs with flashes of turquoise and red and even heels covered in long, fluffy hair were wearable trends echoed throughout the exhibition.

“Demand is increasing for versatile pieces like boleros and gilets. We’ve introduced a lot more pieces for a younger consumer,” said Sotiris Vogiatzis, chief executive officer for Greek firm Kami Furs, which signed a licensing deal with French luxury label Nina Ricci last year.

“We’ve completely redesigned the line,” said Sotiris of Nina Ricci’s first complete collection after the deal. The line comprises red-carpet-ready sable jackets, fox gilets and ultraluxe, three-quarter-length lynx coats.

Enlarging an increasing younger customer base was a key theme.

Yves Salomon unveiled its 245 St Honoré collection, aimed at the contemporary customer.

“We’ve developed techniques to give fur a textile appeal,” said president Yves Salomon, noting the trend-conscious collection blends long-haired fox with jersey and cashmere on minidresses, and includes raw-edged jackets.

Direct from showing his ready-to-wear collection at Milan Fashion Week, young designer Gabriele Colangelo presented his first collection of tactile fur separates, called Gabriele Colangelo Furs, distributed by Unifur.

“I used fur as a fabric and worked it into prêt-à-porter styles,” said Colangelo. The paper-thin, unlined mink and sable pieces included tunic-style dresses, embroidered shaved mink gilets and coats with sable panels in muted colorways that had a velvety appearance.

Weight and versatility were also key themes at the fair.

“I wanted a line that can be rolled-up and put in a suitcase,” said Colangelo of his lightweight collection.

Lightness was also high on the design agenda at Gianfranco Ferré, where a sporty flair was evident on mink jackets featuring leather and nylon sleeves, some with detachable sleeves and patch pockets.

“There’s been an incredible evolution of fur,” said Roberto Ravizza, founder and ceo of furrier Mondiapelli, which has designed and produced Ferré furs since 1987.

Elsewhere in the collection, practical tunics, maxi pullovers and duffel coats trimmed in sable added a versatile and wearable edge.

Vicenza-based Giuliana Teso’s collection had a sporty component, too. Mink-lined khaki-colored parkas, sleeveless super-light foxes, and silver sables with zip fronts and vests offered a fresh twist on luxe outerwear.

“It’s vital to interpret the product in new ways and create a unique identity,” said Carlo Teso president and ceo of GT USA, the company’s American arm. Following high demand, the company plans to enlarge its skiwear collection launched last year that fuses technical fibers with fur trim.


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