"Fashion Feels Fur’s Warm Embrace" NYT

March 10, 2010

Fashion Feels Fur’s Warm Embrace

LAST month, Johnny Weir, the United States figure skater, switched one of his costumes for the Vancouver Olympics after he said he received threats from anti-fur activists for accessorizing his already colorful wardrobe with just a touch of white fox. At almost the same moment, fashion designers in New York were showing fall collections with so much fur that they seemed to collectively stick a thumb in the eye of political correctness.
Did the designers forget that wearing fur is fraught with controversy? Or did they simply stop caring?
There were fancy fox cuffs (Oscar de la Renta), wild-looking coyote capes (Michael Kors), bizarrely colorful mink jackets (Chris Benz, Peter Som), knitted furs (Proenza Schouler, Diane Von Furstenberg) and capes trimmed with raccoon tails (for men, courtesy of Thom Browne). The following week, the runways of Milanwere perhaps even hairier, from the fur-collared coats at Prada to the fox mukluks at D & G.
For the first time in more than two decades, more designers are using fur than not. Almost two thirds of those in New York are, based on a review of more than 130 collections that were shown on Style.com last month, which is a surprising development during a recession. And it didn’t just happen because of some idea that was floating around in the collective designer ether.
Rather, fur became a trend because of a marketing campaign.
Over the last 10 years, furriers have aggressively courted designers, especially young ones, to embrace fur by giving them free samples and approaching them through trade groups — sometimes when they are still in college. Last summer, for example, the designers Alexander Wang and Haider Ackermann, plus Alexa Adams and Flora Gill of Ohne Titel were flown to Copenhagen for weeklong visits to the design studios of Saga Furs, a marketing company that represents 3,000 fur breeders in Finland and Norway. Saga Furs regularly sponsors such design junkets. The designers were given carte blanche to use fur with state-of-the-art techniques.
Mr. Wang and the Ohne Titel designers ended up including fur in their fall collections. Mr. Ackermann, in Paris, included fur scarves and a narrow wool jacket with ribbons of fur protruding from its collar.
“We were seeing all of these new possibilities in which you can use fur in a very light way,” Ms. Adams said. “Fur gives a richness in texture. It’s like discovering something new that also has an interesting history.”
Several young designers echoed that sentiment, saying they were less interested in fur as a luxury statement or an act of defiance than as a novel design. Mr. Wang said he had not intended to use fur in his collection but decided to after seeing so many plush fabrics that resembled fur. “The point was to create that rich, luscious feel while blending the lines between what was real and what was fake,” he said.
In Denmark, Ms. Adams said, she learned of a technique of sewing extremely thin, evenly spaced strips of fox onto a layer of silk, creating the look of a fox coat with a third of the weight and expense. For their show, she and Ms. Gill showed a version in army green. Carine Roitfeld, the editor of French Vogue, admired it, so the designers sent the sample, which would cost $10,400 in a store, to her hotel for her to wear throughout Fashion Week. Ms. Roitfeld was photographed so often in the coat that they decided she could keep it. After all, their cost to make it was nothing.
Much like lobbying groups in Washington, various cooperatives representing breeders, farmers and auction houses around the world solicit designers to use their furs. Saga, one of the biggest cooperatives, provided the furs used this season by the New York labels Cushnie et Ochs, Thakoon, Brian Reyes, Wayne, Derek Lam, Proenza Schouler and Richard Chai, in addition to Ohne Titel and Alexander Wang.
Another cooperative, the North American Fur Auctions (NAFA) in Seattle, gave furs to the newcomers Bibhu Mohapatra and Prabal Gurung and worked with marquee designers who make separate fur collections, including Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta and Michael Kors.
“We’ll give them furs to make three, four, five, even six different garments,” said Steve Gold, a marketing director for the North American group, which represents farmers in Canada and the United States. “The quid pro quo is simply that they mention our name to the press.”
Neither marketing group would disclose its budget, but Mr. Gold said it was typical to spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” each year.
“We want to make sure fur is on the pages of magazines around the world,” he said. “The way to do that is to facilitate the use of fur by designers.”
Their success has infuriated anti-fur activists like Dan Mathews, the senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who described the fur marketing as “a smoke and mirrors campaign, where they give designers money and free fur to accessorize the runway, even though that stuff never ends up in shops.”
Several of those designers are too young to remember the vicious battles over fur in the 1980s and ’90s, when a PETA member tossed a dead raccoon onto the plate of Anna Wintour while she was dining at the Four Seasons; another tossed a tofu cream pie in Mr. de la Renta’s face. But some remain sheepish on the subject. Thakoon Panichgul, for example, showed a coat in his fall collection with strips of fox bursting from the sleeves, but he declined to be interviewed for this article because of the controversy.
Others said they felt confident using fur after examining the chain of production and finding it humane.
“You see so much leather and shearling being used this season, and no one is complaining about that,” Ms. Adams said. “I don’t see the difference between using shearling and using fur.”
Saga sponsors courses and competitions at design schools, including at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons the New School for Design (as does PETA).
“We bring them knowledge about fur early in the design process,” said Charles Ross, the director of international activities for Saga.
That is how Irina Shabayeva, the winner of the sixth season of “Project Runway,” was introduced to fur. In 2003, while a student at Parsons, Ms. Shabayeva won a fur design contest sponsored by Saga. The prize was a trip to Scandinavia. After Ms. Shabayeva started her own collection, Saga introduced her to Funtastic Furs, a company that makes furs for designers like Peter Som and Catherine Malandrino.
“They were kind enough to sew up a few pieces for me,” Ms. Shabayeva said. Actually, her fall collection looked as if it had been conceived in a taxidermist’s studio. The opening look was a dress made of the long plumes of a pheasant.
The sales of fur in the United States, and its appearance on the runways, fell in the 1980s as a result of the aggressive protests. But attitudes began to change, and fur began to make a slow comeback, from sales under $1 billion in this country in the early ’90s to $1.8 billion in 2006, according to figures released by the Fur Information Council of America. Naomi Campbell, who once posed for PETA, now has a fur coat named after her at Dennis Basso.
But many of those gains were erased in the last three years, following an unusually warm winter in 2007, and then the recession. There was little fur on the runways in 2009, as designers sought to rein in prices.
Now, as fur is becoming trendy, skin prices at auction have shot up in response to increased demand; the price of a male mink pelt approaches $100 in Finland, up 40 percent over last year. A silver fox pelt is now $200, up 20 percent.
That raises questions about how good this trend will be for the designers, should stores buy their furs. Most have little experience in the fur market, and they will have to pay for the specialized production of their designs, which is far more expensive than ready-to-wear made from fabric. And if their fur pieces don’t sell next fall, they will be stuck with a lot of expensive coats.
“That’s a big question mark,” said Brian Reyes, whose show included several pieces made for him by Funtastic Furs. “The fur industry has different ways of buying or selling. Who buys it? Where does fur sell well? It’s all a new experience.”
In his showroom sits a big cobalt blue fox coat — so big, Mr. Reyes said, it could stand up on its own. The price was $6,750. Though he showed several fur coats, he does not expect to sell many this year, as he is just beginning to test the market and wants to be cautious.
But other designers are already taking orders. Ohne Titel sold more than 15 shearling and fox vests, priced under $2,000, in the days after its show. Derek Lam, who has worked with Saga for several years, has found fur designs to be lucrative. From his pre-fall collection in 2008, Mr. Lam sold 148 short riding jackets trimmed with mink, which cost $1,990. Now Mr. Lam offers furs priced from $4,500 to $30,000.
“If you sell two,” said Jan-Hendrik Schlottmann, the chief executive of the brand, “you are doing really well.”
Of the fox coat worn by Ms. Roitfeld, even without the sample, Ohne Titel already has orders from stores for 10.



Bibhu In Indian Express, Sunday edition

What they don’t teach you at Sambalpur University

Indian Express
Posted online: Saturday , Mar 06, 2010 at 1108 hrs

Rourkela, Amritsar and Kathmandu. Demi Moore, Sienna Miller and Cate Blanchett. What could possibly link the two sets? Three young men, two from India and one from Nepal, whose high fashion/accessory designs, competing in the world’s toughest and richest markets, have Hollywood A-listers gushing. They add another beautifully-cut dimension to the subcontinent's mufossil-to-Manhattan narrative
Anna Wintour. Rachel Weisz. Zoe Saldana. That’s a power-packed front row for any fashion week. And if they turn up at a show by a new name in global fashion, you better take notice. And that explains the frenzy over the work of 30-something Prabal Gurung from Kathmandu, Nepal. His runway show at Bryant Park at the New York Fashion Week a fortnight ago was attended by the crème of the industry. The clothes— colour-blocked jackets, cocktail dresses with pouff shoulders, gowns with low-slung backs and architectural silhouettes—spoke of a decadent attitude to fashion, refreshing at a time when the economic meltdown had made opulence a bad word. It won him rave reviews from the international media and adoring followers: Demi Moore tweeted about the “wonderful young designer to look out for”, while Weisz and Saldana have been spotted in his designs. Gurung, with his Keanu Reaves-like good looks and classic ensembles reminiscent of YSL, is getting used to the accolades coming his way since his debut in February last year.So is Bibhu Mohapatra, another young man in his 30s, whose journey from Rourkela in Orissa to Manhattan in New York is as interesting as his ensembles. Sienna Miller and Angelina Jolie are among his regular clients. In the one year since he launched his independent label, he has been selected for the CFDA (The Council of Fashion Designers of America) Fashion Incubator project aimed at grooming talented debutants, put out two collections that have won great reviews, and started retailing from stores like Dighton Rhode. Mohapatra, who did an almost decade-long stint at acclaimed design house J. Mendel, will have you know that the identity of his designs is not just in who wears them, but on their stylistic ingenuity. “My designs are always a study in opposites: masculine and feminine, tailored and drapey, hard and soft, and modern shapes made with traditional couture dress-making techniques,” he says.
The subcontinent has never had it this good since Naeem Khan moved out of his posh south Mumbai family business to the US and became a red-carpet favourite with Hollywood stars. Now, a handful of boys from the region, some from small towns in India, are living out their dreams as global citizens, dressing up celebrities and taking their native craftsmanship to a different pitch.
If Gurung and Mohapatra are fashion's newest pin-up boys, there’s also 35-year-old Amritsar-born-Brooklyn-raised actor-jeweller Waris Ahluwalia with his brand, House of Waris, which caters to the likes of Cate Blanchett. The production houses are spread over Jaipur, Rome, New York, even in places in Thailand and Turkey, and the products are available at swanky stores like Barney's in New York and Colette in Paris. “I have no formal training in design. Jewellery was one among the many creative projects I dabbled in, in my twenties. It was the one that stayed on with me,” he says.
The beginning for all three was far from conventional. Mohapatra’s first exercise in design was to make dresses for his sisters. “My father, an engineer, worked in a steel plant, before starting his own manufacturing unit. I was 13 when my mother taught me how to sew. I developed a strong flair for fashion, but it was not a career option at that point of time, since there were so few opportunities," he says. After graduating from Sambalpur University, he did his Masters in Economics in Utah. “During those two years, I started to prepare for my application to the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. In 1998, I moved to New York,” he says. Even before he finished his course, Mohapatra had won an internship with the design house of Halston. “Two weeks in to the internship, I was offered a position of an assistant designer. Since I was in class all day, I worked from 5 pm-11 pm and on weekends. It was a steep learning curve. I was exposed to every facet of fashion, including design, construction and business,” he says.
If Orissa was the outback of Indian fashion, in Nepal, the road map to haute couture is still largely uncharted. Yet one of Gurung’s earliest recollections are of the long hours he spent at his mother’s clothing boutique in Kathmandu, or simply sketching by himself in the 1990s. “Ever since I could remember, I was drawn to fashion. I have the fondest memories of helping my mother out at her boutique in any way that I could. My family has always been supportive, but choosing fashion as a career was foreign to them and to my culture, so they were a bit unclear as to what path I was to take,” says Gurung. Even today, well-heeled fashionistas from Nepali society might baulk at the prices of his ensembles at Bloomingdales, pegged at around $ 400 for a top to $ 4,000 for a dress on an average.
The obvious option was to try his luck in India at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). “It was in Delhi that my career truly began. My studies at NIFT laid the groundwork for my understanding of fashion and allowed me to explore so many realms of the industry,” he says. His craftsmanship was impressive, so much so that when he applied for internship with maverick designer Manish Arora, the designer offered him a job instead.
But New York was a growing obsession and Gurung decided to try his luck despite the momentum he had gained in India. He joined the prestigious Parson’s in 1999, graduated with honours and followed it up with a stint at Cynthia Rowley’s. The next stop was the equally well-known Bill Blass Design Studio. “I had always been intrigued by NYC, even though I had never been to the United States at that time. I knew that was where I would find opportunities that were in keeping with my long-term goals,” he says. Blass proved to be everything that he had hoped for: “The seamstresses had been there for years, and had an old-school approach to the construction of each garment”. When he launched his own label last year after Bill Blass shut down, Gurung knew he had learnt the ropes well.
Flitting between his workshop in Jaipur and his offices in Rome, New York and in Paris, Ahluwalia says jewellery was meant to happen to him. Just like acting did, when friend Wes Anderson roped him in to act in his first movie, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. There have been other roles in Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited and Spike Lee’s The Inside Man, and in upcoming productions like Jordan Galland’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead and an Italian movie, I’o Sono L’amore with Tilda Swanton. It was in Rome, where he was shooting for a movie that he came in touch with some master jewellers. He stayed back to learn the craft from them. His next stop was Jaipur—now almost a second home to him because of his workshop there—to hone his skills. “I began with an idea: to find the best artisans in the world and preserve the world of hand craftsmanship, not as museum relics, but as a way of life,” he says. His creations come with price tags that range from $3,000 to $7,000, and some even run up to as much as $ 1,50,000, but the demand has been rising, taking his brand around the globe. “I don’t fit in anywhere. It’s not my purpose in life to fit in. I do what makes me happy, how the world reacts is not in my hands,” he says.
His works, though, have a strong resonance of his roots—rich meenakari work is married to large emeralds, there’s a hint of Mughal grandeur in the kundan work, carved with exquisite stones. “In the last five years, I have sat with my craftsmen in Jaipur for six months a year, surrounding myself with skilled craftsmen. I watched and asked questions,” he says.
It’s difficult to ignore the influences of the sub-continent in the works of all three. “Growing up in India, particularly in Orissa, I was constantly inspired by the colours, the arts and the crafts. My fashion education and career have been in the West, but my eastern heritage has always been with me, and I believe it has always given me an edge,” says Mohapatra, who recently played himself in Leena Yadav’s movie Teen Patti. For Gurung, his association with Arora and experiences in the country have been invaluable. “Studying under the innovative and remarkably talented Manish undoubtedly influenced my design process. His incredible hand-beading and approach to embroidery in particular are techniques that will always be factored in my designs,” he says.
All three say they would like to extend their brand to the country which has nurtured their dreams. Mohapatra is in the process of developing his line into a full collection with accessories and fragrances for the market in Europe and the US. For India, he has more concrete plans up his sleeves. “I am looking for an organization that will help me open a few select retail locations in key cities in India,” he says. “When India is ready for me, she will let me know,” says Ahluwalia.


Manicurist Jackie Saulsbery working with the Zoya Design Team

Bibhu Mohapatra

Bibhu Mohapatra had a major amount of hype surrounding him this year and that is all thanks to his nomination for a Rising Star Award by the Fashion Group International and his recent grant he received from the CDFA (Council of Fashion Designers America) and the New York Economic Development Corporation. Along with 11 other designers, Bibhu will be given a reduced rent in the NYC Garment Center as well as mentoring and other opportunities. . 

The 20’s inspired collection was feminine with fitted pieces and luxurious fabrics.

Manicurist Jackie Saulsbery working with the Zoya Design Team came up with the combination of a full coat of Zoya Nail Polish in Sasha layered with a thin coat of Blair creating a deep sparkly look. 

The crowd not only contained major fashion editors such as Lauren Santo Domingo (Vogue) who helped style the collection, but also because of the Marianne Boesky Gallery location many fab art scene faces.


Fall 2010 collection from Bibhu Mohapatra in Vogue China

Bibhu in Vogue China
NEW YORK, 2010-2-15
By 朱璐

当下的经济环境对于任何年轻设计师来说都不是最好的时候,更别提那些想在晚装市场上取得突破的设计师了。Bibhu Mohapatra不仅有天赋而且很能适应环境。这位设计师的第个三系列是他迄今为止最强的同时也是最全面的一个系列。两部常常被引用的电影——贝纳多贝托鲁奇(Bernardo Bertolucci)的《同流者》(Il Conformista)和弗里茨朗(Fritz Lang)的《大都会》(Metropolis)——给予她这个秋冬系列的日装部分以灵感。最为抢眼的要数剪裁巧妙的羊毛大衣、带有黄铜色扣子的铅笔裙以及厚实的饰有毛皮的双排扣开襟衫。令人意外的是,晚装部分显得更加随意。那件浅色的手工打褶雪纺连衣裙很漂亮,但是很容易看出J. Mendel(这位设计师以前的雇主)的影子。另外还有一件立裁而成的丝绸晚礼服,有一半边是漂浮在模特身上的,效果非常独特。这一季Mohapatra试图展示一个更为完整的主题。这种策略在即将到来的销售旺季是很有帮助的。

Fall 2010 Bibhu Mohapatra Collection

Hillary Swank in Bibhu Mohapatra

Hillary Swank in Bibhu Mohapatra
on way to Late show in New York


in the studio

Bibhu Mohapatra fall 2009 Presentation