How far will you go to carry out your message? Or, to avoid compromising your feelings about fur?
In today’s news, the spray of red paint by an animal rights group across four retail stores’ windows, coloured both my own memory of how I felt about a fur I owned and my concern about how people with a message impress it on others.
In the 1980′s, a year before big shoulders became a fashion staple, I was urged to attend a close out sale of furs. I didn’t go.
I had no interest in a fur. I was happy with my classic navy blue wool coat and it’s decadently wide decollete.
My then husband, a status conscious and monied individual, insisted. After several of his calls I got into a taxi. I was instructed to pick up a fashion oriented woman lawyer on the way. She would help me pick a suitable coat and also ensure I completed my mission.
She sacrificed her lunch hour, between clients and court time to accompany me. I doubted that the in-store selection would even yield my size. It was gargantuan by the standards of the day, a size 16 (despite this being Marilyn Munroe’s size at the height of her popularity).
The collection had already been decimated by the rush to the bankruptcy buyout of Shaino’s Furs in Winnipeg by our friend, Mickey Cooperband of Silverman Jewellers. He had only a few coats left on racks in a kind of back room clearance space. I settled on a rich looking, midi length muskrat coat. It was light in weight, but not very brown I thought. It was luxurious feeling and it made me shine somehow, like it was made for me.
The taxi spirited me and my new coat home. The day’s 90 degree heat blasted through the back seat window as my new fur lay folded over one arm and on my lap.
It was not till my husband came home and verified that he had paid up the debt of dozens of dollars on the otherwise many hundreds it was worth retail, that I actually possessed a mink. A high gloss, well sewn with individual pelts matched superbly, black ranch mink coat.
Over the years, it was incumbent on me to clean, store, glaze, insure the coat professionally, paying for secure coat check and of course to have my initials sewn in to it. I wore it perhaps a dozen times in its life. Mostly it kept me warm on special occasions out when I was pregnant with each child.
Once, I wore it as a best friend.
On my first evening out as a newly separated woman I attended a chichi event hosted by a gastro-enterologist. Being a home town crowd we just used to say, GI for short or poop & guts doc for quick reference. His income of $650,00 per annum had been recently splashed across the top of the Winnipeg Free Press in font the size normally used to declare the beginning or end of war.
I dressed appropriately for the occasion and source of invitation and drove down in the snow, solo. Another guest soon accosted me with, “Oh, who did you come with?’
Confidently, I answered, “With Oscar.” She strained to see the where, who and what of fresh gossip. “Oh, he’s hanging around the cloak room,” I said, and moved past her and into the ballroom.
“Oscar” had always been the name of my mink coat.
Alas, big shoulders came in, Winnipeg was after all like its southern sister, Chicago the City of Big Shoulders. My old style shoulder design made it impossible to wear it with anything contemporary. Oscar was retired.
In Winnipeg, fur was practical. A dip to -40 calls for the donning of warm outer garments. The mink was beautiful, very warm and very light. It just… wasn’t me, nor was it practical for a mom of 2 babies who had to slide in and out of a car all day.
My happy choice was wool of various styles and colors. I did grow up though in a time of Police officers who walked the beat on the infamous “strip” of Higgins and Main and patrolled other community areas by foot. Massive brown beaver coats gave them authority and the comfort they needed outdoors all day.
Immigrants clamored for “Persian lamb” as the cheaper mouton were called. Status on a budget. The low end was rabbit. A sign of the desperate as it left short hairs all over clothes, lips and food.
Fox was stunning as at its most glam it was on a tall, exotic blonde and represented pure well healed jet setter fantasy.
It could horrify and surprise too. A few fox faces, teeth and eye sockets lurked in all our childhoods. We’d come up against them on collars, usually of older ladies festooned in coral coloured lipstick.
An embroidered clasp held head and tail in an unnatural meeting on their shoulders.
Fur was everywhere. It was how many supported their families.
The coat moved with me to Vancouver, where such things were not necessary. I feared selling it on Craigslist in case someone came to my door and sprayed me with red paint for having a coat, I never wanted.
I sold it in 2 days on Craigslist, Montreal. Cold climate. A fashion capital. Perfect match. A dealer sent FedEx ground service the next day and paid in advance.. I am sure they made thousands on my mint condition, vintage coat. In fact, they had a buyer ready in Montreal as my ad featured photos with useful measurements.
Below, this week’s affirmation on why I was right to fear reprisals all those years. Written by J Bell, it is appeared May 24, 202 in The Province daily news.
“An animal rights group, Animal Liberation Front, claimed responsibility for the red paint splashed on the windows and signs of Snowflake Canada, Pappas Furs and Speiser Furs. A fourth instance of vandalism, at Capilano Furs in North Vancouver, was also claimed in the ALF news release with ALF adding they splashed paint on the owner’s vehicles as well.
All of the vandalism took place in the early morning of Wednesday, May 23.
The release said the paint was splatter was “to remind the public of the innocent blood spilled every day in the vicious fur trade.”
“This action is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of mink suffering and dying on the many, filthy, polluted fur farms in the Lower Mainland.”
—– Helena here again. How do YOU feel about fur. I had an unintentional ‘brush’ with it. I see all sides of the debate that rages and ravages both animals and the economy of genuine hunting peoples.
What say you?
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