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Fur is flying

Retail sales soar at fashion show

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Fort Providence (May 09/03) - There is good news for fur harvesters coming off the runways of a Montreal fashion show held last weekend.

NNSL Photo

It's a long way from the dusty dirt roads of Fort Providence to the glitzy catwalks of a Montreal fashion show, but that's where Dene Fur Clouds was strutting their fashion line last week.

The North American Fur and Fashion Exhibition in Montreal (NAFFEM) was held May 4-7 and high sales promise higher prices for trappers.

Alan Herscovici, executive vice-president of the Fur Council of Canada, said the show has proven to be very popular, with many new items and treats.

"People are very surprised at what's being done with fur now," Herscovici said.

"All the new texturing, colouring and knitting have been very interesting to buyers."

While the full-length heavy coats are still selling, Herscovici said, the trend seems to be moving towards lighter, playful designs.

"There are a lot of new, lighter weight, sportier sorts of fashions than what they used to have," he said. "Small pieces, accessories like scarves and cuffs and bags and smaller pieces that you can wear with other things."

He says the wild furs are very much in demand and trappers can look forwards to higher prices at the next auctions.

"Beaver and sheared beaver have been very important," he said.

"Beaver is a very important thing to Canadian fur makers -- we are the best in the world in working with beaver and other wild furs too."

The theme for this year's show is Metamorphosis: "Like a butterfly emerging from it's cocoon, fur has returned to the centre of the fashion stage, transformed and more beautiful than ever."

"You didn't see fur much in the '90s, but during that period there was a lot of behind the scenes work going on," he said.

"New treatments and designs being developed and that's what you see going on now."

A cold U.S. winter and a changing customer base has helped rebound the use of fur in fashion lines.

"It's good news for trappers," he said. "A lot of the buyers here are from the United States and they had not only fur back in fashion, but they had a decent winter this year."

"Those stores that come to the show are able to buy more than they did last year and that's good for the whole industry," he said.

"It means manufacturers will buy more fur and trappers will get a better price for their product."

Along with the haute couture inside, the usual anti-fur protesters were hanging around outside.

"They are still trying to say their claims that the fur industry isn't important to people in the North," he said. "We have to get people in the North to speak up."

Nellie Norwegian, the product development co-ordinator from Dene Fur Clouds based in Fort Providence was "still shaky" following the press conference at NAFFEM.

She said they were showing off their Dene inspired knitted fur fashion accessories, as well as the usual traffic line of hats, mitts.

The raw and wild look really turned some heads, Norwegian said.

"It blew them away, I think," Norwegian said with a laugh.

The trip has changed her perspective on high fashion and was quite inspired by the whole scene.

"To see your product up there is quite something," she said.

"It took a lot of team effort and I feel quite proud."

While many of the Southern styles are shaved, sheared, shaped and dyed, Dene Fur Clouds flaunts the natural fur in unique knitted designs.

"Our stuff is kind of shocking for people," Norwegian said. "I think we're hoping to be setting a trend."

"It's taking them a little while to get used to us, but we are getting our foot in the door."