by Nevena Rousseva
Sustainable fur? Sounds dubious, but after talking to the unconventional designer Peter Williams, you like me, may think it is possible. I’m not talking about mink, sable, or chinchilla, but seal and sea otter fur. It’s not the type of fur that usually comes to mind, and this new designer doesn’t procure it by going to a wholesale furrier and buying the hides. His way is a little more old fashioned.
Peter Williams is half Yup’ik Eskimo and half European blend from Alaska who hunts seals and sea otters. He hunts the animals for food and uses the hives to make vests and other products under his company Ata. For him hunting is not a sport, it’s a way to connect spiritually to his Alaskan roots and ancestors.
Alaskan natives have had a relationship with the marine animals for over 7,000 years. Many of the natives would put the hides back in the ocean after hunting because of the cost to ship and tan them. Peter however saw the potential of the hides. Creating clothing with the hides is a way for him to share his culture and craft with the outside world and support his community.
Normally sea otters and seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. However Alaska natives are exempt because they have a spiritual relationship with the marine animals, which play an important part in the preservation of their native culture. For this reason only the natives can hunt seals and sea otters and work with the fur. Peter sees the animals he hunts as an extension of himself in the form of food, clothing, religion, art and culture. He doesn’t take advantage of the animals by hunting more than he needs. After each hunt he performs the ritual of giving the animal its last drink of water and thanking it for its life. This creates a bond between him and the natural world.
Sea otters are not endangered. Their population is healthy and growing. The sea otter fur is very dense, up to a million hairs per square inch. It is also one of the most luxurious furs in the world. The vest below is a combination of seal and sea otter. The top and bottom white fur is seal and the dark fur in the middle is sea otter. The back of the vest is wool. The reason for using wool is to make more vest with less marine animals and to keep the price lower. It takes approximately one sea otter or seal to make the front of one vest. Peter uses only the hides he has hunted. For this reason quantities are low.
For Peter hunting is a metaphor for life in that it’s unexpected and unpredictable. Interacting with the animal, working with it and eating it gives him a sense of identity. The whole process from hunting to a finished product takes a few months.
Ata products and Peter’s process are an example of sustainable fur because the animals are respected and only hunted when necessary, so there is no over hunting. This is vastly different from the horror stories about the killing of other animals for their fur.
If you want to know what it’s like to go hunting then watch this short movie of Peter hunting for seals. Just a warning there are some graphic parts.
For more on Peter Williams and the Ata products click here.
It’s that time of the year again! Fashion week is around the corner and that means new ideas, new styles, and new favorite pieces. In past fashion weeks, sustainable fashion has not made much of a splash, but that changing this year with Tesla’s Style Night. Remedy and Tesla are hosting a fashion show and party on September 9th, featuring an array of new eco designers.
Not to be missed. Get tickets here.
The first public fashion show at the Epic NY Landmark
by Julie Gordon
Italy has a long standing fashion history. Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Fendi, and Diesel are just some of the brands that are Italian-made. Italy has introduced many innovations in the fashion industry over the years, ranging from clever ways of cloth-making, to distinctive designs for runways. Although the first ever Italian fashion show took place in Florence in the 50s, the venues that showcase fashion trends shifted to Rome, and eventually to Milan. Along with these location changes, Italian designers were beginning to make a name for themselves. Current household names, such as Roberto Cavalli, Bottega Veneta, Emilio Pucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Brioni were emerging at that time.
Italian designers are among the favorites of celebrities, politicians, and even royalty. Jacqueline Kennedy wore a Valentino dress when she tied the knot to Aristotle Onassis. The iconic bold red shoes worn by Marilyn Monroe were created by Salvatore Ferragamo. The King of Pop himself was a fan of Borsalino hats.
Many designers now are trying to reach the masses through collaborations with high-street retailers. Versace is one example. One retailer that has done no collaborations but would be a good fit for the high-low mix is M&S Women. The company reaches many customers and takes environmental responsibility for their operations.
The Milan Fashion Week is undoubtedly a world fashion authority. Here are the dominant trends according to Focus on Style for Fall 2013:
· Vintage 1940s by Antonio Marras, Prada, and No. 21: peplum skirts and feminine streetwear; added personality by combining beadwork and plaids
· Wool, and plaid by Marni, Versace, and Gucci: powder blue instead of gray wool; grunge and punk inspired plaids
· Innovative sleeves by Genny and Dolce & Gabbana: alternative to traditional sleeves by featuring oversized cuffs; emphasized wide sleeves
· All-over prints by Missoni and Roberto Cavalli: graphic optical prints in robes
· Chunky heels by Jil Sander and Bottega Veneta: two-toned front-buckled shoes; lug sole with metallic patterns