Once upon a time, in the golden, screen-goddess days of Marilyn and Liz, nothing evoked glamor quite a like a fur coat. Back then, fur garments – preferably mink – shone as the ultimate symbol of status, elegance and femininity, and no sophisticated, fashion-loving female’s wardrobe was complete without one.
In the ensuing decades, fur's popularity declined, sparked by animals' rights concerns and increasingly casual lifestyles. In the last few years, however, it's staged a comeback, especially in the high-end market; 73% of the fall 2015 runaway shows in Europe and New York featured fur designs and sales have steadily increased as well. That included Fendi's Haute Fourrure show, which was devoted exclusively to fur. Among the 36-piece pelt parade, designed by Karl Lagerfeld, was a silverized full-length sable coat that’s been estimated as worth well over $1 million, possibly making it the most expensive coat ever retailed.
Although fur is unlikely to ever enjoy the mass appeal it once had (many have since sworn off the real deal in favor of faux, or no fur at all), it looks like sumptuous skins will always have a place on the catwalk and in the wardrobes of certain fashionistas. Fur as an investment remains hot and haute.
Top Types of Fur
Varieties of fur are vast, and each has its own attributes. Long-haired furs, such as fox, and those with dense under-furs – examples: beaver, mink, chinchilla – are esteemed for their warmth factor. Beaver, possum and raccoon are valued for their affordability and durability. Falling into the lower price ranges are "bulk” or more common furs, such as rabbit ( “breed like rabbits” isn't a cliché for nothing) and hare. So which fur fits best? Of the most desirable, luxurious (and expensive) furs out there, three reign supreme: mink, sable and chinchilla.
- Mink: When a woman purchases her first fur coat, it’s almost always mink. Mink is officially the highest-selling fur worldwide, due to its light weight, decadently soft texture, unique sheen and incredibly long life. Coats made of female skins (smaller, lighter and softer) are considered more desirable. Most recognizable in a rich, chocolaty shade of dark brown, this fur varies vastly in price, from under $1K to well over $50K, but don’t expect to pay less than five figures for a quality garment.
- Sable: A sable fur coat is one of the most coveted on earth, revered for its silky pelt, which retains smoothness regardless of which way it’s stroked. A demure jacket can start at around $16K, but a top-quality silvery coat can easily run into six figures, or upwards of $150K.
- Chinchilla: Recognized for its glamorous slate blue-gray color, chinchilla is about as prestigious as it gets. It’s extremely lightweight, yet bears the highest hair density of any animal, so no other fur is softer or warmer, or looks more lavish. Chinchilla is difficult to work with (one of the reasons it’s so expensive) and requires a lot of care. Prices range from $30K to $100K.
Upkeep and Investment
Fur garment prices vary according to geographical location, level of retailer, pelt quality, designer label and the seasons. As with a car, the minute a new fur garment walks out of the store, it drops 50% in value. And furs generally don’t appreciate with time. However, they can be maintained to maximize their resale value down the track. (See Turn Your Old Clothes Into Cash for tips.)
In fact, fur garments must be cared for to preserve their longevity. Humidity is fur’s mortal enemy, so when the weather warms up, be sure to store a garment in a cool, dry place (ideally below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and 40%-45% humidity). Better yet, leave it to the experts: Outsource to professional fur storage services and free up closet space while you’re at it.
Don't forget protection for your possession – you insure a car you'd bought for five figures, wouldn't you? There are specific fur floaters to policies, though many fur owners simply itemize their garments on a rider of their homeowners insurance, as scheduled personal property. If your fur is from a big-name label, you might consider getting a new type of insurance geared towards haute couture (see Special Insurance for Designer Clothes).
Just like any garment investment, try before you buy. Ensure your fur complements your skin tone and hair color. And given you’ll more than likely be flaunting it outdoors, try it on in daylight.
Fur styles have come a long way from the classic full-length coat of brown, black or silver hue; especially hot right now are "fun furs" dyed in a myriad of not-found-in-nature colors and fashioned into everything from bomber jackets to ski vests. So ask yourself: Why are you buying the garment? Is it to make an in-the-moment fashion statement or to acquire a long-lasting wardrobe staple? If it’s the latter, buy a more traditional style that will remain popular for years to come. Research sellers before purchasing and aim for coats made in Europe or North America – they’re generally better quality. By law, furs sold in the U.S. have to be labeled with the type of skin and country of its origin.
If you have ethical concerns, you can ask if the fur came from farm- or ranch-raised animals (vs. wild ones). Or, you can take the estate route, buying a gently used piece at a consignment or vintage clothing store. The secondary market is brimming with gems in need of a new home closet. Just ask Carrie Bradshaw: Some credit the fictional style-setter, who roamed Sex and the City streets in an opulent vintage coat, with bringing fur back into fashion.
The Bottom Line
Consider why you want a fur before you choose which kind to buy. Think of the investment value of the style you choose if it's a substantial purchase; maintain/store your garment well; and be rewarded with a lifetime of looking glam.