Last week we made a quick trip to Montreal, greeted on Groundhog's Day by a blizzard that dumped over 40cm (17 inches) of snow, socking in the city.
Once of the great pleasures of the two day trip was an evening with son Etienne and his sweetie, Tash, at Liverpool House, for I had a gift for him. While cleaning out the basement as part of the prep for selling this house (staging a basement means it must look like you never kept anything in it), I found, sealed into a canister, a beaver hat.
|Archie and Frances LaFreniere|
The trapper-style hat was a gift to my Dad from a grateful patient, Mr. Archie LaFreniere of Beaver Island, Michigan, circa 1962; he trapped the beaver himself.
Beaver Island is one of the wild outposts, an island in Lake Michigan flung into the Straits of Mackinac. When I was growing up, few people lived there and fewer visited, but in the mid-1800s it was briefly home to an "American monarchy" led by James Strang, a Mormon leader.
Nearly fifty years later, supple and intact, it was a perfect fit on Etienne's head, plush and warm.
And so, fur.
It's a fraught subject, with many rejecting all fur, even recycled, while others assert that it is a 'sustainable resource'. I'm in the middle, having grown up and lived in northern communities where the fur trade is a livelihood. One of Mom's best friends owned a mink ranch.
Izzy Camielleri is a talented Toronto designer who specializes in leather and fur. She's recently launched Izma, a collaboration with fashion journalist Adrien Mainella. The complete lookbook is online. Izma uses Origin Assured pelts, which means that the fur comes from a country where regulations concerning welfare and production are in force.
A example of Izma's exhilarating style, a v-neck tunic in long-haired beaver:
A swing coat in natural muskrat:
I wear fur, currently, a 12 year-old sheared mink duffle coat, a 26 year-old raccoon hat and a fox scarf made from recycled goods. I also wear leather and eat meat, with gratitude to the animals.
Last month I bought one of those down coats that make everyone look like a walking sleeping bag. (And in case you think down is gathered from what's left behind in the nest, it is not.)
When wearing fur, I've had only two incidents of negative comments in forty years, one when wearing a sheared beaver swing coat that my mother owned for several decades, then passed to me.
I asked the woman who accosted me on the steps of the library how many resources had been expended on the various coats she had purchased while Mom or I were wearing this coat over thirty-five years. (To be fair, I could only make this point with a long-wearing fur like beaver.)
The second incident happened when I was wearing a fake fur!
Montreal is an historic fur centre, and as expected, I saw more (mostly mink) on its streets than in Toronto and down-stuffed parkas on nearly everyone, infants to elders. There's less angst about animal products when temps dip below -20C.
|Etienne in Gramps' hat|
And that 50 year old hat? Warmed my heart and his head.