One of my first fashion memories as a young boy involves my glamorous grandmother stepping off the airplane in Cincinnati swaddled in a fur-trimmed leather coat and matching fur hat. She and my grandfather had retired to Phoenix, and she was now working part time in the local department store's "fur vault." I remember being mesmerized by the touch and the look of the fur, never making any connection between this sensual "fabric" and where it came from. This was the mid-sixties, when owning a fur was considered de rigueur for women of a certain social status, and my grandmother, my first fashion muse, was right in step with the mood of the day.
By the time I made it to New York City to pursue a career in fashion in 1986, the mood was quite different. Fresh from Harvard, where I studied sociology, I was now a full-time student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, immersed in tailoring and draping by day, and night-clubbing by night. While fur coats were still being worn uptown, the new guard of downtown fashionistas eschewed fur as politically incorrect, cruel and out of touch. There was a palpable shift in attitudes around fur and many designers, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, for example, publicly went fur-free. It was during this period of the late 80s and early 90s when Naomi Campbell and other supermodels of the day posed in a Peta campaign announcing they would rather go naked than wear fur.