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Fashion archive: Fur on parade

Pierre Balmain‘s comment that fur is like a “very expensive material” was well illustrated this week when over £100,000 worth of fabulous furs were paraded in London. It was an Anglo-French occasion with the National Fur Company of London showing a large selection of their own furs and Pierre Balmain personally presenting about twenty models designed by him and made by Calman Links of London.

Although rich brown mink and sable skins were seen in full-length coats and short jackets, the pale furs, silver-blue mink, snow-white mink and ermine, and pearl platina fox, worn with effect against black and purple, received most of the applause. In contrast but with the same simplicity was the all-black ermine jacket by the National Fur Company. The season’s line was continued in the coats: small upstanding collars, dropped shoulders, full armholes on the roomy sleeves, luxurious cuffs, and a loose swinging back. Balmain showed a sleeve variation: one of his long coats had balloon sleeves that could be pushed above the elbow to wear with long gloves. Three-quarter jackets with less bulk for handling in a crowded bus, and immune from the changing skirt length, are practical for day or evening wear. The small rolled collar on a Russian sable jacket by the National Fur Company was blended into wide lapels which finished in small forward-thrusting pockets.

Several of the London firm’s stoles were a combination of the stole proper and the short cape. One “cape stole” in pearl platina fox that covered the shoulders and arms to the elbows developed into very long ties that could fall into the graceful draping of a stole or fold into a muff. Another pale fur, white mink, made a dainty bolero which could be transformed into a cape by unfastening the cuffs.

Although the company’s collection was dominated by mink and ermine, they are using a number of other furs. A three-quarter length beaver coat showed shading from smoky brown to a soft grey; kolinsky was used for a coat with the new wide Japanese sleeves. Civet cat, a black and white fur, was made up into an unusual full-length coat: the lining was scarlet and it was worn with a scarlet cap trimmed with the fur.

Balmain has clung to the true elegance of the stole – the long broad scarf that, as he showed, can be draped with distinction. By mounting the slender skins on faille or crêpe he has created the effect of slight tiers, the ends graded into a fan shape. One Balmain stole in ranch mink was lined in autumn leaves in flaming colours. A frivolous hat made of the leaves completed the ensemble.

Balmain has been inspired by his native province, the Savoy, to design the “Frontière,” literally two curves of mink, the point resting above the widow’s peak, the back of the head bare. Another “hat” that complemented a lustrous mink jacket was composed of a bunch of violets, worn forward to balance the wearer’s pert back curls.

For those who prefer to use furs as a trimming, Balmain showed a dinner skirt and jacket in smoky mushroom velvet, worn with a strapless top of white satin, the jacket also lined in white satin and edged with luxurious fox collar and lapels.

Balmain explained that he felt that furs should not be confined to town or evening wear but should be used also for “sports.” He amplified this with a belted “Canadienne” jacket in black seal that was designed for a skiing holiday. His English audience did not seem entirely convinced that these expensive furs could be treated so casually.

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