do women really want? A great fur coat, of course!’ quipped Betty
Balaila, NAFFEM president and business director for superstar fur
designer Zuki. She was just one of the more than 800 industry and
fashion luminaries present at the kick-off gala for the 2002 edition
of NAFFEM (North American Fur and Fashion Expo Montréal)
last April 28.
‘Just as MiFur in Milan defines European fur fashion
and the Hong Kong Fur Show leads the way for Asia, the Montréal
NAFFEM is the most important North American show,’ said Balaila.
And the event embodied the essence of fur fashion
trends. Yes, there was a harkening to a time when icons of feminine
beauty invariably trod the red carpet in mink or ermine that swept
down to their high heels. But there’s a very forward attitude, as
if constantly poised to launch the next best thing.
Champagne flowed as the 20th anniversary of the
fair was feted in a setting of old-time opulence. A 1937 photo of
Vivien Leigh by Rawlings graced the programme while the hangar-like
Palais des Congrès hall was transformed into a sumptuous
fin de siècle theatre.
Local fashion icon Iona Monahan was given the
Maurice Memorial Award, ‘in recognition of her outstanding contributions
to the encouragement of creativity in fur fashion.’ The fashion
editor emeritus of Montréal’s English-language newspaper
previously received the Order of Canada in 1987.
And lest we forget, the roots of this industry
emanate from the women of the First Nations. ‘The theme, A Tribute
to Women, is so apropos,’ said Ethel Blondin-Andrew, a native Canadian
and secretary of state for youth and training. ‘Especially when
you think of all the outstanding women involved in this industry.
In Canada both First Nations and Inuit women were the ones who first
cured furs and used them to make clothing and other items. It’s
a tradition that has remained so vital to our people.’
But the night was mostly about fashion. The Tribute
to Women show featured a montage of photographs of beautiful women
throughout history. Then selected works from 25 collections paraded
the runway, a sampling of the more than 200 launched at the show.
It was all ably staged by Montréal’s redoubtable Hans Koechling
of The Image Is.
The stalwarts of Canadian fur design were represented.
Paula Lishman’s signature knit fur went urban chic in shades of
grey, slate and black. D’Arcy Moses, one-time urban designer who
returned to the Mackenzie Valley in search of his Cree roots, masterfully
combined native and contemporary design. In addition to his own
collection, the ever-brilliant Zuki turned out an all-chinchilla
one for Canchilla Associates and sportswear for FurWorks Canada.
Zuki favoured a more subdued palette than the
eye-bending brights of last season. This time it was pastels or
shades of soft brown and ivory. There’s also far less of his signature
intarsia, opting as did many of his competitors for even more inventive
shearing, grooving patterns into the beaver pelts. ‘Most of my collection
is reversible,’ he said. ‘It’s a big trend and exciting to work