Meeting the French - a visit with furrier Frédéric Keskinidès and his family
Even though I snap lots of photos while walking around Paris, there are many shots that I regret not taking - like the one of a woman carrying a fur purse as she strolled down the rue Saint-Honoré. On its own, a simple fur tote probably wouldn't have caught my attention, but this one had little animal heads (sable?) and furry feet bouncing up and down. The sight brought me to a dead halt and prompted me to remark to Stéphane that other than adorning the bag, the dangling pelts didn't serve any purpose. Fashionable? Not to me.
Which is why it may come as a surprise that my visit to Frédéric Keskinidès' workshop with the company, "Meeting the French," was one of my most memorable tours to date. With obvious pride, Mr. Keskinidès, who was awarded the title Un Des Meilleur Ouvrier de France (One of the Best Craftsmen in France), explained that his grandfather immigrated to France from Greece, as did many of the furriers in Paris, and started the family business in 1931. It was passed down from his grandfather to his father and then to Frédéric, who completed one internship with his father and two with Christian Dior.
Knowing that many people, including Brigitte Bardot, "would rather go naked than wear fur", Mr. Keskinidès told us that France was the first country to outlaw jaw traps and that only 5% of the furs come from wild animals. The other 95% are from animals raised in captivity in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the United States, Canada and China. Regulations stipulate the size of the cage, the food and the amount of time that babies must be allowed to spend with their mothers before being transferred to individual cages.
While Mr. Keskinidès explained the tanning process and discussed the merits of different types of fur, his father was busy bringing out samples of mink, sable, fox and beaver pelts for us to examine and offering us cups of thick Greek coffee. Rather than feeling like just another tour group, the Keskinidès warmly welcomed us into their family, especially when Mr. Keskinidès' two children arrived home from school and greeted us with kisses on both cheeks.
Thanks to Mr. Keskinidès' careful tutelage, I'm now able to judge the quality of a mink coat based on the consistency of the color and texture of the 20-30 pelts that were used to make it. As female furs differ from males furs in size and color, it's important that the furrier respects the nature of the pelt as each one is cut into strips and pieced together to make a coat.
Useless knowledge? Perhaps, but as an astonishing number of women, both young and old, are wearing fur coats now that the temperature has dropped to a bone chilling 48℉ (9℃) in Paris, I find my eyes checking for imperfections and remembering the enjoyable afternoon that I spent with Mr. Keskinidès and his charming family back in May.
My visit was organized by Meeting the French. If you would like to read posts about other tours that I have done with them, please use the "Search This Blog" function.
26 Rue Pierre Semard
Colorful furs, like the ones on the right, seem to be the fashion right now. Depending on the quality of the work, a mink coat costs approximately 10,000 € ($13,000).
I see 9 degrees more as "woolly jumper" (sweater) weather than fur coat weather! I know the wind whistling through the Paris streets can be pretty vicious though!ReplyDelete
Gwan, You're right - 9 degrees really is the weather to wear sweaters rather than fur coats. It seems as if the women in Paris just couldn't wait for the temperature to drop any lower before they got them out of storage. I've never seen so many fur coats in my life!ReplyDelete
I am so confused by the third photograph--that looks like a limb of an animal across a stack of furs, and green grass? Maybe I need to have another cup of coffee.ReplyDelete
It's 12 F in Chicago today and I will expect to see many furs. I like furs, not that I own one, but I think they're beautiful.
My NYE post about having foie gras has caused me to have one anonymous commenter sending me videos and stories about the cruelty to ducks and geese. I posted one comment but have left the others off. I wonder if your entry will find such comments.
Joseph, I saw the comment on your post about foie gras and since fur coats are equally controversial, I debated about writing this post. It was only after everyone in our family remarked about the popularity of fur coats in Paris that I started thinking of it as a cultural difference. I guess that it isn't though since you see a lot of them in Chicago. I've never really seen that many of them in the USA and thought that someone would probably get harassed for wearing one.ReplyDelete
Sorry for the confusing photo - it does look a bit strange! The green grass looking stuff is a sheepskin and the animal limb is probably the fur from a leg. They use all parts of the pelt. Mr. Keskinides explained that furriers send the leftover small pieces to a town in Northern Greece where they're stitched together to make coats.
That was very interesting, Mary. Farming animals for fur alwyas seems distasteful but when you think about it, it is really no different from farming for meat. It would appear that the animals are treated as humanely as possible. Having said that, I'd never buy or wear fur, but as a girl I loved trying on Mum's fox fur hat!ReplyDelete
Interesting post Mary Kay and it raises much controversy. Personally, I consider farming animals for fashion (and vanity) different than raising animals for food. I applaud your post for it's informative content about the trade, however.ReplyDelete
No polyesters were harmed or died in the making of my winter jacket....cannot say the same for the entree of tonight's dinner.
It a world full of contradictions and controversy....
Everyone has commented on the fabrication of the furs...now let's get to the fashion..ReplyDelete
While I am in no position to purchase a fur (pas de $), I have no problem dipping into the closets of my grandmother and mother for their fabulous collection of vintage furs from the 50s, 60s, 70s and my favorite the 80s!!! We had a neighbor who used to wear mink wide-legged pants, it was genius.
I love the dyed pieces you took photos of (turquoise and cobalt blue!!)..I am just imagining the outfits that can be thrown together with these taking center stage.
Can't take the fashion girl out of me..! :)
Mink wide-legged pants--I can't even imagine.ReplyDelete
You really do have the most interesting adventures! I will admit I have two fur stoles BUT both were vintage (one Sir L bought me and one was my grandmother's) and two fur hats that were his mothers.... so if it's vintage then I feel a little less bad about wearing them.ReplyDelete
Secretly though I love the way fur looks and love seeing all the old French women parading through Paris in their long coats - such divas!
Steph, My mother also had a beautiful grey fox fur hat that my daughter loves to wear - they must have been the height of fashion in the 60s (?). Mr. Keskinidès mentioned numerous times that it's in the interest of the furriers to treat the animals as humanely as possible because the furs are in better condition when they're feed correctly, etc.ReplyDelete
Nancy, This may be a naive question, but does anyone wear fur in FL besides the animals?
Mlle Ella, Since you like fur and fashion, you have to look at the window displays at D&G on rue de Rivoli. I find myself slowing down whenever I walk past because there is a lot of fur on display. But there isn't anything in turquoise or cobalt blue!
kbh, Don't worry - I'm not a militant when it comes to other people wearing fur. I'm happy that my daughter is able to wear my mother's fur hat and would even wear it myself if hats didn't look so silly on me.
Divas in long fur coats - that's the perfect description! :)