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).