Fur Designer

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Fur Designer


The fur business is a tricky one. There is no denying that a large number of people are against the use of animals for clothing and fashion, while an equally large number of people is supportive of the fur industry, looking at it in terms of ecology, cultural preservation and economics.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it is a fact that fur is used for fashion and warmth throughout the world and has been for thousands of years. Even if you don't agree with it, many people do, and they want items to wear as they endure the icy cold winters that settle in for months throughout northern parts of the US.

Fur designers are the people who create coats, hats, gloves and other accessories with fur. They purchase fur pelts from a variety of sources, including fur farms, hunters and trappers. They work with a variety of furs, including beaver, fox, mink, chinchilla, raccoon and nutria to create soft, warm garments.

Fur designers are essentially fashion designers. They are acquainted with the properties and qualities of many types of fur, and create different designs for them all. Some fur designers focus mainly on design, working for a large fur or clothing manufacturer to develop fur products, while others are entrepreneurs, setting up their own businesses, where they create their own designs, as well as provide services like repair, cleaning, storage, and restyling older furs for customers.

Some fur designers are more involved in the process. They may work as trappers or hunters, or manage their own fur farms. There is a resurgence of Native North Americans who are reclaiming the cultural significance of fur production. These fur designers train to work much as their ancestors might have, hunting, processing, and designing furs in ancient and ecologically sound traditions. These fur designers present their work much as other furriers, in fashion shows and boutiques, but bring with them a historical knowledge about their peoples' history that isn't usually found in the fur practices of other furriers.

Regardless of what type of fur designer you may choose to be, either a furrier working with farmed mink pelts or a fur designer who traps wild animals for food as well as pelts, you will need an eye for style, a capacity to envision three-dimensional objects, patience, and a desire to dress the people around you in your fur creations.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a fur designer? They must be willing and able to make clothing from fur. They are creative, with good manual dexterity, and steady hands. Fur designers must enjoy taking creative risks. They need a good sense of design and they must be detail oriented. Most people in this work have a distinct personal style, and a strong interest in the changing trends in the world of clothing and accessories. Good time management skills, and good communication skills are required to work as a designer. They must also have confidence in their abilities, talents, and strengths, and be able to handle criticism. Fur designers should have some business sense, especially if they would like to make this their career.

  Typical Tasks  
  • May assist in hunting, trapping, and preparing furs
  • Consult with supervisor, head designer, or client about desired product
  • Research current trends, historical and cultural traditions
  • Research furs to be used
  • Sketch ideas and plans for each creation
  • Make a pattern out of paper
  • Create a prototype of clothing item
  • Oversee manufacture of item
  • Host fashion shows to promote designs
  • Manage a shop or online business
  • Repair, clean, and restore older furs
  • Maintain furs in cold storage
  • Sell design to other manufacturers to develop under their name
  • Meet regularly with the press, models, and journalists to discuss work
  • The typical day for a fur designer involves meeting with clients, creating sketches and drawing up plans for the item. When furriers begin working on a series of designs, the hours can be long, and quick, accurate work is important. Fur designers may travel around the world to exhibitions, festivals, and schools to sell their work, conduct seminars, and for research, to learn about new trends, different cultures, and ancient furrier traditions. They may be involved in trapping, hunting, and fur preparation, as well, which means some time spent outdoors.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Fur designers work alone, in home studios, or they work for large fur design houses, manufacturing companies, and clothing lines, designing in a team environment in studios and design offices belonging to their employer. They may also work in fur stores, in adjacent studios and offices. When working for themselves, fur designers can set their own hours, and may find themselves hard at work in the evenings, on weekends, or in the middle of the night when they are trying to establish themselves, complete a piece before a deadline, or to accommodate clients.
  • However, all designers, even the most established ones, will put in long, tiring hours during the days leading up to a fashion show or a production deadline. The work environment can be tense, stressful, and also exhilarating.
  • Some furriers, especially those working as traditional fur designers, will be exposed to cold and damp during hours outside, as well as other unpleasant working environments. Fur designers who stick to designing, however, will rarely see this side of the industry.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Fur designers can hopefully gain enough success to enable them to work as full-time designers, with their own shop or boutique. They can study fur fashions from around the world, cultural influences, and historical trends, and apply this knowledge to their own work. They can also branch out into other crafts, like non-fur design, shoe design, costume design, leather work, and jewelry design. They can write books and articles on fashion design and their experiences in the world of fashion. They can become advocates for conservationist or humane fur practices. They can become instructors, hosting workshops or running courses on fashion design and creation.

  Educational Paths  
Fur designers can take a number of paths in their training and education. Some choose to attend fine arts programs at universities and focus on textiles, design, or costuming. Others opt for a two- to three-year diploma programs at a college, while others take courses with private design colleges. Some fashion design programs offer internships or co-ops with design houses--this may be useful to you. Some schools, especially northern schools with a Native Studies focus, offer courses which cover all aspects of the fur trade. They teach traditional furrier practices, leaving the student with knowledge to handle everything from trapping to design.

You may also consider taking some courses in merchandising, business administration, and marketing, especially if you plan on going into business on your own.

Before you even begin training, consider taking a few sewing classes, and tour around textile factories, fur farms, art galleries, museums, and attend fashion shows. Expose yourself to as much art and style as you can, from eras past as well as present day.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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