From the pre-historic cave dwellers wrapped in hides to the rugged trappers in their coonskin caps, from the glamorous movie stars of the thirties and forties in their sumptuous stoles and sable coats to today’s fashionistas in their sexy, sophisticated fur jackets, ponchos and scarves, fur has been the fabric of choice.
Since earliest times people have worn fur garments for their warmth, durability or glamour. In fact, the wearing of animal pelts can be traced back to man’s very beginnings, as referenced in the Book of Genesis. In America, the fur trade has played a vital role in the shaping of our history as many of our leading explorers, such as Lewis & Clark, were actually fur traders who forged westward in search of pelts, establishing important settlements along the way. Today the fur trade ranks as one of America’s oldest, continuously operating industries with over 350 years of history.
Although the fur industry is relatively small in comparison to other garment trades, it spans many countries and supplies the livelihood of over a million people worldwide. For some, such as the Inuit tribes of North America, it is an integral part of their culture and the only livelihood they have ever known. For others it represents the traditions of generations of family craftsmanship and entrepreneurship. For still others, it represents exciting, creative new business and design opportunities. The fur trade is unique among modern industries in supporting a remarkable range of cultures, traditional skills and lifestyles. It also plays an important role in environmental conservation and habitat management – as well as contributing to international business, providing economic benefits to many countries.