Leather, Fur and Feather
A Scottish February is, more often than not, a cold one. Internationally, February sees attempts by designers (through their A/W collections) to present the fashion conscious with aesthetically pleasing solutions to the frosty temperatures.
Fur, a fabric associated with winter, is indeed a contentious choice. Historically once seen as an indicator of wealth, Karl Lagerfeld’s decision to use faux-fur in Chanel’s A/W 2010 collection has led many to reconsider whether the use of real fur is still justifiable. To a varying extent, similar arguments surround the use of leather and feathers, also considered ‘winter’ staple fabrics.
The Leather Fur and Feather exhibition, opening 21 Jan in Aberdeen, looks at the historical use of the three respective fabrics in fashion. Refreshingly, though it does raise issues, including the impact of the use of fabrics on the environment and social conscience, it doesn’t take a definitive stance on them. Rather, the curators simply ask that we contextualise the current debates and think about both sides of the argument.
Learning about the historical pattern of use of each fabric is a worthwhile experience in itself. The exhibition charts leather’s emergence as a ‘couture’ fabric in the 1970s, particularly in its use by the designs of Bill Gibb. Similarly, the re-introduction of real fur to the catwalks (particularly by Fendi) in the 21st century is explored. Interestingly, though feathers might be seen as the least contentious of the fabrics, in fact the overuse of rare plumes in Victorian dress led to the creation of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the late 19th century.
Taking place in Provost Skene’s House in Guestrow, Aberdeen (as part of its Art Gallery and Museums venue collective), the exhibition is free and open to the public until 31 March. [Emma Segal]