We use cookies on this website, you can read about them here. To use the website as intended please... ACCEPT COOKIES
UAL Research Online

“Furland”: Global Fur and Empires of Fashion Materialities in 1930s London

Roberts, Cheryl (2024) “Furland”: Global Fur and Empires of Fashion Materialities in 1930s London. In: Material Selves. Material Cultures in Art & Design . Bloomsbury. (In Press)

Type of Research: Book Section
Creators: Roberts, Cheryl

This chapter will consider the global impact of London’s 1930s fashion fur industry on living environments, to unravel how these garments were and continue to be reflections of early Empire, ethics, class, race, fashion literacy, material knowledge, and possibility.

Fashion fur creates a reaction on many levels- the sadistic, grotesque, fetish, fantasy, luxury, practical, environmental, social, economic- each dependent on the current cultural rational. However, human affect and interaction with design, historical practices of repurposing the materials of human and animal waste, material literacies, and the processes of creativity, can help us to understand the often-conflicting meanings in the contemporary moment.

In London’s Hammersmith Market, 1935, amongst the multifaceted sellers of a discordance of goods, James Dear was skinning rabbits with astonishing rapidity. When asked what happened to the skins he replied, “we dry ‘em and sell ‘em to a firm that cure ‘em and make ‘em into fur coats and bowler hats”. Seductive, sensual and somatic, fur was coveted by the majority of women in the early twentieth century. The most highly prized fashion adornment; a sign of style, status and fashionability. In the street market, pelts of fox, mink, ermine, musquash, monkey, rabbit, mole, and cat were to be found nestled amongst the vegetable stalls and street bakeries. Dismembered bodies hanging from the stall canopy or uniformly lining the drying racks in the surrounding back street, predominantly Jewish, furriers went some way toward providing access to otherwise unattainable garments for those with a limited budget. Resourceful butchers such as James Dear would pare rabbits, separating the flesh for eating and the fur for curing, in a process that Christopher Schmidt refers to as “the messy […] between the aesthetic and the overflow form”.

Untangling the embellished histories of fashionable fur and their murky cultural pasts will reveal the hidden narratives that sustained this contentious industry in 1930s London.

Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Bloomsbury
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Communication
Colleges > London College of Fashion
Date: 2024
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2023 14:26
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2023 14:26
Item ID: 20642
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/20642

Repository Staff Only: item control page | University Staff: Request a correction