Men arrived in leather jump suits, sequined shirts and natty sweaters with broad, molded shoulders. Furs were draped over their chairs and across the laps of silk-clad women--although women were not in great supply.
"This certainly is a male show," whispered one female, surveying the crowd at Neiman-Marcus' men's fur show last week. (It was a benefit for the Shanti Foundation, which counsels AIDS victims and their families.)
An Unusual Look
The show was an unusual look at men in furs--unusual especially for such a venerable store.
Amid clanking percussion noises and foggy green light, the evening began with a female impersonator wearing a $23,000 Claude Montana silver fox coat. Model James Bennett, in false lashes and fright wig, said his makeup required 90 minutes to apply.
"This is nighttime. Daytime is usually more toned down," he explained.
Other models met the runway in Western coyote coats, in dressy sables--or almost naked in Speedo swim trunks, which they wore when they were accompanying female models in brightly dyed minks.
In the evening-wear portion of the show, the male models wore pearl necklaces and broaches as accessories with their dress suits and furs.
The 60-piece show parted from the traditional assumption that men should wear only understated pelts, such as sheared nutria, or macho skins, such as raccoon and opossum. In addition to these male mainstays, men donned mink, lynx and other luxury furs most often associated with women.
The most unusual furs were patterned into herringbones, such as Jerry Sorbara's brown-and-black muskrat street coat, or paired with brightly dyed leather, as in a reversible green leather and beaver bomber jacket.
Designers were not restricted by hemlines, which ranged from the blue-iris mink waist-jacket by Sorbara to the Perry Ellis seven-eighths-length blond beaver and the Yves Saint Laurent calf-length silver fox.
Not a Fur Hound
Actress Donna Mills, swathed in an ermine and Russian lynx coat, was honorary chairperson of the show--but she's not an unconditional fur hound.
"I don't usually wear any fur that's not been ranched," she said later. "I don't like the idea of animals being trapped."
After the show, store executives said seven furs worth $70,000 were sold, with Neiman-Marcus promising to donate 10% of that amount to the Shanti Foundation.
Guests with glasses of white wine browsed among the minks and foxes--with a ready sales force nearby.
"It's a gorgeous coat. Do it. It's only money," fur salon director Kamran Behbehani said to a young man trying on beaver.
"I think I'll have a cocktail," the perspective customer replied.
A more Establishment and more female crowd came to Neiman-Marcus two nights later to see James Galanos' new group of furs.
The result--a lengthy show of sable, lynx, mink, fox, bukhara, ermine, fisher and other pieces priced up to $200,000--would have sated even the most ardent fur fan.
The designer focused on highly structured, close-to-the-body shapes, often tied snugly at the waist with heavy satin ribbon.
Not limited to standard outerwear, he shaped the furs into coatdresses, sleeveless shells, ribbed sweater sets, and pearl-incrusted boleros. He created texture with patchworks, smocking and by arranging pelts in stripes.
The most effusive applause followed his work in broadtail, the flat shiny fur that he crafted into dresses, suits, halters, slacks and belted jackets. "Ah, what you did with that broadtail," one guest cooed after the show, as the diminutive Galanos bobbed between guests.
Galanos said he treated fur as he would fabric: "That's the whole point, to do my thing--my silhouette--in fur," he said.
The $25-a-ticket show benefitted the costume and textile department of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.