Focus On: Furs
Though the warm climate of Los Angeles wouldn’t seem to encourage an active fur industry, the city’s entertainment industry keeps several top furriers well supplied with requests for custom furs, vintage rentals and alterations of existing pieces. Given a choice, many costume designers prefer to use real fur, even though tight budgets and improvements in faux furs provide additional options. Yet more than just about any other material, fur can more immediately connote glamour, wealth or even a certain kind of ruggedness. Here are a few top sources for furs in Los Angeles.
8712 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills
(310) 360-0466, www.edwardslowell.com
For 75 years, Edwards-Lowell has supplied the entertainment industry with exotic furs and the support services to keep them in top condition.
“We did furs for ‘Dynasty,’ ‘Dallas,’ and now ‘Weeds,’ and ‘Breaking Bad,’” said Jeff Lehman, who is the go-to contact for most costume design requests. He’s had a long working relationship with costume designers Bob Mackie and Daniel Orlandi.
Within the company’s 12,000-square-foot, freestanding building on Wilshire Boulevard, an experienced team of master furriers and professional finishers can clean, repair and restyle furs and leather. Edwards-Lowell also has more than 500 vintage furs that are available for sale or rental, said Lehman, who urges designers to attend quickly to any tears in the pelts or lining to avoid a costly replacement of a pelt or section if the damage worsens.
2270 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles
(323) 373-0500, www.somperfurs.com
To get a sense of the deep selection of garments available from Somper Furs, you can visit the company’s website, Facebook or Instagram pages. Or you can turn on the television because chances are good that any extra-glamorous production features a fur from the Los Angeles company.
Owners Donna and Michael Pappas has been helping costume designers create fur looks for their productions for more than 30 years and have a list of credits so long, that it’s tough to keep track.
“We’ve probably done 500 to 1,000 films. It’s just ridiculous,” said Donna Pappas. Somper furs are featured on “Scandal,” “American Horror Story” and “Castle.” Somper also provided the full-swagger furs that dressed the lead characters of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” for the cover of Entertainment Weekly, as well as items for “Behind the Candelabra” and the furs that Joan Rivers regularly sports on her style-critique television show “Fashion Police.” Somper also supplied the looks for “Desperate Housewives,” “Ugly Betty” and some particularly memorable looks for the 2004 comedy “Starsky & Hutch,” featuring Snoop Dog as a fur-swathed pimp.
“We got requests for years from costume designers to borrow those Starsky & Hutch coats,” she said. Her company has also worked closely with Disney animators who used pelts to capture the realistic movement of fur for their digitized images.
With a collection of furs that numbers over 1,000 pieces, designers often can find exactly what they need, off-the-rack. “We have many cutting-edge, crazy looks,” says Pappas. “Most furriers in the U.S. are not going to have lime green, hand-painted, tie-dyed burgundy ready on the racks. We have that partly because of my husband’s custom and private label business. He is the largest manufacturer of lynx in the world.”
Pappas keeps designers up to date on new and vintage styles in her collection by posting images frequently on her Facebook account. Of course, designers also can visit the retail store in person during business hours, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Universal Studios Costume Department
3801 Barham Blvd., Gate 4, Universal City
(818) 777-2722, www.filmmakersdestination.com
Universal Studios offers furs coats, jackets and accessories to rent from the well-stocked costume department that’s located on the studio’s lot. Costume department manager Poppy Cannon-Reese said the collection even includes cavemen and Eskimo costume pieces.
“Our fur room has a variety of furs that come in from Universal Productions over the years. It ranges from the 1920s to the 1990s, with stoles, hats, knee-length, full-length and anything trimmed with fur,” she said.
“The department has been on the lot since 1916, so we have been getting assets from all kinds of Universal shows since then,” said Cannon-Reese. The movie “47 Ronin” and “Big Miracle” added to the assortment recently.
“Most of our collection reflects heavily on the 1950s when women wore a lot of furs, and the 1980s with nightclub action,” she said. If you’re creating a disco scene, Universal has the requisite hot pink or pale blue rabbit fur jacket.
Universal doesn’t offer custom services but rents to productions in virtually any location. A staff member also can send digital photos of items to aid the selection process. Visiting the costume department requires a pass to drive onto the lot; phone ahead.
527 W. 7th St., Ste. 503, Los Angeles
Daniel Wachtenheim is a second-generation furrier whose showroom and workshop in an historic downtown Los Angeles building have been a top destination for designers of many kinds of theatrical and editorial productions – movies, television shows, rock’n’roll productions and editorial fashion shoots.
Most of the business is private sales, but Wachtenheim said the entertainment community makes up a large share. “I deal with a lot of studios, TV shows, movies, hip-hop artists and many people in the music business,” he said.
His company supplied the fur-trimmed coat that Angelina Jolie wore throughout the ‘20s-era mystery “Changeling,” a chinchilla coat for the 1970s crime drama “American Gangster” and other furs for “The Aviator,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons” and tours for Madonna.
“I don’t advertise. It’s all word of mouth,” said Wachtenheim, who operates by the advice of his late father, Alan, who founded the business in 1947: “When you have the merchandise, you don’t have to be a salesman.” The vaults typically have at least 500 new and vintage furs on hand at any time, he said.
His company offers ready-made furs, as well as pelts from which designers can fashion custom garments. The company can clean, repair, alter, restyle and store furs, with most of the work conducted on premises, which helps speed projects.
His workshops can create duplicate coats, add fur trim to existing garments or restyle a vintage garment. Mink coats get refreshed from a light shearing, while coats turn into jackets, and jackets into capes or shrugs.
“We can also dye any color – purple, green, yellow, red, blue. Most of those colors have to be dyed from white, so that can take time,” he says. With a deep bench of highly trained artisans, Wachtenheim is able to field virtually any request.
“You have to treat fur differently from other fabrics,” he says, “So if the stylists and designers leave the fur part of designing up to me, it can be handled right.”