Alberta Carter gets some help picking a coat from Arthur Bricker, president of Bricker-Tunis Furs in West Bloomfield Township. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
With a toss of a coin, Joe Namath single-handedly scored a touchdown for Detroit’s fur business.
Sporting a coyote and white fox-trimmed fur coat for Super Bowl XLVIII, Broadway Joe’s bold fashion statement rekindled interest in furs, according to Metro Detroit fur retailers, who report more customers and sales.
“It has driven people to our showroom,” said Clay Campbell, owner of Wolverine Furs in Detroit, which has a significant Web-based business in addition to the shop.
He reports a 20 percent increase in Web traffic to his site after the Seahawks’ victory.
“(Customers) are taking the time to find out more about what they saw on the screen, so it has been a positive for us,” Campbell said.
Arthur Bricker of Bricker-Tunis Furs in West Bloomfield noticed an uptick in business immediately. An attorney and sports star stopped in Monday for something similar to Namath’s piece. A woman caller was hoping for a matching pair, for her and her husband. Other phone calls and couples filtered in the days following the Super Bowl as well.
Metro Detroiters’ immediate response is part of a nationwide trend. Fur, a $16 billion global industry, is suddenly hot again. After a long absence from the red carpet, fueled in part by protests by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Rihanna and Paris Hilton are stepping out in public with their favorite furs. Singer Beyonce sported one to a vegan restaurant.
“In the past, people have been made to feel a little shy about their love for fur, but people are standing up, speaking out and educating themselves about the industry,” said Alan Herscovici, executive vice president of the Fur Council of Canada.
PETA lambasted Namath, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the New York Jets, for sporting the $3,000 fur.
“The real embarrassment on Sunday was Joe Namath’s caveperson coat,” PETA said in a statement. “No matter what he spent on that eyesore, the animals who were trapped, bludgeoned, electrocuted, or skinned alive for their fur paid a lot more — the ultimate price, in fact — and viewers across the country agree that it was too high a price, as demonstrated by the outpouring of anti-fur messages that hit Twitter the second that Namath’s coat hit the screen.”
Herscovici recently joined fur industry representatives in the U.S. and Canada to answer some of PETA’s concerns by launching www.truthaboutfur.com. It hopes to shed light on the industry, which touts itself as eco-friendly because fur is natural, renewable and biodegradable, he said.
“We’re finally getting everyone’s point of view out there, from the trapper to the mink farmer, so PETA isn’t the only organization talking about furs, and this makes an impact on today’s Internet-savvy consumer,” he said.
Besides the celebrity element, Herscovici attributes fur’s growth to the catwalks across the globe. Fashion design houses have incorporated small amounts of fur into garments and accessories, making fur an option — an affordable one, at that — even in warmer climates and to “a younger generation whose passion is not animal rights,” he said.
In 1992, about 40 designers were using fur in their lines, he said. In 2013, more than 400 designers incorporated it into their clothing.
Mother Nature has been the year’s best fur seller, said Jason Dittrich, owner of 111-year-old Dittrich Furs, with locations in Detroit and Bloomfield Hills.
This year’s bitterly cold, snowy winter has reminded consumers fur is the warmest coat there is, Dittrich said.
“What’s funny is those days when we’ve had those big snowstorms, usually no one wants to leave home to go out shopping,” he said. “Well, we’ve been so busy on those snowy days. Business has been amazing.”
Regular Dittrich shopper Brandy George, 34, of Grosse Pointe Park, owns several furs and fur-trimmed accessories.
“I wear them everywhere, whether it’s to the post office or the gas station. There is nothing warmer,” she said.
George developed a love for them at age 10, when her father gave her stepmother a white fox.
“When I graduated from high school, my father gave me a full length blue fox with my monogram inside,” she said.
Because of her lifelong love for fur, when Namath came onto the screen for the Super Bowl, her phone lit up. Friends wanted to share her joy in the sight of fur.
“People are finally accepting it socially and that’s great to see,” George said.
Moira Colley, media officer at PETA, disagrees.
“We’re sure that the fact that Joe Namath was wearing a fur coat while he messed up the coin toss at the start of the Super Bowl hasn’t prompted people to rush out and buy fur, when the likes of Eva Mendes, Stella McCartney, Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman, and many others are publicly shunning the industry,” Colley told The Detroit News in an email.
“No matter how cold it is — even in Detroit — animals need their skins more than we do and there are numerous warm and fashionable options to choose from that don’t require skinning them alive.”
But Dittrich concurs with George.
“Detroit was founded as a French outpost to control the growing fur trade,” he said. “Fur is in our roots.”
Rene Wisely is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.