Pappas: market showing renewed interest in fur

Pappas Fur Designers of Vancouver emerged from the recession finding itself now much in demand as one of North America's top fur designers and retailers.By running lean and being willing to ride out tough times, Pappas is ready to harvest a...

Pappas Fur Designers of Vancouver emerged from the recession finding itself now much in demand as one of North America’s top fur designers and retailers.

By running lean and being willing to ride out tough times, Pappas is ready to harvest a crop of customers emerging from the fur-crazy Asian market, and from a surprisingly new segment of young, high fashion-conscious Caucasian women born and bred in b.c.

Exports dropped

Three years ago, Pappas and other Canadian furriers plunged into a slumping economy worldwide, which saw fur exports drop from an all-time high of $75 million to less than $60 million.

Fur companies also faced an image problem caused by animal rights organizations and environmental advocates who made wearing fur in public socially unacceptable.

Many furriers were forced out of business.

Even Pappas, one of the leanest operations with some of the best clients, hit rock bottom in 1991, losing half its business in North America.

Demand market

Pappas and other furriers who rode out the bad times now find themselves in a demand market that is improving at 40% annually the past two years.

Pappas conservatively predicts a 20% increase in business this year, with most of it coming from the Asian markets of South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Russia, the latter having been replenished with hard currencies as a result of international loans.

A key to the company’s success is its ability to run everything under one roof.

The company selects and auctions raw pelts it gets from native trappers in Canada and abroad.

Pappas is also fur designer, manufacturer and retailer at its downtown Vancouver location, a building it has owned since 1942.

Third generation

Now in its third generation of family management, the company is run essentially the same as it has been since 1913, when Ted Pappas arrived in Vancouver from Greece and began trading, selecting and grading raw pelts with native tribes.

With three generations of experience, the family knew fortunes and trends would change, so, at the worst of the recession, the company laid the seeds for its eventual recovery by introducing furs aimed at first-time buyers, both internationally and in Canada.

Children’s jackets

The company introduced children’s rabbit fur jackets for $99, as well as offering inexpensive fox and lynx furs for under $500 and under $1,000.

The effort paid off, as it created a market which is now a few years older and ready to order top-of-the-line garments.

More significantly, Pappas has been helped by a change in fashion tastes throughout North America, as well as an explosion in styles by Canadian designers using fur.

‘It is now socially acceptable for women to dress in high-fashion furs,’ says Constantine Pappas, grandson of founder Ted Pappas.

A decade ago, the company’s image rested largely on the ample shoulders and bare chest of Sylvester Stallone, who was shown in ads wearing a Pappas original on one of his frequent visits to Vancouver.

Pappas says Stallone is still a regular buyer, as are many other visiting movie stars and royalty.

But, the market is so strong right now, he feels the company’s product can stand on its own merits as innovative fashion.

It no longer needs to promote fur as a luxury-only item.

Backed by an advertising budget amounting to a half-million dollars, Pappas believes furriers have a message their customers are ready to hear.

The company’s advertising campaign began with a three-page spread for its Grosvenor product line in Vogue’s November, December and January issues.

Vogue spreads

In the same issue, it ran another two-page spread for light-weight, high-quality Pappas originals.

The advertising is timed to run during a period when Pappas expects to get half its annual revenues.

The ads show fur available in a wide range of hot colors and textures, including fur with leather, textiles and microfibres.

Anything sheared – from beaver, muskrat to mink – is popular.

Reversibles

Reversibles, fur-trimmed, ready-to-wear fur accessories, are expected to do well, both in the colder areas of North America and among high-fashion segments of the warmer West Coast.

Pappas will piggyback its advertising with promotions built around a growing industry-led appeal to today’s woman to demand her right to wear what the industry says is a universal symbol of womanhood.

The typical woman wearing fur should be able to feel comfortable knowing that fashion is a statement in itself.

Locally, Pappas has aggressively targetted Chinese newspapers, radio and television in the Lower Mainland in hopes of attracting the large influx of Chinese immigrants with disposable dollars and a penchant for fur fashion.

Chinese influx a boon

These customers are a boon to Pappas, which traditionally depended on tourists stopping by on their way to a cruise or on celebrities simply passing through.

‘Wearing fur is part of the Chinese culture,’ Pappas says. ‘Wearing fur to social events here is quite acceptable.’

Pappas is quite pleased by the response of Chinese customers recently immigrated from Hong Kong, and responded by offering a number of styles designed to fit sophisticated Chinese tastes and sizes.

Full range

Currently, the store offers buyers almost every style and type of fur, ranging in prices from $99 for first-time buyers, to $150,000 for Russian Ranch sable.

What has surprised Pappas the most about the upward trend are the many young Caucasian women who are spending their savings to buy fur for the first time.

‘These younger women are very serious about making fur a part of their fashion,’ Pappas says.