by Millie Yates
This Dolce & Gabbana fur coat from the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection (FRC2009.01.226 A+B) is a breath of fresh air amongst the functional but drab black coats often seen in the long Canadian winter.
The thick, luxurious fur used in this garment has beautiful gradations in colour, shifting from light to dark on the sleeve, to a deep gray on the front. The fur is long and lustrous, and incredibly smooth to the touch. In consultation with a furrier, the fur has been identified as long-haired rabbit. Rabbit fur is distinguishable by its flat, smooth look and medium-length guard hairs (note 1). It is also known as a good “imitator” because depending on how rabbit is treated, it can resemble other varieties of fur. Rabbit is naturally brown and white, though it is often dyed in processing. Interestingly, rabbit is commonly used as both lining and self, which means that this garment could be worn inside-out. Rabbit fur is not a particularly strong or hardwearing textile, and generally speaking it is more affordable than other kinds of fur. This makes it a somewhat unusual choice for a designer label like Dolce & Gabbana. Four large snaps close the garment, concealed on the inside and then concealed on the outside under the hair of the fur. The snaps run about midway down the jacket, and there is a small slit between the first row of buttons and the second. This slit allows the wearer to button only the bottom row of snaps, allowing the floral leather pattern to be visible when the collar is folded over.
The hand-painted leather on the inside of the coat is what makes this garment truly remarkable. The painted floral pattern is based on a background of warm beige, and the colours that appear in the floral pattern are red, yellow, grass green, bright pink, black and gray. The flowers themselves are yellow and pink, while the stems are green. Soft, fluid brushstrokes of gray fill the areas without flowers. Though the paint used is not watercolour, the technique used to paint the garment seems to imitate the medium. The floral pattern in each coat would subtly differ, making this piece one-of-a-kind.
There are belt loops on the inside of the garment, which seemed unusual at first. There is a belt that accompanies the garment, made of the same fur as the jacket and stitched onto an inner panel of the same painted leather as the garment. There are no belt loops on the exterior of the garment. This coat is in fact reversible. The wearer could choose the fur side as the right side of the garment, or turn it inside out to reveal the floral pattern, cinching the waist with the contrasting fur belt.