The use of fur has long been a subject of much debate in the fashion industry, and some might say the topic is currently reaching its critical peak. London Fashion Week has gone fur-free for the first time this season, some top designers have decided to no longer use fur in their collections, and momentum is building for fur bans in major fashion capitals like New York and Los Angeles.
But the great purveyors of the fur trade consider their creations wearable art, using exotic skins in a spectrum of bold and vibrant colors. One such visionary is renowned mathematician-turned-designer Helen Yarmak, who launched her brand in Russia in the early 90s, and who now has flagships in New York City and Milan. Her furs have been worn by icons and fashion darlings like Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, and Beyoncé, among others, and her designs have been featured in style-centric shows and films, including Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada.
On a gorgeous late summer evening in September, some of New York City’s most stylish influencers gathered at the legendary Crown Building overlooking Central Park to see for themselves the creations of the mastermind. Helen Yarmak was on hand as her Spring/Summer 2019 collections were unveiled. Following the presentation, we sat with Yarmak to discuss her inspiration, her background as a mathematician and its role in her career as a designer, and her thoughts on the great fur debate.
Tell us about the Spring/Summer 2019 collections. What was the inspiration? HELEN YARMAK: The inspiration is love and life.
What are your top fur style tips? HY: Furs and fabrics mix well together. My favorite silhouette is a woman wrapped in fur. She is a mystery with an enticing and alluring look.
What types of furs do you enjoy working with most? HY: My favorite is Russian sable. Sable is very rare and can be found only in Russia. There was a law before the revolution that only the Tsar family could wear sable. Now it has become more available. It has a very special energy. When members of the Tsar family married, they used to put one skin of sable on top of the bed for better health. Back in the day, one sable coat cost more than a house. Also, my family name is the same as that of someone who explored Siberia and found sable. Maybe that’s why it is my favorite fur.
For clients in hotter climates, like LA or Miami, how do you recommend they wear fur? HY: We have a lot of customers who live in LA and other warmer climates, and they travel. Our fur is very light and very comfortable, because luxury is about comfort. This is very important.
You launched your brand in Russia, but was bringing the brand to New York always a goal for you? HY: My goal is to be international. You can find our line in Italy, Switzerland, Monaco, and more.
We know you received a PhD in mathematics. How does this influence your designs? HY: Mathematics helps me a lot because math is logic. It’s a possibility to see a whole picture. On that note, we have our special shape. For example, we have one coat that you can wear 35 ways. We have a scientific approach to discovering new technologies.
The fur debate has become very prominent in today’s fashion industry. London Fashion week has announced that they will be completely fur-free and many designers are no longer using fur in their collections. How does your brand continue to persevere despite the adversity? HY: Scientists carried out research that stated how harmful production of synthetic clothes is for the environment. Besides, it’s bad for people to wear such clothes since they might cause allergies. Brands that are against fur still produce a lot of leather jackets, leather belts, shoes and bags. Their margin is high and the quality of skins is far from special, which makes it difficult to mass produce. Moreover, hunting helps preserve balance in the natural habitat.
Explore the luxurious world of Helen Yarmak at the NYC showroom at 730 Fifth Avenue, 23rd Floor, 212-245-0777.