Fashion Week Focus: Feathers Are Hot Hot Hot

| February 15, 2012 4:00 AM

New designs by Prabal Gurung unveiled during Fashion Week feature feathers on skirts and dresses. The Feather Place in the garment district is extra busy this year as feathers continue to be a hit on the runways. AP/ Stephen Chernin

It’s Fashion Week in New York, and you know what that means. Models, designers and their assistants, fans and celebrities are out in full force, roaming Lincoln Center to see and be seen.

But do you know what else it means? Feathers.

The garment district buzzes with activity every Fashion Week as designers’ assistants make last-minute showroom visits, looking for that one culminating accessory or embellishment that will really make a model — and an outfit — pop.  One place that always sees tons of behind-the-scenes action is the 15-year-old garment district mainstay, The Feather Place.

“New York is such a vital place for fashion,” owner Abby Arauz, who opened The Feather Place while she was still a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall, said by phone.

Arauz is the third generation of her family to take up the business. She said the fashion industry accounts for 25 percent of her business, and Fashion Week is a very busy time of year at her Midtown showroom (not to mention a driving force in the New York economy, with this year’s week-long events set to generate $865 million for the city).

The shop has been especially busy this year as feathers scored big on the runways. Designers like Prabal Gurung and Lorena Sarbu made a splash with peacock and ostrich feathers and Zoe Kravitz, the singer and daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet, performed at Fashion Week in a dress “festooned with feathers” and told Newsday she was a feather devotee.

Feathers of all types and in all colors are displayed in the Feather Place's garment district showroom. During Fashion Week, the shop gets extra chaotic. Photo by Vanson Lee.

“Fashion Week is a crazy, chaotic time in NYC, and our showroom is not spared the rush,” said Chloë Arauz (no relation to owner Abby Arauz), who runs the day-to-day management of The Feather Place. “We have been getting a large amount of business by designers and all different creative types.”

And, although the rent is high, uprooting the Feather Place from New York City is not an option, according to Abby Arauz.

“It’s difficult to stay in the garment district, but New York has the pulse on what the trends are,” Arauz said, adding that the feather community is small, with just three feather showrooms in the city. However, Arauz has since returned to her roots — her family has a feather warehouse and dye-plant in California, Mo., where she currently lives. Three years ago she also opened a showroom in Los Angeles and she keeps an eye on both locations remotely.

LISTEN: Abby Arauz speaks with WFUV‘s George Bodarky about her family business — feathers.

Arauz, who, at this point, can predict trends in the industry, said that right now, feathers are “trending hard.”

Last summer, wearing feathers in your hair, specifically the feathers of roosters bred exclusively for fly tying, became a fashion phenomenon. According to the New York Times, the high demand turned an industry not typically of interest to fashionistas and bloggers — fishermen who tie their own flies — upside down.

Steven Tyler put feathers in his hair and started a sensation,” said Arauz. “A lot of people who never thought about feathers were wearing them. It drew more attention to them.”

According to the Times report, it takes “more than a year for a rooster to grow feathers long and pliable enough for use by fly fishermen. Because no one could have predicted the fashion trend, there are not enough to go around.”

Abby Arauz was a Rockette for 10 years, and when she started working in the family feather business, the Rockettes were one of her first clients. Photo courtesy of Abby Arauz.

And even though The Feather Place makes a point of not selling feathers from birds bred specifically for that purpose, they did experience a 30 percent increase in sales when the fly fisherman feathers, called hackles, went big.

“If people couldn’t get that kind of feather they’d get another feather,” said Arauz.

Of course, feathers are a perennial costume favorite as well. Mardi Gras, Carnival and Halloween are all times of year when feathers are in high demand.

Whether used in fashion or costume, Arauz says feathers have the potential to “glitz up” anything.

“It’s exciting to see them!” she said.

  • Cojo

    OMG I MUST visit this Feather Place! I love seeing feathers during this past NY Fashion Week. And you’re right, there are so many other kinds of feathers available besides the controversial fly fisherman feathers. ~ cojo (cojospace.etsy.com)

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