First in Fur: Adrienne Landau

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Published September 1, 2011

 

PHOTO BY SAULO VILLELA

 

When Adrienne Landau launched her line of playful, bohemian furs in 1979, she could barely sew. “I remember one time, I was pinning all these little fur scraps to a dress form, trying to make a coat. But when I took it off the mannequin to try it on, I noticed that something was really wrong. It had no sleeves!” she laughs, flipping her long black hair off the lush fur pillow propped behind her back.

The furrier’s aversion to arms, as well as her penchant for collaging mismatched fur swatches, leather, and sable tails into artfully patch-worked cloaks, quickly earned her the title of “The Cape Lady.” Diana Vreeland frequently donned a cherry red Adrienne Landau cape, which was not unlike the rouge faux-fur cloak the designer recently crafted for Lady Gaga’s “Judas” video. As Landau reclines on a couch in her studio, the walls of which are lined with racks of cropped jackets, colorful scarves, vests and coats (with arms), it’s clear that the furrier has come a long way since her straitjacket mishap.  

Formerly an artist, Landau originally began making bags and capes from discarded snippets of skins and fur to support her painting career. However, after collaborating with her best friend to show an installation about their lives at OK Harris gallery in the ’70s (“We hung up our report cards, love letters, wedding pictures, and showed home movies. It ended with our divorce papers,” she says with a smirk), Landau felt she couldn’t make a living as an artist. And, according to the designer, who recalls that she wore her first beaver fur coat at the age of two, fashion gave her a broad and lucrative platform.   In the early days, Elizabeth Taylor would buy Landau’s fur-trimmed kimonos to wear as bathrobes. Barbara Streisand donned the designer’s hats, and Dianna Ross requested what Landau describes as “something with a lot of feathers.” Today, Landau’s easy yet glamorous coats, detachable collars, capes, hats and vests are favored by the likes of Rihanna, for whom she recently created a multi-feather bolero, Beyoncé, who just picked up a pair of fall’s coyote leg warmers, Vanessa Williams, and Alessandra Ambrosio. “With my furs, you can become Marlene Dietrich or you can be Lady Gaga. It’s all about your fantasy. And how you wear it,” says Landau.

Judging by the range of furs in her fall collection, which includes a spiky emerald raccoon trapper’s hat, animal-print everything (one of her signatures), a red polka-dot rabbit scarf, and savage Mongolian fur vests, Landau indeed offers looks for a wide range of decadent tastes. But she’s never too serious. “Lately, it’s been more fun to work in non-precious furs. I love working in raccoon, rabbit and fox. And it’s not just about wearing one piece. You can wear three pieces together and have a little fun,” she says.   This season, Landau asserts that it’s all about “color, color, color!” as well as lots of big collars, capes and fur around the face. “And vests. You can throw them over anything. I think you wear them more than your big heavy winter coat,” she adds. But when it comes to her favorite fur, Landau admits, ” I don’t have a favorite! That’s like asking who’s your favorite child? But I always throw on a big fur collar. You know, I can just feel blah. And then I put that on and I’m happy.”

Follow Adrienne at @Adrienne_Landau