New Plastic Fur
By Harriet Rivard, Associate Director of the American Wool Council
Plastic furs! Sheep in plastic wolf?s clothing! And in lynx fox, skunk, blue fox, sheared beaver, seal, mink and sable clothing.
That?s no Dali dream, but an actuality, and it has come about through the Calva Plastic Process which makes sheepskins, including shearlings, simulate the most precious long-haired and short-haired furs.
This new plastic is far from being in the experimental stage. Winslow Bros. & Smith Company of Boston, a subsidiary of the Armour Company, has built a complete new plant in Norwood, Massachusetts, where it is now turning out Calva processed sheepskins for the Army Air Corps. That?s why a girl who has always dreamed of owning a luxurious-looking fur coat without having to mortgage the old family homestead will have to wait a while longer ? although Benjamin Harrison Weiss, New York representative of Calva Fur Patents Corporation, hinted to me that the public may be able to buy some of these within the next year.
What?s more, it is claimed neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet can halt these sheepskin-furs from their appointed duty as practical winter coats. This plastic process is said to be water-proof, and, its inventor declares it even increases the beauty of the furs. If they should get soiled from the winter soot, you just take a damp cloth and wash them off. The strong quality of the sheepskin base also means you?ll have a fur coat that "will never wear out."
As an illustration of what a market there is for these "plastic furs" is the near-riot that occurred in one of New York?s largest department stores last spring when they offered a limited number of these plastic furs made of sheepskins which were government rejects of shearlings intended for aviators? uniforms.
This department store, purveyors of some of the most expensive and exclusive merchandise to be found in New York City, advertised these ?plastic? furs in their debutante, or lower-priced, fur department. Hundreds of women stormed the doors of the fur department to see these coats. In fact, all other business was suspended in the fur department for a week. The all-too-few ?plastic? fur coats, retailing at $150, sold out in no time. The store, however, kept two of the coats for models to parade through the department so the crowds of interested women could see what they looked like. The introduction of these plastic furs is given credit for the subsequent sensational success of this fur department.
We saw the sheepskin in all the stages of the process from the raw hides down to the finished furs. The possibilities of these plastic furs appears to be amazing. They can be dyed in colors that were never seen on the back of any animals ? sharp ?high? colors or soft, melting pastels. Mr. Weiss told us that because of the process that has been applied to the wool fibers, they are able to achieve colors that are not possible to get in wool yarns.
This means the launching of an entirely new fashion in coats for sports, for schoolgirls and for children ? coats in gay colors for winter entirely of fur, or in combination with wool, which will be within the reach of almost everyone. They may be used for luxurious lap robes, carriage robes for babies, and bed covers of the type formerly dreamed up only for interiors in Hollywood productions.
Wearing these new plastic-processed sheepskins now completes the cycle begun when primitive peoples first used the hide with the fleece to make garments to protect them from the elements.
The Calva process is versatile, one that can also be used to make bristles more bristly or make harsh fibers softer. Mr. Weiss told us that he has made a cashmere-like fiber of Texas wool. Fibers treated with the Calva process are said to be shrinkproof, waterproof, and mothproof.
One of the country?s largest rug companies is now making experiments to achieve interesting fur-affects with their carpet weaves with the application of this process as well as to waterproof them. Another important development of this process may be floor-size fur rugs of almost undreamed-of beauty and luxury for rooms done in the modern style of decoration. Upholstery of plastically treated sheepskins is another possibility.
The Calva Process is the discovery of Dr. J. B. Calva of Minneapolis. The process straightens and softens the fibers of the fleece and gives them a beautiful luster. To show the first results of the process, Mr. Weiss showed me two shearlings ? one before and one after processing. Except for both being off-white in color, they appeared to have no other characteristic in common.
Mr. Weiss, who is a well-known fur expert in New York with years of experience in the most expensive furs, works out the application of the Calva Process to commercial use.
The value of the plastically treated sheepskins for parkas for the air corps was found in their characteristic of easily shedding snow, sleet, and ice, and of being waterproof.