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Furs’ return to fashion boosts Reno store

Tim Clausen

The fur business is coming back in a big way and that’s nothing but good news for the owner of Reno fur store who weathered some difficult years.

For more than 10 years William Furs, Leather and Cashmere has been in the Moana West Shopping Center.Owner William Asmar has seen business trends fluctuate and is heartened by the recent renewed popularity of the style.

Fur sales nationwide have been at alltime highs the past two years, according to Steve Kaplan, executive director of the Fur Information Council of America.

Revenues for 2001 totaled $1.53 billion; only 2000 saw higher sales.

“Sales were down in 2001 because of the effects of the 9/11, the slow economy and the warmest winter on record,” Kaplan said.

“Though the dollars were not as high compared to 2000, sales were actually up with people buying more items but at a lower price.”

Though 2002 revenue numbers are not going to be available until May, Kaplan said that estimates have them up 10 to 15 percent from 2001.

And the uptrend should continue.

That’s good news for Asmar, who began in the industry working as the manager for Furs by Kurt, which opened at the same location in 1977.

After a brief ownership change, Asmar purchased the store about 10 years ago from a San Francisco company and built a clientele throughout the West including California, Idaho and Oregon.

William Furs & Leather sells jackets and accessories including leather, fur and cashmere coats for men and women as well as gloves, hats, wallets and belts.

It also provides on-site leather cleaning and repair and cold storage for furs during the summer months.

“Our sales are usually from October to the end of April and then from April to September we do a lot of servicing, storage and restyling,” Asmar said.

Asmar and his wife travel every year to see the new styles, and he does all the purchasing to make sure he targets his clients’ tastes.

“We buy items designed for our clients and what we think people in Reno will use,” he said.

“Our furs come from Canada, New York and from Europe.

But we buy very few from Europe because they are very fashionable and in Reno people are a little more conservative.

“I buy a lot of fashion coats, but I make sure I buy the American style from New York and Montreal,” he added.

What’s popular in Reno this year? “The sheered mink and beaver is very popular now because it is lightweight, warm and they’re fun to wear,” he said.

“The jean jacket with fur is the big hit this year.

You see it in a lot of fashion magazines and a lot of celebrities, especially the younger singers, wearing the jacket with the fur trim.”

Asmar said he believes that the industry is beginning to regain strength.

“When we took over the industry was very bad,” he said.

“During the last 20 years about half the industry went of out business including retailers, manufacturers and farmers.

However, in the past four to five years we have seen the industry coming back strong.We see designers and fashion magazines, like Vogue and W, using furs at fashion shows all over the world.

Even designers like Victoria Secret are using furs.”

Asmar said that the regained popularity is in a large part due to the fact that designers couldn’t find a way to replace the grace of the fur.

“The fashion designers have tried to replace the glamour and the elegance of the fur coat.

They tried using leather, cashmere, micro fibers, wool and all other kinds of material,” he said.

“It didn’t work, so they are back to the warmth and glamour.”

Kaplan agreed.

“A decade ago there were 42 designers using fur, while this year we will have 300,” he said.

“More and more designers are realizing the flexibility and diversity of fur.”

“The new innovations in dying and shearing and the lighter weight of the garments are getting noticed by designers,” he said.

“We have also seen increases in demographic markets, especially men, this year.”

William Furs & Leather Cashmere has had its opportunity to expand with Asmar receiving offers to open stores in Las Vegas and San Francisco.

After living in Reno for 22 years he could not leave the lifestyle.

“I like Reno a lot,” he said.

“The people here are very good supporters to every business and even though it is a small town it has big-hearted people.”