Gorgeous Creatures shop online for home decor & animal skins
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From now on we can not promise that parcels sent overseas to UK, USA, Canada & Australia will arrive in time for Christmas. NZ still OK for most products.

Fur Facts

Fabulous New Zealand Possum Fur Features

NZ possum fur floor rug

Possum fur feels like springy silk velvet to touch. It is unbelievably soft and silky.

New Zealand possum fur is a medium length (4-6cm) plush type fur, with a dense cushioned undercoat. New Zealand possum fur is completely different from the fur of the American Opossum. New Zealand possum fur doesn't shed like other furs and is anti-static. It also contains a natural enzyme that helps to reduce some skin conditions like eczema. 

The hair fibre is very strong so you won’t be covered in hair every time you lean on your fabulous possum fur cushion, bed blanket or sofa throw. New Zealand possum fur is considered durable so if it is well looked after and correctly cleaned and stored when not in use it can last up to 10 years or longer.

Possum fur is very warm - in fact they say it is the third warmest fur in the world after polar bear and Arctic fox because of its hollow hair structure that traps warmth like a thermos. And just like polar bear hair, it is the hollow hair structure that does not allow possum fur to freeze, even when exposed to extreme cold. Possum fur is said to be 14% lighter and 8% warmer than wool in university studies.

When blended with merino wool we can make a divine natural possum merino fiber that is soft and comfortable. This is used to make all kinds of wonderful wool knitted clothing and fashion accessories.
shop-possum-fur-throws
Photographs above by Anil Dumasia from Image Central 

Why are possum fur blankets and throws so expensive?

This is a valid question and there are a lot of components to the answer. The best way to explain is to consider the steps needed to make a possum throw or blanket, and then what it takes to get the finished product into the marketplace.
 

The steps involved in making a possum fur throw

Step one: Getting possum skins from the bush.
The best furs are collected in autumn and winter. So this is a seasonal business, even though fur is plucked for possum merino knitwear all year round. The really good large furry possums will be in the more remote cooler areas. Some areas can only be accessed on foot (after a long 4-wheel drive) or by helicopter.

Possum trappers need to tramp into the bush and make camp, then spend a week or two setting traps, go back every day walking up and down mountains to check the traps and collect the skins. When they have enough, they tramp out of the bush again or meet the helicopter. The skins need to be preserved with salt and stored. This process will go on for months before the trappers have enough to sell to the fur agents.

Note: The tanneries must pay top dollar for the best quality possum fur skins, otherwise the trappers will not bring them out of the bush. It is much easier and cleaner for the trappers to simply pluck the fur to be used to make possum merino knitwear. The price for plucked fur reached record highs per kilo last year due to China buying as much plucked fur fluff as they can get access too. This drives up the price for the local market.
 
Possum fur tanning

Tanneries need to hold a large amount of skins in various stages of processing, including a large fur vault with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of finished furs. There are about 13 official natural possum fur colours and each colour is used to make a different product or dyed colour like black or red for example.


Step two: The tannery processes, grades and tans the skins
Once the tannery buys the skins they start a very labour intensive process to preserve them. First they sort by colour and size. And then grade for quality and store until needed.

As orders come in they tan a large drum of skins to fulfill each order. Each batch takes about 1-2 weeks to complete and involves about 60 steps; most of these steps are manual labour, wet, messy, smelly and generally very unpleasant. Once tanned they comb out fur knots, clean and iron, re-sort, re-grade and dispatch or store until needed.

Note: The cost of the tanning chemicals has increased worldwide in the last few years. We suspect this may be linked to the cost of oil in some way? This has affected all leather industries worldwide.


Step three: A professionally trained furrier crafts the possum throw or blanket
Making a possum blanket is not as simple as just cutting and sewing. If it is done right there is a lot more work involved. When the furs arrive they need to be checked, and then dampened and lightly stretched and pined to boards to dry. Then they remove any naturally occurring faults in the fur (like re-growth). Grade the fur and blend the furs so that they all go together nicely. Trim them and sew them together to a very specific size, finally they line with a quality fabric backing. This process takes about 1 week per blanket or throw.

Note: Not all people who own a fur machine are furriers. To become a qualified furrier takes years of specialist training and experience.
 
Step four: Getting a possum throw or blanket into the marketplace
Placing a product in front of the consumer also has costs. Simple things like freight need to be factored into a product costing. Retailers have expenses like shop rent and staff wages, insurance, rates, Eftpos rental (online payment facilities), power, phone, web hosting and advertising. Product photography is probably one of the most important things when selling a tactile luxury product online and this all adds to the final price of a possum throw and blanket.
 
Conclusion
So that is a simplified account of the steps it takes to make a possum throw or blanket and the people involved to bring it to the consumer. Every step of the process is very labour intensive. Once all the factors are considered we hope that the true value of talented and skilled craftspeople that make these wonderful products will be better appreciated.

Yes there are a lot of possums in New Zealand and we want to control the numbers to help save the native bush but that doesn’t make fur a cheap commodity. Someone still needs to put in the hard work and deal with the mess. Thankfully the possum fur industry employees a lot of New Zealanders. And the public get to see and enjoy the beautiful end result.

 

The Ancient Craft of the FurrierFurriers-tools

The art of the furrier, who is a craftsman and artisan who works with fur, is a very specialised and ancient craft. There are only a handful of people in New Zealand who are experienced and qualified in this very old tradition.

Our Gorgeous Creatures furrier is a second generation furrier who learned his trade from his father in England over 25 years ago with a heritage of luxury craftsmanship. He is a Master Furrier who knows how to work professionally with possum fur to achieve a quality heirloom product that will stand the test of time. All our possum fur products are made in New Zealand.

Because of our furriers’ skills and experience we can customise your possum interior décor fur throw, blanket, cushions or anything else you can think of to make from possum fur as long as the fur is suitable for the use that you imagine.

Mink is the undisputed King of fur for use as a coat and other clothing items, and possum is the King of interior decor because it has the necessary strength and durability and is very cost effective when compared with other real furs.

Responsible, Eco-Friendly, Renewable, Recyclable and Biodegradable

There was a lot of propaganda, protest and controversy about fur in the late 1980's, since then the fur trade has as grown up, the industry has become more responsible, technology and animal welfare has improved and as long fur comes from a reputable supplier from a responsible country it is not much different than beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, milk and wool that people grow as a natural resource for human use.

We are not an unbiased voice but we feel that there is plenty of propaganda available online speaking against the fur industry and very little positive response in support of the fur industry. There is always two sides to any story. It simply does not make any sense for a fur farmer to treat his animals badly. It is in his best interest for the animals to be healthy.

**Please note that Gorgeous Creatures possum fur is not farmed but a wild by-product of the effort to save the native forest and birds.

Origin assured organisationThe British Fur Trade Association has launched a new fur industry initiative designed to promote transparency of product origin called Origin Assured. “When consumers see the OA™ label they can be certain that, wild or farmed, the fur comes from a country where national or local regulations or standards governing fur production are in force. OA™ labels can only be used on items which are 100% Origin Assured fur.” The initiative is currently focused mainly on the clothing industry and only certain countries and species qualify for the OA™ mark at the moment. New Zealand and New Zealand possums have not yet been included in this qualification but we hope that it may be included in the near future.

Unlike artificial furs, real fur can last for many decades if well looked after, can be recycled, restyled, and comes from a renewable resource. Fur is also biodegradable.

The New Zealand Fur Council works closely with the Department of Conservation to educate and promote the public about NZ possum fur. Their FAQ's are an interesting read.

When is a Possum not an Opossum?

Other than both being marsupials, the Australian Brushtail Possum and the North American Opossum are very difference from each other. They are not even the same species, genus, subfamily, family or order from a scientific classification perspective.
 
Australian Common Brushtail Possum:
Trichosurus vulpecula
 
Virginia North American Opossum:
Didelphis virginiana
Introduced to New Zealand from Australia, to establish a fur industry from 1837-1921. Unique to New Zealand and Australia.   Native to the eastern United States but now spread through to western United States. Also in Central American. Original ancestors where most likely from South America.
Up to 90cm (35”) long (incl. tail) and up to 6kg (13.2lb) for a really fat one. The Brushtail Possum is one of the largest varieties of possum in the world.   Around 38-51cm (15-20") long (incl. tail) and 4-5kg (9-11lb)
Reddish brown, dark brown or grey with beige undercoat, very furry face and furry prehensile tail.   Silver grey to grey black fur with white pointed face, pink nose, feet and bald prehensile tail.
Fur is a medium length (5-10cm) plush type fur, with a dense warm cushioned undercoat. Fur is hollow and highly insulating.     Fur is coarse with long flat hairs. Not suitable for clothing or interior décor.
A nocturnal marsupial. Traditionally Aboriginal people in Victoria and Tasmania sometimes used cloaks of possum skin to ward off cold winds and rain. The skins were sewn together to make a very effective garment.   Solitary and nocturnal marsupial, when frightened and unable to flee may fall into an involuntary shock-like state that makes it appear dead, "playing possum", they often recover after a few hours and make a safe exit.
Average natural lifespan 5-6 years.   Average natural lifespan 2-4 years.
Generally disliked in New Zealand because it is killing the native forests and impacting on native birds and wildlife. Considered a pest. Also a nuisance in urban areas. Has a horrible crackling growling territorial call at night. Protected in some states of its native Australia.   Generally disliked because it resembles a rat (but is not related to rats) and is ugly, can be a nuisance in urban areas getting into trash cans and nesting in roofs. Considered a pest. Can appear vicious if cornered but is not dangerous.
NZ-possum   USA-opossum