Fashion Writer Jenni Avins Traps, Skins, Sews Her Own Fox Fur

by , 02/20/12   filed under: Animal Cruelty, Eco-Fashion News

Jenni Avins, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, fur, faux fur, slow fashion, DIY fashion, fox fur

Jenni Avins made the rounds at New York Fashion Week wearing a red fox-fur vest. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The real story is that the fashion writer, who contributes to New York, Marie Claire, and Vanity Fair, trapped, skinned, and sewed the garment herself, a graphic experience she recounts in the latest issue of Vice. Like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg before her—he who ignited an ethics firestorm when he declared he only ate meat he killed himself—Avins plumbs a gray area on the periphery of fur’s controversial return to the runway. Whatever your politics on the issue, she poses a compelling hypothetical: Is fur more humane if it’s “free-range” and wild-caught? What if you do the hunting and killing yourself?

So tell us, is trapping your own fur haute or not?

  • 509 Votes HELL NO! Murder is murder, no matter how you couch it.
  • 133 Votes HELL YES! You should only wear fur if you're willing to get your hands bloody.
  • 111 Votes MEH. I have no problem with fur, farmed, trapped, or otherwise.

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Jenni Avins, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, fur, faux fur, slow fashion, DIY fashion, fox fur


Since LexisNexis had little to offer, Avins did the only thing she could: go hunting. Turns out, turning dead animal skin into haute couture wasn’t as difficult as she imagined. “It’s a macabre but doable task,” she writes, “given some expert assistance.”

Avins skinned her fox using an industrial-strength metal hanger with two silver hooks suspended by chains.

A series of phonecalls led Avins to the wilds of Pennsylvania, where she met Larry, a “country collector” with “John Denver glasses” who buys and skins carcasses, and Barry, a veterinarian technician who moonlights as a trapper. (Last names have been withheld to protect the guilty.) There, scattering mini-marshmallows, a grape-jelly-like bait, and the contents of a vial labeled “Raccoon #1,” Avis set her first spring-loaded trap—”designed to hold an animal’s paw until it’s ‘dispatched’ (i.e., shot and killed) the following morning”—along a muddy riverbank.

The traps stayed empty the next day, so Larry handed Avins a freshly thawed fox from the icebox. Together with Larry’s partner, Eric, who had just returned from his morning shift as a sergeant at the Lebanon County Prison, Avins proceeded to skin the animal using an industrial-strength metal hanger with two silver hooks suspended by chains on each corner.

Jenni Avins, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, fur, faux fur, slow fashion, DIY fashion, fox fur


The process is stomach-churning, to say the least. “I felt the hook push past the bones and saw it come out on the other side,” she says.” Eric slowly turned the fox, now hanging by its hind legs, a blue plastic bucket on the floor beneath its nose. Next, Eric handed me a small, plastic-handled paring knife. With the tip of the blade, I traced up the backs of the fox’s shins and then around the bottoms of its ankles. I worked my fingers into the seam of sliced flesh, pulling the fur from shiny muscle until the swath was completely separated and hanging just below its tail. Then I worked my fingers into a tiny space between the muscle and the still-connected skin and yanked it as hard as I could, peeling the fox to the base of its tail, exposing the tailbone.”

“Something inside me wanted to clutch it to my chest, like a teddy bear or a baby,” Avins says.

Forty minutes later, Avins found herself holding the entire skin, inside out, in her arms, feeling completely bewildered. Pulling off the fur, she felt an “unfamiliar mixture of gratitude and remorse,” she says. “Something inside me wanted to clutch it to my chest, like a teddy bear or a baby…To my horror, I was starting to cry.”

After Larry and Eric sold her three more fox pelts, Avins had enough to make her vest. Total cost? $150, which she describes as a “total steal.” From there, Avins took her hides to a dresser named Marc in New Jersey, who plunged them into “frothing tubs of soap, chemicals, and salt” to process the skin into leather.

Back in Manhattan, Avins conducted the final leg of her journey with the help of Dimitris, who helped her piece together the furs. “With a gold-handled blade, Dimitris sliced off their pale inner edges and sewed the skins together, creating a mutant, two-headed fox pelt with a double-wide back,” she says. “‘See?’ he said. ‘Like plastic surgery.’ Then he unceremoniously swiped across the tops of their necks. Like that, my foxes were fabric.” Maria, a seamstress known as a finisher, inserted a butterscotch-flecked gray flannel lining that “resembled the underlayer of fox fur.”

If you were hoping for any monumental epiphany or crashing waves of insight, you’d be disappointed. There is little catharsis to be had in her dénouement, which occurs when Avins brings her finished vest to a monogram shop on 30th St. to have her name embroidered. “Really, I should have requested a few more: Maria, Dimitris, Marc, Barry, Eric, and Larry,” she concludes. “Plus four little red foxes who are keeping me very, very warm this winter. And I love every last one of them for it.”

+ Vice

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15 Responses to “Fashion Writer Jenni Avins Traps, Skins, Sews Her Own Fox Fur”

  1. kirstan (@Runs_W_PitBulls) says:

    She’s horrid. No need for it. No need for her to kill them and wear them.

  2. shawna05 says:

    I hope some animal traps you and has you for dinner. You are a MURDERER

  3. Sabina says:

    Its awful! Actually cruelty and inhumanity is the big prob of our society! her tears or regrets don’t cost anything when the life of innocent pure thing is gone! Ppl do anything to gain money forgetting that they’re not immortal! To cease this you should never use the things that are probused on the basis of someone’s pain of suffering!….Can you do it at least for the sake of God that u believe in?

  4. Mary2122 says:

    This is disgusting and that vest is ugly. The fur looks better on the fox. These lives are taken and they deserve life just as much as we do. We live in a world where we can go to the store and buy clothes that keep us warm without taking an animal’s life. You are selfish.

  5. SuS says:

    This is grotesque. I can’t believe people think this is “fashion.” When are we going to ban fur already??

  6. amy159 says:

    as an australian i think there is a difference between killing animals native to a country and when they are feral such as foxes (in australia). I put the health of native animals and local biodiversity ahead of the ferals. so fur as byproduct of giving native australian animals a chance i’m okay with but of i don’t know if there is that kind of a fur industry here.

  7. stef_lee (@stef_lee) says:

    I am disgusted and appalled that this is featured in major magazines and websites as if it’s even a debatable question of ethics or fashion. NO, it is not more ethical to kill and skin a fox yourself, nor is it more ethical to kill your own food. Murder is murder, no matter how you frame it. And that vest (and any other animal fur worn by a person for “fashion”) is UGLY AS SIN. And the “fashionista” in question comes across as incredibly shallow, citing the total price ($150, “a steal!”) almost as a reason to justify her cruel murder of the animals. I’m ashamed of you, Ecouterre, for featuring this.

  8. TaiChiChuan says:

    Okay, aside from my distate for wearing dead animals, I must point out that this article is completely and utterly misleading, and its headline is an outright fabrication.

    “The traps stayed empty the next day, so Larry handed Avins a freshly thawed fox from the icebox.”

    She did NOT trap her own fox.

    “After Larry and Eric sold her three more fox pelts …”

    She didn’t do the skinning for all the pelts she used. She only skinned one of the four pelts used.

    “With a gold-handled blade, Dimitris sliced off their pale inner edges and sewed the skins together, creating a mutant, two-headed fox pelt with a double-wide back”

    She also didn’t sew the pelts together. This was done by Dimitris and Maria, who put in the lining.

    Frankly, by the end of this article, I wasn’t expecting her to have had an epiphany. How could she have an epiphany or “crashing waves of insight” when she didn’t even do most of what she’s supposed to have done?

  9. Tabbytha says:

    I have mixed feelings lately about hunting and fishing… We do not need to hunt for food anymore, however most farming (factory farming) is immensly cruel. An animal in the wild goes through FAR less trauma, even when trapped, then most of the animals we farm for meat. I have begun to think that hunting is far less cruel than large-scale farming. Some farmers have been able to raise the animals without cruelty but much of the meat we eat is from cruel farming methods. Not sure what the answer is, but just keep in mind if you eat meat where your meat comes from. It has made me think lately. Wearing fur for fashion is to me a definate no… Using the fur after hunting for the meat (eating the animal) seems not so bad. Hunting for sport is a no. We may not need to wear fur as clothing, but is the hunting more humane than the large-scale farming? Just a thought… still trying to figure it out myself.

  10. WisePati says:

    I think that trapping an animal is horribly cruel. They have been known to chew their own legs off. How do YOU feel when you are trapped? I don’t agree that this is less traumatic than animals that are humanely raised and killed quickly. I understand we are far from that goal, but it is doable. There are far too many people on the planet for everyone to hunt.
    This ‘woman’ is disgusting, wearing that fur like some sort of trophy. Why is is so glamorous to kill something? Fur farming and trapping is cruel by definition and serve no good.
    And to address the issues of areas where non-native species are destroying their native species, I understand that those animals need to be removed or killed, but it can be done in a way so as not to causes undo suffering. Leg hold traps are horribly cruel. Can’t humans get past the 19th century?

  11. kylielinkinstar says:

    Its soo insane to takes someone skin off just to put it on your own back, anyone involved in the real fur trade are sick and twisted, they need physiological help, ones who make money off it and the insane people who think they look good in it.

  12. Furisdead says:

    Horrible! Breaks my heart to see it’s body hanging. Stupid girl. No heart and no soul. The live fox was more beautiful than she could ever hope to be.

  13. Matt. T says:

    Jenni you should not let people get you down about what you did, it is probobly because they are jelous of how nice it looks or how nice you look in it. I think the world needs more; strong, brave and insperational women like yourself. You should try making more coats you did a nice job on this, why not try; mink, lynx, wolf, coyote, snake, bear, beaver, chinchilla, and sheep(you can make vest with them). so good job and hope you try more.

  14. K M says:

    I am morally opposed to wearing fur. I am also morally opposed to eating meat.

    Could someone please explain to me how one seems to be okay with almost everyone, where the other causes moral upheaval?

    Traditionally speaking (as in, what was true for most of our history as a species), wearing the fur of an animal was part of making use of an entire kill — as was using their bones for tools. We eat millions of tons of meat, poultry and fish every year, but for the most part the rest of their bodies go to waste.

    Or is it not okay just because it’s a cute fox? Chickens and cows and fish are not cute, so we can eat them? I tend to think pigs are pretty darn cute — that’s how my vegetarianism started.

  15. kristal says:

    Most of the commenters here should stop eating vegetables, too, ‘ cause lettuces and tommatoes suffer also when we farm and kill them…. They should eat rocks, so they could be entirely cruelty free :) Why stop on anti-fur and no-meat? They should go deeper. I wonder how good this commenters are, not to animals but to other people…. How tolerant are they ? It is NOT their problem what this lady choses to wear. They can eat and wear whatever they want for whatever reasons threy have, but how on earth do they DARE to command or judge another person’s decisions? Who are they, God??? Damn hypocrites, mind your own petty lives!

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