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caption: A woman models a hat and stole at I. Magnin in Seattle (1947). Fur may be taboo in the Northwest, but the industry is still booming. 
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A woman models a hat and stole at I. Magnin in Seattle (1947). Fur may be taboo in the Northwest, but the industry is still booming.
Credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer photo/Museum Of History & Industry

Fur May Not Be Popular In The Northwest, But It's Still Big Business

Did you know that fur is still a big industry in Seattle?

One of the main ways this region became settled and explored was by fur trappers in the early 19th century. And fur farms are still scattered throughout Washington.

Leonard Garfield, executive director of Seattle's Museum of History and Industry, told Marcie Sillman that although the fur industry is still thriving in Seattle, there is a good reason you don't see Seattleites dawning fur coats downtown.

“We don't hear about it so much anymore because, let's face it, fur is really not politically correct. And Seattle is, if nothing else, politically correct,” Garfield said. “So the presence of fur is not as visible, but economically it's very much present.”

But a mink coat is the coat to have for many people in Asia and Russia. Many fashion circles revere mink coats as the epitome of luxury, due to its unbelievable silkiness.

“Fur is both trapped and it’s raised,” Garfield said. “When you raise fur it’s called ‘fur farming,’ and there are mink farms throughout Washington State.”

The mink furs are then taken to furriers who actually make the garments that are eventually exported.

The world’s largest remaining fur auction happens in Renton. (Washington is the 7th biggest producer of mink in the U.S.)

“It’s an outgrowth of one of our oldest fur companies called the Seattle Fur Exchange which was founded back in the early 20th century, sort of an outgrowth of the Gold Rush,” Garfield said.

“It’s not really so much in the United States anymore,” Garfield said. “In countries where luxury was so rare and so forbidden for so many so long, fur has become the item to have.

He added: “China is the golden egg in the basket of the fur industry and that probably will play out over many years, and I don’t think that will go away any time soon.”

Produced for the Web by Brieana Ripley.