P.E.I. fur coat drive offers chance to repurpose garments

Have you been holding on to your grandma's old fur coat, wondering what to do with it? Two P.E.I. artisans, Whitney Kelly-Clark of Copper Fox and Katharine MacDonald of Milk and Amber want to upcycle them into new creations, so they're holding a fur coat drive this weekend.

Island artisans plan to recycle vintage furs into pillows, hats and more

Copper Fox owner Whitney Kelly-Clark collects fur coats to upcycle into new, handmade products including hats and pillows. (Submitted by Copper Fox)

Have you been holding on to your grandma's old fur coat, wondering what to do with it? Two P.E.I. artisans, Whitney Kelly-Clark of Copper Fox and Katharine MacDonald of Milk and Amber, want to upcycle them into new creations, so they're holding a fur coat drive this weekend.

The drive is being held in conjunction with the PEI Thriftspotting Pop-Up Flea Market Saturday at Central Christian Church in Charlottetown.

I was really interested in creating items from materials that were destined for waste.— Whitney Kelly-Clark

"People often hold onto fur coats for sentimental reasons, but rarely get much use or wear out of them," Kelly-Clark pointed out. 

Copper Fox is a new Island business that uses salvaged fur products in its handmade goods including hats, scarves, pillows and throws. Milk and Amber sells vintage accessories, clothing and housewares collected around P.E.I.

"I have a background in wildlife ecology, and I grew up with a taxidermist as a father, so I have been around fur my whole life," Kelly-Clark explained. "Along the way, using naturally-sourced and salvaged fur became an interest for me."

Donors will be rewarded

Donors will get a voucher for a discount on a future creation from Copper Fox, which also plans to collaborate on a collection of products with Milk and Amber using the salvaged furs. Depending on the quantity and quality of each coat material, the artisans said they may offer donors a small keepsake product.

'There are almost always salvageable pieces,' from an old fur coat, says Copper Fox owner Whitney Kelly-Clark. (Submitted by Copper Fox)

"I can create many little handmade products, or a few larger pieces," from a single coat, shared Kelly-Clark. The coats can be in any condition, and they say any type of fur will work, but they'd especially love locally-sourced furs including those from the old Island Furriers.

"I think that's a barrier for people who are trying to find a good use for their coat, knowing it's not in perfect resale condition. That's not a problem for us," she said. 

'Unique and one-of-a-kind'

Kelly-Clark is learning the business of entrepreneurship through an incubator program called Ellevate, a government-funded youth internship program for women. So far she has been selling her products on the online artisan marketplace Etsy, and plans to become a regular at craft shows.

This fur pom pom hat sells for about $53 on Copper Fox's Etsy site. (Submitted by Copper Fox )

"I was really interested in creating items from materials that were destined for waste, repurposing them and giving them a new life," she explained.

"Added benefit to upcycling furs is that each piece is unique and one-of-a-kind, never the exact same."

Since vintage fur coats are all very different in quality and tailoring, Kelly-Clark said every piece she works with presents its own set of unique challenges.

'No right way' 

"The most difficult part is that there is no 'right way' to do anything. I need to take a customized approach with each piece," she said. 

'It is certainly never boring,' creating new pieces from vintage fur says P.E.I. artisan Whitney Kelly-Clark. (Submitted by Copper Fox)

She must hand stitch some pieces using special hide and leather needles, while others can be tackled with an industrial sewing machine. 

When she works with naturally-sourced fur such as road kill, it can take three days just to prepare the fur for stitching, she said.

"It can be very rewarding to work out these challenges for each piece I create, and it is certainly never boring," Kelly-Clark said. 

Copper Fox plans to donate a portion of profits from its salvaged fur products to the P.E.I. Humane Society and P.E.I. Wildlife Conservation Fund.

About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca