Montreal

This 25-year-old Quebec fur tailor wants you to dig into your grandma's closet

Since Dilan Porzuczek took over Fourrures Léopold Martel in Jonquière a year ago, business is thriving. The master tailor is mostly making coats from recycled fur. 'We're able to transform it a lot of times before it comes to an end in its life,' he says.

Dilan Porzuczek makes mostly recycled fur coats, and his Jonquière business is thriving

Dilan Porzuczec came across Fourrures Léopold Martel, founded in Jonquière in 1976, four years ago. Now he's the owner, and business is thriving. (Priscilla Plamondon Lalancette/Radio-Canada)

Growing up ice-fishing in Saguenay, Dilan Porzuczek and his family would wear fur mittens, hats and coats to stay warm. 

"My interest in the fur industry started when I was really young," Porzuczek said. 

Today perhaps the youngest master fur tailor in the province, the 25-year-old is hoping to pass that tradition on to other Quebecers — with a modern twist.

Four years ago, he set out to buy himself a new fur coat. That's when he stumbled upon a small company founded in 1976, Fourrures Léopold Martel, in Jonquière. 

He struck up a relationship with the owner, Rémy Lalancette, who was considering closing up shop, as business dwindled.

At Fourrures Léopold Martel, the tailors remake old coats in a modern style to appeal to younger customers. (Priscilla Plamondon Lalancette/Radio-Canada)

But things started looking up when Porzuczek went to work for him. The young fur tailor brought with him new ideas, and Lalancette was able to pass on secrets of the trade. 

"What he learned in four years takes most people 20 years," Lalancette said. "He's found his place in the industry. He'll go far." 

A year ago, Porzuczek purchased the company from Lalancette — now, his mentor works for him. The shop has undergone a complete facelift. 

Rémy Lalancette hired Dilan Porzuczec to work with him at Fourrures Léopold Martel four years ago, teaching him the trade and selling him the business last year. (Priscilla Plamondon Lalancette/Radio-Canada)

'Fur is the most sustainable material'

Fourrures Léopold Martel has been making recycled fur coats and accessories for 18 years, when Lalancette started remodeling old fur coats that were collecting dust in people's wardrobes. 

Under Porzuczek's ownership, now 80 per cent of the items in the store are recycled from old coats. Porzuczek encourages other young people to look in their grandparents' closets or ask around for old fur coats that could be lying around. 

A new fur coat costs between $6,000 to $8,000, and a recycled coat is between $3,500 and $4,500.

"Fur is the most sustainable material, and we're able to transform it a lot of times before it comes to an end in its life," Porzuczek said. 

It takes at least 50 hours to make a fur coat, Dilan Porzuczek says. (Priscilla Plamondon Lalancette/Radio-Canada)

He admits it's an investment but insists it's worth it. 

"You will have it for so long that ultimately, rather than buying several ready-to-wear coats, you'll have the same coat that you can simply transform over time," he said. 

Porzuczek also pointed out synthetic material used to make modern winter coats is made out of petroleum-based materials, while fur coats are biodegradable. 

With the fur industry's decline over the past 20 or 30 years, expertise has been lost, and now Dilan Porzuczek has trouble finding qualified help. (Priscilla Plamondon Lalancette/Radio-Canada)

He says he's been receiving so many orders that he wants to expand the workshop and business — but first, Porzuczek will need to find fur tailors. 

That's not easy.

Due to the decline of the fur coat industry over the past 20 years, much of the expertise of master tailors has been lost, and there are few people coming into the industry.

Porzuczek teaches at the École de mode de Québec, and he is hoping that's where he'll find the next generation of fur tailors.

With files from Radio-Canada's Priscilla Plamondon Lalancette

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