The Business of Fur According to Thomas Salomon
Thomas Salomon is not your average general manager of a luxury fashion brand. Sure, he travels to keep an eye on the growing number of boutiques—“I’m based in Paris, but I travel every month. I’ll visit New York once a month, I’m in Hong Kong every other, and also Korea. We’re also opening a store in London next month”—but he's also been involved in the family-run fur business for as long as he can remenber.
Plus, he’s just as tapped into the world outside of luxury. He counts Ibiza as his favourite holiday hot spot and since we spoke, has even ventured out to Reno, Nevada for the week-long event Burning Man in August.
We meet on a hot afternoon in Hong Kong to preview what’s to come for fall/winter 2018. Although still cooling down from the sweltering heat from outside, I’m excited to see what’s to come for the next season.
It's an array of color-blocked patch-pocket jackets in shearling and mink, shearling robe coats in animal prints for the main collection, a variety of fur-trimmed parkas in different shapes and colours but also a few exquisite patchworked coats in multicolored graphics.
Thomas then explains that they’re from a special collection they call Pieces, “we take scraps and leftover pelts to create one-off designs with unique patterns and special colors.”
You studied business in school and you took over the helms at Yves Salomon eight years ago- what have been the biggest changes you've made to the company?
My father is very open-minded, and I learnt from him that if you want to have a successful business, you have to become a brand, not just a producer. When I joined the business almost a decade ago, 50% of the business was producing garments for other labels, and now, it’s close to 10%.
We haven’t reduced the business of producing for other brands, but we have been steadily growing the Yves Salomon label.
What’s your goal for the Yves Salmon label?
My objective was to create things for every type of customer, man and woman. That’s why we have Army, Yves Salmon, Pieces and Yves Salmon Men. We also have a line of childrenswear and we are collaborating with Moonboots this season on a collection of fur and shearling lined boots.
What do you think should be a woman’s first fur coat?
I would say it’s a mink coat, it’s a staple when it comes to fur. But to be honest, I don’t think of Yves Salomon as just a fur brand; the market is changing and consumer tastes are evolving so much.
So a customer may come in wanting to get a mink, but she might leave with a fur sweater, or maybe a parka or a shearling jacket. It really depends on what she finds and likes. Fur is no longer just a product, it’s a lifestyle.
What do you think sets Yves Salomon apart from other fur brands?
I don’t see Yves Salmon as a fur brand, but rather a luxury outerwear label. Today, our customer doesn’t want to be limited, they want to be offered a wide range of products. And at Yves Salomon, we’re not just creating the same coat over and over again, we’re evolving. 90% of what you see in stores are not carry-over-styles from previous seasons, and we’re creating new silhouettes and new styles every season.
Some may argue that fur is a dying industry, what’s your take on this?
I think the industry needs to have more transparency on how animals are treated and where they are sourced. What’s happening now is actually very good for the industry. It forces suppliers to be more open about sourcing and at the end of the day, the luxury world nowadays is about craftsmanship. It’s about how it’s made.
There’s a big emphasis on how it’s made; where the materials are sourced in fine jewelry and watches, and when it comes to fashion, there’s less of that. But fur is a part of it—the luxury is how it’s manufactured. It’s not a dying industry, but rather it’s a time where it’s modernising itself.
Where do you source your materials?
We buy directly from auctions, so for mink we get them from Denmark, fox is from Finland, sable is from Russia, and our shearling comes from Spain. One of the strengths of my father when he ran the business, was that he would go directly to the source. We know where our animals come from and we can assure this transparency for our customers.
Can you tell us about the biggest changes in the business of Yves Salomon since you took over?
When I joined the business, we employed 25 people, and now we have over 250 people and we operate 30 stores around the world. It was very different when I started 10 years ago. Every generation brought something different to the table, both my great-grandfather and grandfather were amazing skin dealers, my father started the Yves Salomon label and started wholesale distribution and for me, I want to expand the retail operation.
Find out more at yves-salomon.com
See also: The Best Faux Fur Fashion Brands You Need To Know