In Northern Greece just south of Albania sits a small town dedicated to the fur trade to making a mink coat.
So strange for a remote town to be the hub of European fur making. You would think of Paris or London as a place to make a mink coat.
So I had to visit and see what it was like. It’s not an easy place to get to which only added to my intrigue. You fly of course to Athens and then transfer to the Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. From there a long, scary bus ride through the mountains and tunnels brings to Kastoria.
The streets a lined with fur stores and fur factories all with the purpose making a mink coat. What a site to furs having been stretch and made to patterns drying on big boards in the streets leaning up against buildings. After the pelts are sewn together they are “nailed” to a pattern while wet. When dry the furs will hold this pattern. This is a fur coat that is considered flat.
I visited many fur factories and spoke to many furriers. While using some modern techniques and equipment they manufacturing techniques have not changed in centuries. And fur-making knowledge was transferred orally. Wow a world-wide manufacturing center and no operation manuals!
But why a fur manufacturing center here to make a mink coat? The best answer I could get was that Kastoria was on the ancient trade route between Europe and Asia. Pick up some furs on your way home to sell to your homies?
I listened to many people who explained that they had learned how to make furs from their parents who had learned from their parents. I fund much in common as my family has a multi-generational fur company. I learned that “Kastoria” is from the Greek word for “beaver”.
This fractured, tiny industry had many hands designing and making furs. If the furrier could dream it, they could make it. We even brought some of our own fur patters from Mano Swartz Furs. I will never forget being in the basement of a Greek furrier (his factory was in his house) and spreading the patterns across the fur. Explaining how we wanted the furs made with a language barrier became quite a game. Needless to say the final garments, wen received in our fur store, were beautiful.
If you love furs, want to see them being made in a place where time has not changed their world, I suggest you go to Kastoria! You will love the furs and the Greek food will spoil you for when you get back home.
Kastoria is an international centre of fur trade, which dominates the local economy. Indeed, (as mentioned above) the town was possibly named after one of the former staples of the trade – the European beaver (kastóri in Greek), now extinct in the area. Trading in mink fur now predominates and every year an international showcase of fur takes place in the city.