"I love the masculinity of it. It's sort of the bad-ass fur," said one fashionisto. "Tougher than mink," cooed another. The new 'it' fur is nutria, the 20-lb. river rat that headlines the "World's Biggest Rat" sideshow at Coney Island.
Exuberantly farcical Vanity Fair blog VF Daily reports that rat fur is all the rage for menswear Fall/Winter 2010. It's known as "responsible fur" because rats don't deserve to live, anyway, and nutrias are an invasive species in the American bayou. (That's right: There are 20-lb. rats in America. Mostly Louisiana. New Orleans is so screwed.) The only way we can stop these scaly-tailed, orange-toothed monsters from wreaking havoc on our delicate marshlands is to blast their brains out with guns and decorate ourselves with their fur.
As trim and lining, the coarsely textured fur was a solid match for Reid's latest collection of outdoorsy designs. "I love the masculinity of it. It's sort of the bad-ass fur," [Alabama-based designer Billy] Reid explains. Gilles Mendel sourced his fall 2010 collection fur in Canada. "Tougher than mink," he says, adding that nutria's combination of coarseness and shine lends it "an androgynous feeling" and "a certain modernity."
Locals have explored other uses for nutria pelts, including pillows and teddy bears. "It makes a great blanket," says Edmond Mouton, biologist and program manager at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. His department's Web site includes a recipe for "stuffed nutria hindquarters" that serves 15.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the meat has been a tougher sell than the fur. "I think the biggest problem is the appearance of the animal itself," Mouton concedes. Reid isn't so sure. "It's beyond gamey. You don't want to go there."