How to wear fur the Helen Yarmak way
She's been called a "mistress of a sable mountain" by Vogue magazine. She counts music’s finest moguls including Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez as fans. Supermodels Heidi Klum and Winnie Harlow have enveloped themselves in her luxuriously fluffy pieces. Costume designers from Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada have used her statement-making designs to transfer their characters on-screen. And the Kardashian/Jenner clan can't get enough her candy-coloured creations. It’s clear that those in-the-know know a Helen Yarmak fur when they feel one. “Every lady, whose hands touch our pieces for the very first time immediately understand the difference,” says Elena Danilina, head of production for Moscow-based furrier Helen Yarmak.
But what makes a Helen Yarmak original worthy of the Yarmak name? That comes courtesy of their production techniques and savvy innovation. "Nobody in this world, including Fendi, nobody uses this type of technology, these type of skins," says Elena. "Our fur is so light because the skin is softer than what other people produce. We only do skin to skin." This commitment to the highest quality fur is what sets Helen Yarmak apart.
Helen's scholarly background may be part of the reason technique is so important to the brand. Having moved to Moscow from Kiev at the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, Helen's Ph.D in mathematics was not appreciated during the country's tumultuous economic state. One day while walking by a shop window, a pair of poorly designed trousers in a gorgeous lace fabric caught her eye. Seeing an opportunity to make a dress out of the pant's fabric, she brought the pants to a clothing factory requesting them to produce her new design. They fell in love with her vision and asked for more of her designs.
Transitioning to fur was a natural step for the self-taught designer whose family name derives from Yermak Timofeyevich, a 16th century explorer who is as important to Russia as Christopher Columbus is to America. Yermak’s conquest of Siberia brought precious resources to Russia, among them the Siberian sable which became one of the most recognizable treasures of the Russian empire. At that time, sable coats were reserved only for the Tsar and his family. 500 years later, sable is a signature of Helen Yarmak, who proudly supports the local fur trade. "Sables are found in a small region in Russia. There are so many hunters there and most families survive from this trade," says Elena. "If we say ok, we don’t use these skins anymore, what will happen to this population? It’s historical. It’s a part of their culture."
Helen Yarmak's appeal is international and their clients, some who frequent their 5th Avenue showroom in New York City (across the street from some very prestigious neighbours including Gucci and Louis Vuitton) and their Via Montenapoleone showroom in Milan, range far and wide. "We have clients from the Middle East. They don’t have winter but they buy because they travel - they understand! We have one client who has more than 60 sables!" says Elena.
This understanding of the luxury market is perhaps why Helen also designs jewellery of the big, bold and baublicious variety. Incorporating some of the most precious gemstones in the world including sapphires, rare Paraiba from Brazil, rubies, emeralds and more, her jewellery collection acts as inspiration for the colours of her rainbow-bright furs. "We like strange combinations because of Helen," says Elina. "To me, she is a genius."