Shrimps: The Evolution of Luxury Faux Fur


{Left: Shrimps Pre-Spring 2016; Right: Shrimps AW15}

The first time I discovered Shrimps was just over two years ago, in a short Sunday Times Style article branding the label’s vibrant ‘Daisy’ clutches as the to-go accessory for London’s top-ranking style heroines – a statement cemented by Alexa Chung’s LFW sartorial choices that same year, selecting a pale pink and raspberry version to punctuate her daywear dungarees and an evening-wear LBD. It was the first spark that ignited a passionate love affair with the label, whose cloud-like coats in vivid hues and abundant stoles punctuated every magazine editorial worth its salt, charming fashion neophytes and industry insiders in equal measure. In as much as these vibrant pieces dominated fashion publications domestically and internationally, their creator – Shrimps’ founder Hannah Weiland, a London College of Fashion alumnus – held a refreshingly light-hearted, colourful approach towards everyday dressing, having told Vogue Magazine she named the label after her childhood nickname “because [she] was small and pink!”. Spectators would marvel at the tactile ecstasy of a Shrimps piece; a brand entirely centred on ethical faux-fur whose texture emulated (if not surpassed) the feel of authentic animal pelts.

The topic of fur has always been a sensitive issue in the world of fashion, with pre-conceived notions in existence for decades of the drastic difference between consumers of real fur (soft, luxurious pieces associated with fashion-savvy aristocracy and affluent bread-winners) and fake fur (visibly-synthetic materials worn only by ‘tree-huggers’; i.e staunch vegans and devout vegetarians). This archaic stereotype was still very much in place when ethical-fashion pioneers such as Stella McCartney began to advocate animal-friendly materials in lieu of fur, feathers and leather at the turn of the century, causing a backlash from those at the forefront of financially-booming fur industries. In relative terms, however, the gap between the appearance of faux fur and ‘the real deal’, once decidedly noticeable, has narrowed extraordinarily quickly over the last few years. The inception of Shrimps is a perfect example: when founder Weiland sent off her first batch of über-luxurious samples to friends, they responded incredulously – adamant that she had been tricked into believing the samples were faux-fur, as no artificial material could possibly be that soft. Even she retained a degree of skepticism, despite having sourced a legitimate factory that produced the most sumptuous faux-fur she had ever come across. In an interview with Wonderland Magazine, she states that she rang up manufacturers to double and triple-check that the swatches weren’t made of real fur, so soft and delicate were their appearance. Weiland’s faux-furs break away from the traditional usage of polyester and instead incorporate 89% mode acrylic, giving each fluffy coat and jewel-embellished clutch its Cumulus feel as well as adding an extra dash of vibrancy to the colours selected for each ready-to-wear collection.

{Left: Shrimps AW15; Right: Shrimps Pre-Spring 2016}

In an industry that has a number of skeletons in its closet regarding real-fur versus faux-fur controversies – most recently, a series of revelations that high-end labels had deceptively marked their animal-fur pieces as faux-fur – Shrimps’ collections feel utterly removed from such hotly-fuelled debates, as the label embodies guilt-free dressing without compromising on style or quality. Weiland herself isn’t judgemental of those that do wear real fur, admitting that she still has leather pieces in her wardrobe, and instead focuses on the exciting merits that a versatile fabric such as faux-fur can offer designers eager to experiment with colour and embellishment. This effervescent attitude and penchant for bright shades and eclecticism won her a legion of admirers before her label was even listed on London Fashion Week’s official schedule – an impressive coup, to say the least. In many ways, Shrimps’ popularity first soared due to a 21st-century concoction of social media and word-of-mouth, as online posts of celebrities sporting Weiland’s coats (with their trademark graphic double-stripe) generated serious buzz on digital fashion platforms. When, ultimately, Shrimps made its London Fashion Week showcase debut, it joined the likes of tulle purveyor Molly Goddard in hosting a kaleidoscopic presentation rather than a traditional fashion show, and produced an extensive pre-Spring 2016 collection in lieu of showing for SS16 last September (a clever move, given the brand’s prevailing focus on outerwear). While some comparisons have been made with fellow Brit Charlotte Beechem of Charlotte Simone, whose colour-popping furry accessories are made in both authentic and faux fur versions, there is no doubt that Shrimps is spearheading a movement of vibrant sartorialism with an entirely clear conscience, which has made it the darling of big-name fashion retailers from its founding days onwards. After months of pouring over adorable faux-fur mascot charms and candy-coloured striped coats, I finally succumbed to Shrimps’ hypnotic allure and treated myself to a colourful birthday present from the post-Christmas sales:

I would never consider myself the type to get enthused about a particular big-brand name – I get significantly more pleasure in discovering an eclectic emerging designer or independent retailer – but Shrimps has that unique combination of possessing all of the finesse and desirability of a luxurious, high-end fashion label with the playful charm and carefree attitude of a youthful brand unfazed by sartorial ‘rules’. No matter what season it derives from – AW13 or pre-Spring 2016 – obtaining a Shrimps piece is a steadfast guarantee that you’ll have it in your wardrobe for a very long time, injecting vitality into otherwise-basic outfits and tackling both chilling temperatures and trans-seasonal dressing in one fell swoop. Stumbling upon a staple item that doubles as a statement piece is no mean feat; and yet, Shrimps’ array of tactile scarves always manage to carry it off seamlessly. I purchased the piece above from Avenue 32 (where the green moss version is currently sold out) but you can buy the scarf on Shrimps’ official website at a slightly dearer price by clicking “here”. Alternatively, you can go for this eye-catching mustard and pink version  (shaving £20 off of the cost) which is perfect for channelling the colourful fantasy that is Gucci SS16 – it would be a lie if I said I wasn’t incredibly torn between both colours!

{Shrimps Pre-Spring 2016}

One of the most appealing aspects of Shrimps is its infectious sense of humour, which manifests in everything from its furry animal-mascot charms (playing a pivotal role in the widespread demand for fluffy keychains in 2015) to Weiland’s fun illustrations that featured last year in a hugely-popular collaboration with luxury nightwear brand Poplin. With Shrimps primed to showcase AW16 in the opening presentation of London Fashion Week’s second day, innumerable fashion spectators are eagerly anticipating what the label’s creations will consist of next. From AW15‘s intergalactic 70s party to the Flintstones-inspired SS15 pieces that launched Shrimps into the LFW stratosphere, one thing is certain – the end-result will be far from boring!

Amelia xx

La Femme Éclectique