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Nutria-palooza! II: Righteous Fur Fashion Show

A second nutria-philic blowout raises awareness of and appreciation for "guilt-free fur."

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Nutria-palooza! II: Righteous Fur Fashion Show

7:30 p.m. Sat., March 6

Marigny Theatre & Allways Lounge, 2240 St. Claude Ave., 218-5778; www.marignytheatre.org

Tickets $10 at the door; $15 for reserved tables and VIP seating. Call 269-3982 for reservations.

Heidie Klee models a nutria fur design by Oliver Manhattan at the first Nutria-Palooza. - PHOTO BY DONALD MILLER
  • Photo by Donald Miller
  • Heidie Klee models a nutria fur design by Oliver Manhattan at the first Nutria-Palooza.

Does any southern Louisiana animal inspire a mix of affection and loathing as volatile as the nutria? Whether you prefer this semi-aquatic rodent cuddly (witness Boudreaux and Clotile, the Zephyrs mascots) or Crock Pot-ed and demi-glaced, it's hard not to feel strongly about the chubby vegetarian that wants nothing more than a peaceful life raising offspring in bayou burrows — while chewing up the ground beneath our feet.

  Consider the roaring success of the first Righteous Fur Fashion Show, a sartorial manifestation of our love-hate relationship with the swamp rat: the show sold out on a freezing January night.

  "There were 40 or 50 people waiting (to get into the show) at the bar," says Howlpop designer Mo Lappin, who is currently at work on an Alexander McQueen-inspired nutria fur gown.

  Like the nutria itself, Nutria-palooza, a multimedia nutria celebration by fashion designers, storytellers, filmmakers and musicians, has found a fecund home in New Orleans, returning to the Marigny Theatre & AllWays Lounge for an encore performance.

  "It's like a nutria South by Southwest," says Kerry Fitts of Bayou Salvage. "Fashion is art, art is fashion, music is art, music is fashion—it all intersects."

  The event features a fashion show of nutria fur garments by 18 local designers, a screening of Miss Pussycat's North Pole Nutrias and Ted Gesing's Nutria, and a cello performance by Helen Gillet accompanied by the Mystic Herd of Nutria Drummers.

  For this show, raconteur and local furrier Tab Pitre, who supplies Righteous Fur with nutria pelts, has been added to the interdisciplinary lineup, as well as a live auction. Attendees can bid on the eco-friendly fur garments, all of which have been made from byproducts of the Coastwide Nutria Control Program. Designers say the fur, recently spotted in Oscar de la Renta's fall/winter collection, is eminently wearable.

  "It is a really beautiful fur ... super soft, shiny," says designer Calamity, who modeled his own fur-trimmed velvet coat in the last show.

This nutria fur-trimmed bustier was designed by Jose Luis Rodriguez. - PHOTO BY DONALD MILLER

  "It reminds me of a cross between coyote and rabbit fur," Lappin says. "It's chocolate brown, light brown, a blondish yellowish color. It doesn't look like any other fur that I have seen."

  The decision to wear fur can be controversial, often drawing the ire of animal rights activists. When the fur in question is salvaged from the otherwise wasted corpse of an invasive species member, though, the issue becomes a little hairier.

  "I have never worked with fur before, and as a huge animal-rights activist, I would never choose fur for myself," says Fitts, who uses only vintage materials in her neo-Victorian designs. "However, knowing what is going on with the wetlands, and that this program helps humanely and respectfully honor the nutria, rather than killing them and leaving them for dead, I took on the challenge."

  Cree McCree, who launched Righteous Fur with a mini-grant from the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, says she hopes this event will spur a fashion market for nutria fur, which in turn would increase public demand for the pelts and motivate trappers to increase their yields.

  "We want to control this destructive species," McCree says. "The Coastwide Nutria Control Program has already achieved a fair amount of success by paying five dollars a tail, but we want to raise the stakes to make use of the byproducts so [trappers] make more money, and also so this wonderful material isn't getting thrown out."

  Lappin cites a certain empathy for the unlikely arch-nemesis-cum-cultural icon.

  "He's at a place in nature through no fault of his own, and he just did way too well here," Lappin says. "[Nutria] aren't out to cause any trouble or mayhem. They are just out for their vegetables."

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