New Orleans fashion designer Micha Michelle Melancon is working with the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary Foundation to put on an event called Nutria Palooza to promote the use of nutria fur for clothing. Nutria are also called swamp rats and are considered pests in Louisiana because they damage wild wetlands habitats. They were introduced there decades ago to be kept on fur farms in cages, but the wily animals escaped into the swamp where they bred prolifically.
Reportedly now they inhabit 23,000 acres of protected swamp and coast lands, which the nutria are damaging by eating the native plants. Their tendency is to inhabit an area until they have eaten every plant in sight, and then move to the next space and do it again. The areas they decimate are called eat-outs, and there isn’t anything left for other species to use for for food or habitat.
The Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary Foundation was formed to preserve and restore Louisiana’s wetlands and coastal areas. They are the main sponsor of Nutria Palooza which is taking place in New York to promote the animal’s fur in a fashion show at the House of Yes, with twenty designers. About 150 people are expected to watch a fashion show exhibiting leg warmers, hats, muffs and even a wedding dress. A wedding dress containing swamp rat fur might seem like a stretch, but nutria coats were popular with a few Hollywood actresses decades ago, so they could make a comeback.
One might expect PETA to protest the event but so far they haven’t made an official statement criticizing the fashion show. Several shows have already been held in New Orleans, called Righteous Fur because of the view nutria fur fashion is not only acceptable, but also guilt-free and environmentally friendly. Nutria are such a problem in Louisiana the state pays five dollars for every one that is killed. About 400,000 were bagged by local hunters and trappers last year, but the carcasses were left in the swamps or discarded.
Fashion designer Cree McCree decided to try and use the surplus of deceased nutria for her designs, even using the teeth to make necklaces which sell for $85. She started Righteous Furs to promote her fashion items and the use of nutria fur. She works with Ms. Melancon promoting nutria fashions.
Image Credit: J. Patrick Fischer