Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Jenn Hall and Her Fine Feathered Friends

Written by Josie Schoel
  Active Image         Over the past few years, there has been a revitalization in the use of furs and feathers as fashion accessories, but this time, it isn’t just the Upper East Siders in their mink coats and rabbit skin gloves, it’s also the fashion forward hipster guys sporting raccoon tails on their belt loops and the boho ladies wearing porcupine quills around their necks and peacock feathers in their ears. Open the pages of Vogue, Elle, or even Glamour, and you will see girls adorned with feather headbands and necklaces made of tiger teeth.
An Interview With the Creator of the Feathered Leopard
Photos by Jonathan Ratcliff 

{mosimage width=650 height=350}Over the past few years, there has been a revitalization in the use of furs and feathers as fashion accessories, but this time, it isn’t just the Upper East Siders in their mink coats and rabbit skin gloves, it’s also the fashion forward hipster guys sporting raccoon tails on their belt loops and the boho ladies wearing porcupine quills around their necks and peacock feathers in their ears. Open the pages of Vogue, Elle, or even Glamour, and you will see girls adorned with feather headbands and necklaces made of tiger teeth.

This trend is something that Jenn Hall, creator of the Feathered Leopard, has embraced in full, and she is joining the ranks of hundreds of women who are getting involved in the art and culture that is taxidermy. Historically a male-dominated field, taxidermy has found a new life in the hands of female artists, fashion designs, and artisans. Hall, who recently moved from her urban dwelling in San Francisco proper to a small cottage in the hills surrounding the Russian River, chatted with me about city living, taxidermy, and her love of all things Victorian.

Her work consists primarily of headpieces, earrings, tote bags, belts, and most recently, bikinis, all of which utilize some kind of animal pattern or product, from porcupine quills to duck feathers. Her most innovative and exciting pieces are arguably her fur mountain man hats, which, like the rest of her designs, she creates on a hand crank Victorian Singer sewing machine circa 1898. Although her hats are somewhat controversial in our animal loving era, what makes them particularly striking and unique are the detachable animal heads.{mosimage width=400 height=350}
 
Yup, you read that correctly. You can literally button the faces of foxes and wolves to your already excessively furry hat. When asked about how some of the more politically correct San Franciscans respond to the hats, Hall says that some people who look at them seem to think only about death. Even though its life is gone, she sees the wearing of the animal products as an act of respect and appreciation.

The idea that mounting moose heads on the wall and using bear and leopard fur to accessorize is the best way to pay homage to the animal kingdom is clearly controversial. When asked about this issue and about where she gets her materials, Hall said that all of it is farm-raised and treated humanely. She even stated that, “I try and do the most research I can, and I probably spend more hours doing that than actually creating.”

Although this idea of respect and appreciation for the animal kingdom is one of the primary reasons for the mounting of an animal, it does seem somewhat counterintuitive, especially when they aren’t being used for their meat, as well. Yet, according to Hall, while at a taxidermy conference in Redding, California, she realized that the people who have the most respect for the animal kingdom are, ironically, hunters. She stated, “People are so quick to judge because [hunters] have shotguns and people think they are rednecks, but they have so much respect for the animals.”

Living outside of the city creates a unique opportunity for Hall. Since raccoons and deer wander her backyard on a daily basis, it is inevitable that the area would also have quite a bit of roadkill, which, when she does learn how to skin, gut, and treat the bodies on her own, she will be sure to utilize: “If I had all the tools, they would be sitting in the back of [my] Volvo. Or the freezer. This was the move to make (from the city) to get to the next step, to be in the natural world. I want to start taking shooting lessons and eventually I want to find an antique rifle and hunt that way.”
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That said, her next step is not to mass produce her products for the purpose of making tons of money, not to expand her line to include the popular headbands as sported by celebs such as Nicole Richie and the like, or to include necklaces as found in the racks of Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. Rather, as she states, “I just want to create really cool shit. It doesn’t matter if people buy it.”

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