Refurbeasts project aims to rehabilitate "taboo" fur coats

Dutch costume designer Lisa Louwers turns unwanted fur coats into soft toys as a tribute to the animals that the material was taken from (+ slideshow).

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

Lisa Louwers turns the coats back into animals that she calls Refurbeasts – an amalgamation of the words refurbish, fur and beasts.

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

"I was looking for a bridge between repurposing old fur coats because of the taboo on fur and the emotional value they often represent," Louwers told Dezeen. "Getting the fur coat out of the attic back into the living room."

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

Through her work as a costume designer, Louwers often finds coats in thrift stores, markets and antiques shops while searching for vintage garments and props.

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

"Here you can finds tons of fur coats," she told Dezeen. "A lot of them end up there as a result of someone passing away without any relatives to collect their belongings."

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

The collection currently includes five beasts, each crafted to look like the mammal that provided the fur.

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

"Refurbeasts is a tribute to the animal that gave its coat," said the designer. "So a rabbit fur coat becomes a rabbit and a mink coat becomes a mink."

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

The coat's shape and size determines how big the toy animal will be. "I use the coat as a guide since that is my source," Louwers said. "I can't just buy extra material."

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

To create an animal, she first chooses the size of the head and features such as the eyes – in glass, topaz or ceramic – to form its face.

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

"Character is an important factor in creating a likeable beast," she explained. "I start with the head since that is where a lot of character comes from."

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

Once she is happy with the basic shape, the size of the other body parts and the pose are decided. The fur is cut up and stitched back together in patches, then the final form is achieved by inserting sheep-wool stuffing.

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

There are currently five beasts in the "herd", and the most recent design that Louwers completed – the largest rabbit – is her favourite.

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

"Opposed to the other two rabbits it's a lot bigger, which makes it much more expressive and more of an object that grabs your attention," she said.

Refurbeasts by Lisa Louwers

A mink and a lamb also feature in the collection, which the designer is hoping to expand. The designs are packaged using laser-cut recycled cardboard, without any additional glue or ink.

Coat owners can also send their unwanted garments to Louwers' Eindhoven workshop for her to transform it into a Refurbeast at a reduced cost, as the material is supplied.