Q: What does it mean to you to be named one of the Influential Women of Greater Cincinnati?
A: It is, indeed, a lovely honor. Everyone enjoys validation. I have always tried to do my best and work hard, and it is nice to have that noticed.
Q: What kind of influence have you had in your community and in your field?
A: In 1989, when I first made a faux fur coat in my basement, I expected it to be a project, not a business. In the 1980s, faux fur had a terrible reputation — definitely not a good look! Today, I’m thrilled we create products in the luxury arena in a category once totally disparaged! The fact that we’ve revolutionized the faux fur industry and are sold in 46 countries is amazing — even to me! I’m an accidental businessperson and forever thankful that it happened.
For 17 years, I was a writer with a weekly syndicated newspaper column on sewing and fashion. An outgrowth of that was a television show for which I often traveled to New York City. Everyone walking down Madison Avenue, I felt, wore a full-length fur and I knew that I needed to dress the part. Before my next New York trip, I made a faux fur coat. It truly stopped traffic and when people stopped me on the street to say, “My God, what a fabulous coat!” I simply said, “Thank you.” No one dreamt I had made it from faux fur!
Fast-forward five years and I had saved money — $5,000 — to buy myself a full-length mink coat. As I was driving to a Cincinnati fur salon, Paul Harvey came on my car radio, describing a London toy manufacturer that skinned live kittens to make “mink” teddy bears. This horrible news description opened my eyes to how the fur industry really works. At that moment, I realized I couldn’t buy an animal fur coat and Fabulous-Furs was born.
Though we began as a sewing kit company — for making a faux fur coat — Fabulous-Furs was very quickly noticed by the entertain-ment community. As animal protection groups such as PETA became more vocal, animal fur began to lose favor. When I received a phone call from a Hollywood wardrobe director for the television show “Designing Women,” he said, “I hate fake fur, but my producer says we need a fur coat for the show. Can you help?” With trepidation, we sent a few of our best, cringing at how they might react. They actually loved them and word of mouth traveled through Hollywood about the quality of our coats. This increased our confidence and soon Fabulous-Furs were appearing on soap operas two or three times a day — always worn by a wealthy, scheming villainess!
Q: Share a special memory or time when you felt you really made an impact on someone’s life.
A: I am humbly proud of how we have impacted Covington. We decided to put all of our focus on Covington — bought property here and began manufacturing here. That led to my husband creating the Madison Event Center, which led to opening Hotel Covington in 2016. I love that we have been able to be a part of revitalizing a city that was on the verge of bankruptcy eight or nine years ago. We have been able to take vacant buildings in Covington and fill them with something productive and beautiful.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: Our four grandchildren.
Q: How has 2020 impacted your business?
A: Fabulous-Furs is doing very well with about 4,000 wholesale accounts. We are very thankful for the things that are still working well. Many of our employees have been with us for many years. We work together and love each other. We’re family. Often, an entrepreneur romanticizes all of the positives and forgets the negatives — but our staff is a fabulous positive!