For thousands of years man has been aware that warmth and protection from winter winds could be attained by turning a sheepskin inside out. However, the use of sheepskin in a fashionable wardrobe today is due in part to the enterprising Macdonald family of Alexandria, a small town near Loch Lomond in Scotland.
Donald Macdonald had been in the skin and fur business for 27 years, but it was his daughter Grace who started a new branch of the business when she decided one day in 1955 that she would love to own a colored sheepskin coat—a blue one. She dyed some skins with ink and had coats made up for her mother and herself. Soon they both were besieged by women seeking to buy similar coats, and thus the sheepskin, heretofore known only in its natural color, went from low to high fashion.
The family named its new enterprise Antartex in tribute to the British and New Zealand Antarctic expeditions, for which Macdonald previously had supplied sheepskins. Macdonald at first was skeptical that the sheepskin-coat business would amount to much, but today he is a happy man in sheep's clothing. His new venture brings in $1.5 million a year and employs 300 people in the factory in Scotland. Six retail stores in the U.S. now carry the Antartex line, and more are planned. A full range of 14 styles in 10 colors is available. Prices range from $60 for a woman's short jacket to $180 for a man's full-length coat. Most garments are bound in leather and come in the basic model made with fleecy fur, the same style made with curly fur for $25 more, or made-to-measure for $50 extra. A London couturier, Ronald Peterson, designs many of the Macdonald coats.
The sheepskins are imported from Africa, Argentina, New Zealand and the U.S. North American sheepskin wears especially well and is usually used for men's coats. Argentina provides the curly lamb, which is also sheared and made into women's expensive broadtail jackets and coats by other furriers. According to U.S. Army research, sheepskin is the warmest "fur" in existence. It is thick and the leather is water repellent. Although sheepskin is bulky, it is light and pliable enough to insure good fit. The Scots also make use of the odd pieces left over after cutting, turning out mitts, hats and slippers, all hand-sewn by local women. For their customers the Macdonalds provide a complete dry-cleaning and repair service. Further information can be had by writing Mrs. Garland Carson, Antartex, 920 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis.