When horsewoman Gail Orrick moved from her native California to Aspen, Colorado, the frigid temperatures prompted her to craft a scarf from a coyote pelt. The beauty and warmth of the fur was an inspiration, and Coyote Couture Colorado was born, elevating the humble high mountain coyote to haute couture status.
Like many Colorado transplants, California native Gail Orrick moved to the Rockies in 1972 in pursuit of the ski hill and never left. Orrick, who lives outside of Aspen, Colorado, surrounded by BLM and National Forest land, designs couture fur fashions with Rocky Mountain coyote. The extreme cold temperatures at the high elevation enhance the beauty of the furs showcased in her exquisite, elegantly simple, one-of-a-kind products.
“Every coyote hide to me is an honor to the animal, to their life and to how beautiful their fur is,” says Orrick. “I don’t piece together different hides – it’s just the one animal. I’m very particular about that. Coyotes are beautiful, and I think they should be showcased.”
Orrick’s neighbor, Sam Chambers, is an avid outdoorsman and predator hunter. “He showed me the beauty of the coyote,” explains Orrick. “At first it was really hard for me because I love animals, but I also realized that there was a reason to hunt these animals, since coyotes are predators. Looking at the beautiful fur got me thinking that I wanted to make something out of it.”
(Gail Orrick, founder of Coyote Couture Colorado. The designer fur collection gained national exposure when it debuted at the Western Design Conference in 2010.)
So Orrick asked Chambers if he would give her a coyote pelt that he wasn’t going to keep for himself. “I made a fur scarf, and I loved it!” Orrick exclaims. “It was meant for practicality so I could wear it around my neck with my Carhartt jacket to keep me warm when I go to the barn in the mornings.”
The scarf caught the attention of a girlfriend who asked Orrick to make her one, as well. “When your girlfriends endorse your look, it’s always a good sign!” Orrick jokes. After another acquaintance complimented the piece and asked Orrick to make one for her, too, Orrick knew she was on to something.
The next style she made was a stole, which has become the signature item for Coyote Couture. “None of the stoles are ever the same,” explains Orrick. “ Also, because of the color tones and variations, you can wear it in different ways, depending on how you’re companioning it.” Orrick says she has clients from the East Coast to the West Coast who put their own fashion flair on the fur stoles—pairing them with everything from jeans and cowboy boots to a black cocktail dress and heels.
(The high country coyote has a dense, plush coat–a result of the harsh mountain winters.)
In 2010, fellow Aspen artist Gayle Waterman encouraged Orrick to apply for the Cody High Style Fashion Show in Wyoming. “When Coyote Couture hit the runway, it was a huge success!” says Orrick, who styled her first model in a simple cream evening dress with a complete coyote draped around her. “It was a risky move, but it got the point across!”
At the juried show, Orrick had the opportunity to display her magnificent collection amongst some of the most talented fashion designers in the country. One of those designers, Celeste Sotola, creative genius behind Montana Dreamwear, complimented Orrick’s collection and encouraged her to push ahead. Another designer, Anne Beard, maker of custom western furnishings, gave Orrick a piece of advice she’s never forgotten. “Anne told me to remember that photography is the most important thing, and that if you spend money on anything, you need to spend it on photography.”
(These Coyote Couture chinks sport Swaraoski-encrusted bullets and hand-cut fringe. A similar pair was featured in the Dec/Jan 2014 COWGIRL.)
So, when it came time to apply for her next show, Orrick reached out to Sotola, who offers photography services. “Celeste truly is the one who has inspired me,” Orrick says graciously of her friend who took photos that helped bring Orrick’s fur collection to life and ultimately helped her get accepted into the Western Design Conference. “Celeste saw a vision that I didn’t necessarily think people would see. For her to see that was such an amazing accomplishment.”
The relationship between Orrick and Sotola has grown into a beautiful friendship. “Gail is extremely talented, and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg for her,” raves Sotola, whom Orrick refers to as her mentor. “Every year she surprises me more. Gail doesn’t sit on her laurels; she’s always evolving. It’s the energy that comes from a love of what you do—she truly loves it.”
(An opulent coyote fur stole adorns an elegant black dress.)
That creative drive has led Orrick to craft chic fur pieces that include not only the opulent scarves and stoles, but also vests, wraps and even coyote chinks adorned with striking Swarovski crystal bullets. Orrick’s couture products range from $875 to $3,600. For more information and a list of events and trunk shows where you can purchase Coyote Couture, visit coyotecouturecolorado.com