When new label Zweitesich launched a collection of uber-expensive branded fursuits, the close-knit underground community fought back tooth and claw
Chances are, though you might have seen evidence of them while deep in the darkest corners of the internet, you probably haven’t met many furries. A global underground community sharing a preoccupation with hybrid identities, furries are best known for dressing up as all manner of creatures – some of which wear clothes, some of which don’t – and creating personalities with dual human and animal attributes, otherwise known as ‘fursonas’.
According to late fandom historian Fred Patten, the first official furries were born in the early 80s, with Osamu Tezaka’s 60s TV show Kimba the White Lion one of the community’s earliest influences. The first furry convention, dubbed ConFurence, took place in 1989, and with it came two costumes that would revolutionise the fandom: the coquettish Bambioid (humanoid deer), and an unnamed bobcat. While these two icons remain emblematic of the movement, demand for fursuits has risen exponentially in the time since, and a small ecosystem of specialised, dedicated tailors have established themselves as the go to for enthusiasts’ every furry need – albeit at a cost.
Lemonbrat, a company based in Chicago, values commissions for partial suits (which comprise a head, paws, sleeves, and a tail) at $1500, and full suits from $2,500. The demand from furry enthusiasts in all four corners of the globe can be so high that other furry-focused tailors, like Don’t Hug Cacti, have been forced to close their commissions and instead offer pre-made suits for prices upwards of $4,500.
“Don’t Hug Cacti began back in 2006 when my wife Lucky Coyote and I were both starting to get involved in the furry fandom,” founder Sean O’Connell, otherwise known as Scuff Coyote, explains. “We both wanted our own custom fursuit (but) we found it difficult as there weren’t many fursuit makers open for commissions. We eventually found one, only to be extremely disappointed in the quality and comfort.” Taking things into their own hands, the Coyotes began to create their own. Initially making fursuits for friends, it wasn’t long before DHC began receiving commissions from other furries, and running the company became their full-time jobs.
As DHC has become more established, costs have risen. “Our first commissions were for around $200, which was probably not even enough to cover the cost of supplies,” O’Connell recalls. “It’s not uncommon for some custom commissions to take well over 100 hours of labour, and, as our style and quality improves, we have been able to adjust our prices.”
Now, as the furry community grows in numbers, more and more suit makers are appearing on the landscape, ready to offer their own unique takes on what furry-dom means to them. But despite demand far outweighing supply at this point, not everyone bringing something new to the table has been met with open paws.
Launched in April, Zweitesich was billed as ‘the world’s first designer fursuit brand’ and offered a sleek, high fashion alternative to what is already available to furries – with a similarly haute price point to match. The luxury collection, which featured a ‘triad’ of pre-made characters (a borzoi dog, a lion, and a ram), was crafted from flexible foam and lined with custom Zweitesich lycra. Each suit came with a tailored undervest, a gold-tone Zweitesich badge, and a certificate of authenticity. Prices for a partial suit comprising a head and arms began at $6000. The final straw came from the company’s bottom line: “Zweitesich suits are for those who wish to have an incomparable second self created by a designer, not ordered from a tailor.” The furry community was not happy, and the launch inspired intense online backlash, as founder Tayerr (AlbinoTopaz) found herself the target of the fandom’s anger.
“Launched in April, Zweitesich was billed as ‘the world’s first designer fursuit brand’ and offered a sleek, high fashion alternative to what is already available to furries – with a similarly haute price point to match”
“I launched the website at 8am, and then went for a run,” she recalls. “I had this pit in the bottom of my stomach, and I didn’t want to look at social media. But then I got a call from my friend asking if I was alright. I was like…’What happened?!” It was at this point she deleted all her tweets, replacing them with a lengthy apology. Yet already, across the internet, furries rallied against Zweitesich, accusing the label of selling factory-made “generic” suits. claiming the mission statement invalidated tailors. One Twitter user parodied its distinctive logo with a Supreme branded suit, and it was even speculated that the designer was from outside the community looking to cash in on the rapidly evolving fandom.
In fact, Tayerr first discovered a video by popular costumier BeastCub on YouTube at the age of 12, which now, at 24, she considers her initiation into the scene. “I was totally starstruck by how amazing it looked,” she remembers. “Being so young at the time, there was no way I could afford to buy a suit, so I decided to make my own. I knew I had found a new passion then. It was like being able to wear my own artwork.” Since then, Tayerr has amassed a huge following of furries that came to her through her YouTube page. In one video, which has amassed almost 500,000 views, she dances in her living room to dubstep, wearing a full fursuit, as fans declare her their ‘favourite fursuiter’ in the comments below.
Still, people were not impressed by what she was offering through Zweitesich. “(The company was) selling suits for $6000, and it was upsetting to think that someone would pay that much for just a head and paws when they could easily spend $2-3000 on an entire suit from a smaller maker,” Ohio-based fursuit maker Lauren explains.
Others were incensed that a label would so brazenly brand their furry goods, while insulting tailors. “I’m always rooting for designers, but what threw me off were the remarks about the designer suits,” furry artist Emily, otherwise known as Oomles says. “Slapping a logo on something as personal as a fursuit? Miss me with that shit.”
Tayerr can understand the community’s outrage, but explains that her prices were set with the figures she’d previously sold suits at auction for. “The way I sold my earlier costumes was through auction, so I had never been the one to value them,” she says of the controversial price point. “One costume I sold (at auction) for $8,025 was five or six years old, and then I sold a head with nothing else for $4,000. So that gave me my price range.”
“I’m always rooting for designers, but what threw me off were the remarks about the designer suits. Slapping a logo on something as personal as a fursuit? Miss me with that shit” – Emily (aka Oomles)
It wasn’t just the price that rubbed the community the wrong way, though. “It was pretentious to say that their ‘designer’ fursuit was something better than the ones other tailors could make,” Lauren insists. “All of us here in the fandom, we're all small businesses, we're all trying our best, and we're all designers,” Emily adds.
For Tayerr, it was simply a way of combining her passion for all things furry with her interest in high fashion, crediting Hanako Maeda’s Japanese inspired label, Adeam with inspiring her initial idea: “I fell in love with Adeam’s work when I discovered photos from New York Fashion Week, and they went on to influence some of the designing of the actual animal costumes,” she says. Unfortunately for her, alignment with investors, corporations, and high fashion are at odds with the unspoken rules of the furry community. Driven underground by false assumptions that the entire community is motivated by the sexualisation of animals, this close-knit group is apprehensive about mainstream acceptance.
“There have been companies that have completely stolen the designs of other artists, such as Katana Rose or Lucky Coyote, and started mass producing and selling them,” Emily, a furry artist from Texas explains. “Any word that implies that furries will lose that self-made, unique feel that we have earned makes a lot of us incredibly uneasy and even angry.”
Now, as the dust settles, Tayerr realises people were mostly confused about the whole project. “It looked like this corporation, but it was never a fully-fledged company with backers or anything. It was just me trying to launch this fancy looking website for my art, you know?” And while many insist there’s no recourse for the brand, she’s already planning her next move. “When I go to relaunch these suits, I’m going to be more myself, but I’m also going to lower the price – not because I don't think they're not worth what I valued them at, but after all this I just feel like I don't have confidence anymore,” she laughs solemnly.
Though slick web design and high prices threw many for a loop, in the end, Zweitesich was never the big bad business everyone suspected, but just a girl in her bedroom making fursuits. “The reason why I’m with the furry fandom isn't because of the fandom, it's because of the art,” Tayerr concludes. “When it comes down to it, the only thing I know how to do is make art – that’s all I want to do.”
Still, the furries’ protective circle has been a major key in their success and the community’s increasing popularity has served only to increase their suspicion of commercial forces. “We’re always going to be wary and critical of new things,” Emily confirms, “Whether they be entire concepts or slight changes – that’s just animal nature.”