After taking the reins at Revillon, the French furrier founded nearly three centuries ago, designer Andrew Heather came up with a modest goal: to take everything you know about fur and turn it on its head.

The response to his debut collection at Paris Fashion Week was largely unanimous: mission accomplished. The pieces he sent down the runway were modern, playful and—most important—wearable (thanks in part to his emphasis on keeping them lightweight).

Revillon nabbed Heather from Givenchy last year, where he’d worked for 14 years alongside masters like Alexander McQueen and Riccardo Tisci. On his first day in the new role, he says, “I sat myself down with a lot of our fur coats and just thought, ‘What is it that I don’t like about these? What is it about them that makes them seem old and fusty and heavy and stiff?’”

One tradition he took umbrage with was the ubiquitous satin backing found on most fur coats. “It made me think of my grandmother’s fur,” he says. “I thought that there had to be a better solution.” Luckily, his work on Givenchy’s couture collections had given him the patience and dedication to try countless new approaches. “Everything you’re not supposed to do with fur, I tried,” he laughs. He finally settled on a tweed backing stitched directly onto the fur—a painstaking process requiring couture-like precision.

Photos: Katerina Jebb/Courtesy of Revillon

One look at Heather’s collection is enough to tell you that his techniques are innovative and his silhouettes are of the moment (notice the peplum rendered in forest-green fur?), but he also knew it was important to respect the Revillon name. “I’m bringing an energy and a playfulness,” he says, “but also respecting the codes of the house. It’s an amazing name; it’s an amazing heritage.”

In the process, he also developed a keen appreciation for fur as a medium. “It’s very glamorous, of course, but it has this primal element as well,” he explains. “It was the very first clothing. It’s sensual and charged.”

His work with this oldest of materials garnered him immediate praise—after his Paris debut, reported, “He may be a fur newbie, but Heather is quickly becoming a master”—but Suzy Menkes summed it up best in the New York Times: “A decade ago, Revillon was revolutionized by Rick Owens, who tore up, literally and figuratively, the stolid furs of a bourgeois clientele. Mr. Heather is following a more subtle route—by emphasizing the fashion element, but respecting the innate character of each skin.”