Willy Zelowitz, the Featherbrain Behind 'Mother Pluckers,' Makes High and Low Fashion Out of Plumage
updated 07/15/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 07/15/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Actually, of course, there are anyway. Willy Zelowitz's business, Mother Pluckers, is to plumage what De Beers is to valuable rocks. Mr. T drops into Willy's roost for those 20-inch-long guinea hen and rooster tail baubles he hangs from one ear. Zelowitz, 38, offers about every sort of feather a bird can produce. The longest are from Lady Amherst pheasant tails and measure three to four feet. The smallest are from the neck of a ring-necked pheasant and are 1/16" long. After 11 years as a feather merchant, Zelowitz expects to gross about $300,000 this year.
Zelowitz was born in Germany of Czech-Hungarian parents "who went through the camps" and moved to California when he was 8. He eventually entered Los Angeles City College as a marine biology major, but dropped out when he discovered he liked making feather earrings better. His first shop was a card table near UCLA, where he sat with his dog offering the plumed jewelry. "I took in 40 bucks my first night," he recalls. "The dog and I had dinner afterwards." For several years Zelowitz worked arts and crafts fairs all across the country, but with the help of mismanagement, he says, his shop fell into debt. Putting all his feathers into his small house, he started over. In just a year he was back on his feet and moved to his present location last year. But doesn't the company's name make some people turn up their noses? "The name's a real advantage," Willy clucks. "It breaks the ice. People just laugh and snicker." And feather his nest.