PAUSE. Yes I know some of you are probably thinking: what in the world is a raccoon dog and does it exist? And the Answer is Yes (see picture below). According to the Humane Society, this animal is a member of the Canid family and is very much involved in the fur industry in China (where it allegedly came from). Pierre Grzybowski, manager of the Fur-Free Campaign at The Humane Society said "Independent investigations into the Chinese raccoon dog fur industry have revealed horrendous cruelty, including animals being skinned alive." Animal Cruelty is a very legal and humane issue that the fashion industry, as many of you are aware, so it is no surprise why the Humane Society got involved.
Now for the other legal issue under the Fur Products Labeling Act (FPLA), which is nearly 60 years old, it is unlawful to describe the fur on a garment as being from a different type of animal. Violations carry up to a $5000 fine and a year in prison. Further, in December 18, 2010, President Obama signed H.R. 2480, The Truth in Fur Labeling Act, which supports the FPLA by requiring all garments made with animal fur to be labeled and advertised with the correct species of animals.
It follows that the Human Society called upon the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the matter and called upon Neiman Marcus to take immediate action by contacting and offering to refund all customers who purchased this garment. And further to inspect and test any other garment that are purported to be "racoon" fur from China.
In 2010, The Federal Trade Commission Investigated Neiman and found that a Burberry coat, a Stuart Weitzman ballet-style shoe, and an Alice+ Olivia Kyah coat sold at Neiman used real raccon dog fur instead of the faux fur as advertized. Two other retailers were found to be in violation as well: DrJays and Eminent. DrJays.com allegedly misrepresented the fur content and failed to disclose the animal name for three products: a Snorkel Jacket by Crown Holder with a fur-lined hood, a Fur/Leather Vest by Knoles & Carter with exterior fur, and a New York Subway Leather Bomber Jacket by United Face with fur lining. Eminent Inc., doing business as Revolve Clothing, allegedly misrepresented the fur content and failed to disclose the animal name for four products: an Australia Luxe Collective Nordic Angel Short Boot with a fur-trimmed hood, a Mark Jacobs Runway Roebling Coat, a Dakota Xan Fur Poncho, and an Eryn Brinie Belted Faux Fur Vest.
Therefore Neiman and the other retailers agreed to settle on Tuesday March 19, 2013. They agreed to not violate the FPLA for 20 years (slap on the wrist?) However, in 2010, Neiman settled a lawsuit with the Humane Society for $25,000 judgment after a Washington, D.C. court found them in violation of this same law. The judgment also includes an injunction prohibiting the retailer from falsely advertising or mislabeling fur garments in the future.
Read the Settlement here.
So even though the furs here were real, how do you know if your fur is real or not? Grzybowski advices How to Spot a fake fur
If you have purchased items thinking they were fake fur, but now aren't sure, Grzybowski advises that you try the following home test:
- First, look at the base of the "fur." If you see sewn threads, that's a good indication the material is indeed synthetic. Usually real animal hair will still be attached to its skin.
- Pull a few strands of "hair" from the item.
- Place them in a small fire-proof dish and light them with a match.
- Smell the resulting fumes.
- If you detect a plastic odor, the fur is probably fake.
- If you still can't tell, try burning a few strands of your own hair and compare the smell with that of the burnt strands from the clothing. They both should emit similar odors. (Mammal hair is made up of similar proteins, oils and other components.)