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Fashionably Informed: The Mislabeling of Real Fur as Faux Fur


Fur coat
Photo Credit: ELLE

Many people love the look, feel, and warmth of wearing fur, but do not like the idea of wearing something that came from an animal. For people that fall into this category (including most of us here at CF), faux fur is a great solution to this problem. Faux fur is synthetic and man made, but it still looks and feels like real fur.

However, it has been shown that sometimes items labeled as “faux” fur are actually made from real animal furs. This has become hugely controversial, since many consumers deliberately buy fake fur, and this mislabeling hinders their ability to correctly choose the products they want to consume.

Labeling Real Fur as “Faux” Fur

It’s a federal crime to mislabel fur, and this discovery has landed many retailers in hot water. The Humane Society of the United States has been the champion of exposing these deceptive labeling practices and uncovers new mislabeling every season.

For example, an investigation conducted by the Humane Society and New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal uncovered many mislabeled jackets in the retail chain Century 21. Jackets that were labeled as faux fur or not labeled at all were found to be real rabbit, raccoon, or raccoon dog fur. Watch the video below to learn more:

This is only one of the many cases of faux fur mislabeling. In fact, in this past year, Neiman Marcus, Dr. Jays, and Eminent (Revolve Clothing) settled with the Federal Trade Commission for “faux” garments that actually contained rabbit, raccoon, and mink furs. Some of the garments under investigation were a Burberry jacket, and Alice + Olivia coat, and a Marc Jacobs coat.

Additionally, just last month, the Humane Society released a consumer warning message that retailer Kohl’s was selling real rabbit fur accessories and marketing them as “faux fur.” Many other retailers such as Macys, Saks Incorporated, Lord & Taylor, and Dillard’s have also come under fire for mislabeled “faux” fur.

Why the Deception?

Traditionally, cheap animal furs would be mislabeled and sold as more expensive, higher quality furs. However, this new practice of mislabeling fake furs is reportedly done to capture the business of the growing number of consumers who try to avoid products that harm animals.

According to the Huffington Post,

“The demand for faux fur has increased as more people aim to shop cruelty-free. As manufacturers try to meet this demand, products are often mislabeled.”

Additionally, many of the mislabeled garments uncovered contained fur from animals such as the raccoon dog, whose fur costs less than manufacturing synthetic furs. The raccoon dog has been documented to endure extremely inhumane harvesting practices, such as electroshock and being skinned alive for its fur, in countries with unregulated, little, or no animal welfare laws.

Raccoon dog
Raccoon Dog –  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

How are Retailers Responding?

According to the Humane Society website,

“Leading retailers and designers, like Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Bluefly, St. John Knits, Michael Kors, and Andrew Marc have policies in place that have or will phase out the sale of raccoon dog fur.”

Since raccoon dog is the most widely mislabeled fur, phasing it out will likely decrease misrepresentation of fur and faux fur products. Some retailers attribute the mislabeling to poor product descriptions.

According to the New York Times, the CEO of Dr., asserts in an email that:

“There were a handful of instances where a word may have been omitted in our product descriptions, and others where the word ‘fur’ was used to describe the style of a product, not intending to describe fabric content.”

Other retailers argue that the manufacturers are to blame.

In a statement issued by Century 21 on their Facebook page, the retailer asserts,

 “[We] do not create garment labels, the manufacturers do. It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to provide an accurate account of materials used in the garment and to be transparent with the consumer before his or her purchase.”

What does this mean for you?

Determining the difference between real fur and fake fur can be extremely difficult, which is why this mislabeling has become such a huge controversy. Some suggest that you should steer clear of anything that says “faux” if you are concerned about unknowingly purchasing real fur.

However, if that seems extreme, there are ways to distinguish between real and fake fur. You can learn how to do this by checking out the Humane Society’s Field Guide to Telling Animal Fur from Fake Fur.


What are your thoughts on mislabeled faux fur? Is it a big deal that real fur is being sold as fake fur? Would you be upset if you found out your faux fur was actually real fur? Whose responsibility is it to be transparent with consumers? The retailers, the manufacturers, or neither? Leave your opinions in the comment section!

Posted on on January 2, 2014 / Filed Under: Fashion News / Tags: , , , ,

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9 Responses to “Fashionably Informed: The Mislabeling of Real Fur as Faux Fur”

  1. 1
    January 2nd, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    It’s interesting to read this now after a recent post you made asking us if we would wear faux fur heels. I went back to that post to check on the composition of the shoes because I remembered you had mentioned that they, for now, were carried by higher end retailers such as those that have come under fire for misrepresenting their labels. After checking those shoes, all 3 that were chosen as “faux fur” heels actually contained real fur.

  2. 2
    January 2nd, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Pretty interesting to read this article right after you posted a story recently on faux fur heels. All three of the shoes you linked to were made from real fur.

  3. 3
    January 2nd, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Thank you for your comment Christine. Please keep in mind that more than 30 individuals write for this site, so we don’t have a collective “pro-fur” or “anti-fur” stance.

    In regards to the “Would You Wear… (Faux) Fur Heels?” article, when we include the word ‘faux’ in parenthesis, we word it that way in order to encompass both faux and real fur – i.e. we’re asking would you wear either faux or real fur heels. I looked over the article again and the word faux is only used in the title. We don’t say anywhere in the post that the heels pictured there are made from faux fur. I apologize for any confusion!

  4. 4
    January 2nd, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    i think the idea of manufacturer’s being the ones solely responsible for the mislabeling of faux fur to be ridiculous. don’t retail buyers look at samples from their manufacturers?

    i know people who work in the import department for a clothing retail company, & they often had samples of items to make sure everything matched up to the label. it was a big deal to make sure things were as they should be since if they weren’t, the US Customs agents could hold on to it for who knows how long & there goes your profit margin. so personally, i highly doubt retailers are ignorant about the mislabeling.

  5. 5
    January 3rd, 2014 at 9:16 am

    i’m with m on this.

    mislabeling is just wrong, no matter what product it concerns.
    but (and i know i’m making myself really unpopular right now), it totally annoys me that there are people who’re all like “oh my gosh, this isn’t fake fur, you’ve been lying to me, I don’t want anything from an animal” and then turn around and swoon over real leather boots/handbags/jackets.

  6. 6
    January 3rd, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    This really is an interesting article, and I’m glad that now I am aware that this is happening so I can avoid mislabeled products.

    However, unless Kohl’s is the manufacturer as well as the merchant, you really shouldn’t say that they are labeling something. The manufacturer is the source of the product and label, and it is the merchant’s responsiblity to ensure safe and legal products. This is just like the lead contaminants in accessories. Also, how are these things getting through customs? Seems like there’s an issue with inspections there too.

  7. 7
    January 3rd, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Elaine makes a great point. While there are laws prohibiting imports of illegal material, enforcement of those laws is sometimes sketchy. The fact that the angora rabbit cruelty happens, which has been in the news lately, is enough to show that even establishing fur as “ethically” collected is a problem.

    It’s good you linked to the guide for telling the difference between real and faux. I think if customers are careful about what they purchase, and report mislabeling immediately, that has the best chance of sending a strong message.

  8. 8
    January 8th, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    I agree with C! It’s really annoying when people who are like, super- against fur (or more recently: angora); turn around and swoon over leather and wool products.
    And it’s like people who are really against what is seen as the most extreme cruelty (like foie gras); but they don’t see the system behind it and don’t consider what happens to the other animals.

  9. 9
    January 22nd, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    Going along the lines of what Ellie said, why fur but not leather?

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