Fur or Faux? The Labeling Problems Uncovered at Area Stores

Care to wear faux? Well you could be wearing fur.

UPDATE with Loehmann's Statement below:

Fur or faux? It’s a question that may seem easy – just check the label right? Wrong. 

NBCNewYork went undercover inside some of New York's most popular bargain clothing stores to find out just how real fur is being sold. The results are anything but comforting, meaning you may not even know what you're wearing.

Pierre Grzybowski is an investigator with the Humane Society of the United States. Taking out a map of the city, Grzybowski showed News 4 stores from the upper west side all the way down to Ground Zero, where he says real fur was masquerading as fake. “We are going to cut a swath down Manhattan and it’s going to be a swath of deception,” describes Grzybowski.
Popular retailers like Century 21, Loehmann’s, Burlington Coat Factory and Filene’s Basement were all allegedly in defiance of New York state law by selling real fur without properly telling customers what they’re buying.
We found a purple sweater with purple fur trim in Filene’s Basement, leading Grzybowski to exclaim that its purple “it’s got to be fake. But lets check the label - 100 percent acrylic. So, it’s got to be fake? Wrong. It’s real.”

In store after store, label after label on garment after garment there was no trace, according to the Humane Society of the United States of a proper or legal explanation as to what the trims were actually made of.
And to make matters worse, sales person after sales person told News 4 that the fur trims identified by the Humane Society of the U.S. as real, were anything but.
According to a sales person at Burlington Coat factory, the cheap price of the fur-trimmed cardigan, meant it couldn’t be real. “To say it’s real, actual fur? No,” the sales lady confidently explained.

 It’s a problem Grzybowski says he’s run into time and time again, particularly at Burlington Coat Factory. A claim the retailer doesn’t deny

“Either they can’t get labeling right or they don’t know how, but either way it’s a problem and ultimately it’s the law”, said Grzybowski.
Grzybowski says there are three easy ways to tell fur from faux.

1. Look at the tips of the hairs. If fur is un-sheared you can see that it tapers into a fine point like a cat's hair, an eyelash or a sharpened pencil
2. Burn it. If it smells like burning human hair, it's real fur.

3. See if the fur is attached to skin.
The most common misconception, price, has nothing to do with it  - meaning, not surprisingly, that many wearing the real stuff had no clue.
“I would say I’m pretty confidant its real fur,” said one woman who declined to give her name. When Grzybowski tells her its real, she says she is disappointed arguing that she doesn’t believe in wearing real fur.
The real issue - if you are buying faux fur specifically - you are buying it for a reason. If you’re against fur, finding out you’re inadvertently wearing it is a big deal. Filenes, Century 21, and Burlington Coat Factory all thanked News 4 for bringing the garments to their attention. All three said they removed the items from their sales floor. Still after repeated attempts to get answers from Loehmann’s, no one returned our calls or emails. UPDATE: Once the story went to Air, Loehmann's responded by saying it has removed "24 pieces of the garment" in question from its stores and has informed the vendor about the need for correct labeling. The full statements from the retailers are below.

You can follow Katy on Twitter @katytur4ny

Century 21:
“Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.  Century 21 and their employees were not aware that this product was made of real fur, as the merchandise had been mislabeled from the vendor. After further investigation we have confirmed that the line sheet from the vendor was not marked properly. We have also received an email from the vendor stating that effective 3/18 the law will require them to label this item correctly (see attached). As a result of these findings we have pulled this item and other items from this vendor off the floor until corrected.”

Burlington Coat Factory:
MO & J, Inc. ("M & J"), under the Talie label, supplied several Burlington Coat Factory
stores in New York with rabbit fur-trimmed sweaters which did not display a label stating "real fur." By doing this, M & J failed to comply with the applicable New York State fur labeling law, which states that faux and real fur products must be labeled "faux" or "real.” Moreover, M& J failed to comply with Burlington Coat Factory's strict labeling requirements for its suppliers. Specifically, Burlington Coat Factory instructs its vendors, including M & J, to comply with all existing federal and state fur labeling laws. These requirements are clearly stated in
Burlington Coat Factory's Purchase Order Terms and Conditions, and its Vendor Manual,
detailing applicable fur-labeling requirement. These documents are attached for your reference (see attached Purchase Order Terms and Conditions at paragraphs 6 and 7, Vendor Manual at page 8-4).

On January 20, 2011, NBC New York notified Burlington Coat Factory that a Talie
sweater sold at the retailer’s New York City store did not have the proper fur label. Burlington Coat Factory reacted immediately by identifying the specific Talie sweater and by instructing our stores to pull all relevant remaining Talie-brand fur-trimmed inventory from the sales floor. Burlington Coat Factory will issue a full refund to any customer who wishes to return any such Talie product to our stores.

In addition, Burlington Coat Factory demanded that M & J provide identification of the
fur trim and offer an apology for its failure to comply with the New York Law and Burlington Coat Factory's contract. Annexed are two letters from M & J's president identifying the fur as rabbit -- a perfectly legal fur commonly used in garment trims -- and his apology for violating the New York Law, of which he claimed ignorance, notwithstanding Burlington Coat Factory's notice to them of the law's effect. Burlington Coat Factory takes every reasonable precaution to ensure that its vendors properly label all garments in compliance with applicable law, including that of New York State. When Burlington Coat Factory has learned of isolated fur labeling incidents of manufacturers not abiding by its contracts and State Law, we have addressed them swiftly. We appreciate NBC New York bringing the M & J issue to our attention.

Filene's Basement/SYMS:
 "We thank you for bringing this to our attention. Every garment you pointed out has been pulled from the floor, as well as any others we could find in the same category. And we will keep on looking.  We also immediately commenced discussions with our vendors to assure full disclosure in every instance going forward.  Our deeply held belief is that an educated consumer is the best customer, and we want to walk that talk.  Thank you for helping us to do that."


“Loehmann’s requires that all its vendors comply with the labeling laws in the U.S., and we take this matter seriously.  We have reviewed this incident specifically, and have verified that the particular garment was not properly labeled by the vendor.  We have removed all 24 pieces of the garment from Loehmann’s stores and have informed the vendor about this issue to ensure appropriate corrective labeling in the future. We will be raising this issue with our vendors so they understand we demand compliance with US labeling laws if they want to continue to do business with us. We also want to thank NBC for bringing this issue to our attention.”

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