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What to Know About Naadam, PETA, Neiman and Fur

Has the luxury community taken the hint from animal activists that fur is a faux pasNaadam, for one, certainly has. But that hasn’t changed the cashmere company’s practices—just how it markets them. At least, that’s what the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claims.

On Valentine’s Day, PETA sent a cease and desist to the retailer, telling Naadam to stop falsely advertising its products as “cruelty-free.” The animal-welfare group claims that Naadam sources cashmere from producers that use a process that typically involves painfully tearing of goats’ hair with sharp metal combs before eventually sending them to the slaughterhouse—and gave the brand until Feb. 28 to comply before taking legal action.

The Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) prohibits unfair competition methods, including false and misleading advertising. 15 U.S.C. § 45. Naadam’s claims that its cashmere products are ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘without cruelty’ assert without qualification that the goats did not experience anything that a reasonable consumer would consider to be ‘cruel,’” the letter said. “However, cruelty is inherent in cashmere production, including painful and distressing combing, castration without pain relief, and violent slaughter. By specifically including these representations in its marketing, Naadam clearly recognizes that consumers value animal welfare and believe that, at a minimum, goats should not be subjected to cruelty. Therefore, claims that cashmere is ‘cruelty-free’ or ‘without cruelty’ are false and likely to mislead ordinary consumers.”

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This letter, which threatened legal action, including a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for apparent violations of the FTC Act, also noted that animal welfare experts like those at the Australian Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals describe the combing process as a “prolonged, painful procedure” that leads to unnecessary suffering—contrary to the assertions made by Naadam, PETA said.

“Investigations reveal that live goats are tied up and their hair is painfully ripped out as they struggle, yet Naadam misleads consumers about this reality,” PETA executive vice president Tracy Reiman said. “PETA is demanding that Naadam remove these deceptive statements and stop ‘humane washing’ the cashmere industry’s inherent cruelty.”

Naadam, which did not respond to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment, quickly took action after receiving PETA’s entreaty. Less than one hour after the letter came in, the cashmere fashion company scrubbed its website of the cruelty-free claims. Naadam CEO Matthew Scanlan told PETA about the action his company, including that it deleted the statement saying “we treat our goats the way we want to be treated: responsibly, with love, and without cruelty.” The webpage that contained the statement has since been disabled, and “cruelty-free” is no longer part of the “introducing Naadam” page. 

“Removing false claims about the hair torn from goats’ skin is right to do, but Naadam must now stop selling goods that involve cruelty towards animals and switch to selling items made of luxurious animal-free materials instead,” Reiman said.

But Naadam didn’t eliminate all details regarding its sourcing practices. The brand’s “facts about cashmere” webpage states that it sources its cashmere from the Zalaa Jinst white goat, the only entirely white breed of cashmere goat in Mongolia found in the Gobi Desert. It claims that old-school hand combing, a Mongolian tradition, is the only practice Naadam’s herders use to collect the wool. Additionally, “the world’s fairest cashmere” brand says it has provided veterinary care to over 250,000 goats.

Naadam put sustainability front and center in a 2018 campaign.

According to Naadam’s 2020 Impact Report, about 25 percent of the company’s products operate under the Good Cashmere Standard, which considers the welfare and management of cashmere goats. It also states that the herders Naadam works with never shear the goats, as “shearing can scare or distress goats and is more likely to lead to skin injuries,” and plans on engaging in the “complex animal welfare dialogue centered around the cashmere industry and monitor how it impacts [its] specific supply chain.”

The animal-rights group previously came after Victoria’s Secret & Co., which banned cashmere following a PETA campaign last December. Asos, Columbia Sportswear and Overstock are just some of the dozens of companies to nix cashmere in recent years.

Neiman Marcus marked its own progress in walking away from fur by teaming up with Stella McCartney.

The luxury department store first announced its plans to abandon animal hair products in the summer of 2021 and shared an update on how things were going last year. By the end of this month, Neiman says fur will no longer feature anywhere in its product assortment.

Neiman Marcus hosted Stella McCartney for an exclusive experience introducing her Spring 2023 collection two days following the designer receiving her CBE honor for services to fashion and sustainability from His Majesty King Charles III at Windsor Castle. During the experience, Neiman Marcus customers gained new insights on the importance of sustainability and ethically sourced fashion, trademarks of Stella McCartney, and one way the integrated luxury retailer revolutionizes luxury experiences as it fully eliminates fur products from its assortment this month.

“We feel like our choices won’t have a meaningful impact, and I really don’t believe that,” Stella McCartney said. “The fact we are all here today, and congratulations [Neiman Marcus] on giving up fur, we’re fighting for sustainability and a better future.”

Visitors also learned ways to identify items with preferred product attributes made with sustainable materials, including fur alternatives and responsibly manufactured products. Last year, the Dallas-based luxury retailer launched the Fashion For Change edit, which now features Stella McCartney alongside an evolving assortment of brands and products curated by standards designed to impact people and the planet positively. In 2021, Neiman Marcus began taking steps to remove fur from its merchandise when it partnered with the Humane Society of the United States to develop its animal welfare policy. As the company fully exits fur from its merchandise, it’s ramping up efforts to increase revenue from sustainable and ethical products across its differentiated business model.

“Today’s consumers are seeking consciously sourced products, and our aim is to provide our loyal customer base with curated and credibly vetted options,” a company spokesperson said. “Last year, we launched the Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman’s ‘Fashioned for Change’ and ‘Conscious Curation’ edits—our assortment of brands and products curated by standards designed to make a positive impact on people and the planet—across our omnichannel platform. These evolving edits define multiple categories within sustainable and ethical fashion and allow our customers to shop in line with the values they care about most, spanning: sustainable materials, responsibly manufactured, diverse, gives back, and transparent—an attribute that’s unique to our approach.”