Saks Fifth Avenue has committed to going fur-free, a move the luxury department store says was influenced by the changing customer zeitgeist.
“Across the Saks Fifth Avenue experience, we evaluate a number of factors when making decisions about our assortment, including customer preferences and societal shifts,” Tracy Margolies, its chief merchandising officer, said in a statement. “We recognize that trends constantly evolve, and that the sale of fur remains a significant social issue. As such, eliminating it from our assortment is the right step for us to take at this time.”
The retailer says it will take a “phased approach” to its commitment, which includes—but is not limited to—mink, fox, chinchilla and sable, as well as fur products derived from wild animals such as beavers and coyotes. Its rarified fur salons will shutter by the end of fiscal year 2021, meaning Jan. 29, 2022, while all fur clothing and accessories sold by brand partners will vanish from its racks by the end of fiscal year 2022, or Jan. 28, 2023.
Shearling, goatskin, cattle hide, down, feathers, leather and faux fur products will continue to be sold online and in stores, it said.
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, called Saks’ announcement a “game changer.”
“Clearly consumers no longer want animal cruelty in their wardrobes, and credit to Saks for recognizing that the future of luxury is about innovative alternatives that are better for animals and the environment,” she said in a statement. “More and more brands and companies are adopting fur-free policies and it’s only a matter when, not if, the few remaining fashion brands will catch up with this new standard.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) credited the work of campaigners and messages from more than 100,000 people, for Saks’s abandonment of the former wealth and status symbol. The department store joins fellow high-end stalwarts Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Nordstrom and posh e-tail upstarts Yoox Net-a-Porter and Farfetch in stripping fur products from their shelves.
“May its ‘fur salons’ rest in pieces, for they won’t be missed by today’s shoppers, who no longer find it acceptable to drape themselves in an abused animal’s stolen skin,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, said in a statement.
Not everyone is a fan of Saks’ actions, however.
“Progressive fashion involves the use of all-natural fibers—not plastic-based synthetic ‘faux’ materials, which are a major source of pollution,” Mike Brown, head of sustainability and communication with the Natural Fibers Alliance, a newly formed environmental justice coalition that represents the interests of the wool, leather and fur sectors, said in a statement.
“Anti-fur pledges like the ones made by a few department stores merely invite more pressure from activists to stop selling leather and wool,” Brown said. “Instead of shutting the door to natural materials, forward-thinking companies should adopt standards such as FurMark, a science-based certification for animal welfare and sustainability.”
But the tide against fur may have already turned. Just last week, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga declared the material verboten in a move indicative of the evolving concept of what luxury entails. They’re now part of a growing anti-fur fraternity that includes Armani, Burberry, Chanel, DKNY, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, Prada and Versace.
On a broader scale, San Francisco, Los Angeles and California as a whole have nixed fur sales. Other states are considering similar legislation, as is the United Kingdom, where lawmakers have been fielding growing calls from citizens to outlaw fur sales across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Last week, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit by the International Fur Federation (IFF) that challenged San Francisco’s ban of fur sales. While the trade group said the ordinance would cause the fur industry to lose some $45 million in sales every year, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg said that the economic impact alone did not establish a “substantial burden” on commerce.
The IFF asked the court for a waiver of the ordinance on online or other remote sales of fur products that shipped to a San Francisco address from a retailer beyond the city limits. This, too, was rejected by Seeborg.
In a previous ruling, Seeborg dismissed the IFF‘s arguments that the ordinance interfered with interstate and international commerce and therefore violated the violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.