The department store operator said Monday that inventory levels of chinchilla, fox, mink, sable and other pelts across its Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman assortments have contracted by more than half, keeping it on track to deliver its promise to eliminate fur by March 2023.
“It is clear the future is fur-free, and that includes the ultra-luxury space. As a leader in luxury retail, NMG has an opportunity to help build a better future for our industry,” CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck said in a statement. “Since our announcement, we’ve seen many of our brand partners join this movement, further assisting our efforts to implement this much-needed change and create a more sustainable future for fashion.”
Neiman Marcus partnered with the Humane Society of the United States in 2021 to craft its new animal-welfare policy, which dovetails with guidelines from the Fur Free Alliance, a coalition of animal-protection organizations that works to end killing animals for their fur. It will also work with Textile Exchange to “inform its efforts” and access “reputable training” for brand partners.
To educate its clientele on fur alternatives, the company will be introducing several new “sustainable and ethical” product substitutes designed to “satisfy the discerning tastes of luxury customers.” This spring, products with “preferred attributes,” such as the use of sustainable materials, responsible manufacturing or enhanced transparency through digital product passports, will underpin new “Fashioned for Change” and “Conscious Curation” edits at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, respectively. Among the brands that will receive a boost is Prota Fiori, a certified B Corp that uses apple leather in its Italian-made women’s shoes.
Meanwhile, Neiman Marcus Group’s glittering fur salons, now a throwback to a different time with different sensibilities, will be “customized for modern luxury experiences.” Over time, the salons will evolve into spaces featuring personalization, dining and other “experiential customer moments,” though certain hallmarks will remain the same, the company said.
“We intend to continue offering customers access to fur services, including storage, alterations and repairs,” said Chris Demuth, senior vice president of people services, ESG and belonging. “Our experts are trained on caring for, maintaining and altering existing fur products, lowering the demand for new ones while driving progress toward our ESG goal to extend the useful life of 1 million luxury items through circular services by 2025.”
The fur industry has long fretted over at fashion’s falling out with animal-based products, which it sees as a triumph for fossil-fuel-derived materials, with broader consequences for the environment and climate.
“There is no substitute for real fur, real leather and real wool,” Mark Oaten, CEO of the International Fur Federation, which represents the global fur trade, told Sourcing Journal. “From the beginning, this decision was never about fur; it was free marketing and publicity at the expense of the animal-use industry. Now customers will be forced to buy microplastic-based fake alternatives. Neiman [Marcus’s] commitment to the environment and sustainability must be called into question.”
To counter the surging animal-welfare backlash, the organization unveiled in September a “game-changing” new certification and traceability system, dubbed Furmark, that it said would not only ensure animal welfare and environmental standards but also improve supply chain traceability. The platform garnered input from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, whose Dior, Fendi, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton subsidiaries are among the last luxury holdouts to still employ fur.
“In the last few years alone, we have seen many luxury designers, department stores and brands listen to their customers and adopt policies that prioritize cruelty-free fashion and luxury over senseless animal suffering,” Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/United Kingdom, told Sourcing Journal. “While the number of designers who are fur-free increases consistently, we are seeing a shorter list of designers and brands that are holding onto archaic practices that are harmful to the environment and to the animals who suffer and die for the sake of trim on a coat.”
Neiman Marcus Group said it will maintain sales of traditional animal fabrics such as cashmere, leather, shearling, mohair, down, wool and silk, while working with brand partners to monitor animal-welfare concerns and promote best practices relating to their sourcing, production, processing and reuse. Some animal campaigners, however, want Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman to give these materials the kiss-off, as well.
“After decades of pressure from PETA U.S. and other activists, kind shoppers will bid good riddance to fur and give a warm welcome to vegan leather at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, but animals will continue to suffer as long as their skin, fleece and feathers are sold,” Tracy Reiman, executive vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told Sourcing Journal.
“Since exposés by PETA entities have revealed that workers beat cows for leather, punch sheep for wool and tear out birds’ feathers for down, it’s clear that anytime animals are used for clothing, there’s cruelty in every stitch,” she added. “PETA U.S. urges the Neiman Marcus Group to start using only innovative, animal-free materials.”