Nearly a year after an investigation in Britain exposed retailers including TK Maxx and Amazon for selling faux fur products that indeed contained real fur, a new BBC investigation has found those same retailers are still at it.
Following last year’s investigation by Humane Society International UK and British broadcaster Sky News—which last December revealed Amazon, Boohoo and TK Maxx were selling apparel, footwear and accessories labeled as faux fur, though testing proved the items included real fur from chinchillas, foxes, minks and rabbits—the retailers issued apologies and vowed to clean up their supply chains.
TK Maxx allowed customers, who unwittingly purchased real fur, to return the items for a full refund. Amazon, for its part, told Sky News “the products in question are no longer available.”
In fact, at the time of the investigation TK Maxx claimed on its website that “since 2003 we have not sold real animal fur of any type.” Yet, the off-price retailer was found to be selling fox fur coats and rabbit fur key chains.
Today, though the wording is slightly different, the first sentence of TK Maxx’s Responsible Sourcing and Trading section asserts: “At TK Maxx, we have had a longstanding ‘no fur’ policy since 2003 and we do not knowingly sell items that contain real fur of any type.”
As part of its investigation, however, the BBC sent Steph McGovern of its consumer investigative program Watchdog Live, to a TK Maxx store, where she found and purchased a handbag made from fox fur. Meanwhile, a pair of shoes purchased on the TK Maxx website came adorned with fuzzy bobbles made from raccoon dog fur.
TK Maxx told the BBC an error must have been made since it does not knowingly buy real fur.
“Despite our robust processes, an error can occasionally occur,” TK Maxx told Watchdog Live. “As soon as this is brought to our attention we remove the item from sale and review the journey of that product.”
At Amazon, two “faux fur” hats sold on the site were found to be made from raccoon dog fur, too. In response to Watchdog Live, Amazon said the items were no longer available and laid the blame on merchants. “All Marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines, and those who don’t will be subject to action including potential removal of their account,” Amazon said.
Watchdog Live also found that a jumper sold by AX Paris, which has fur-free policy, contained rabbit fur, and rabbit fur was also found in a pair of shoes bought from fashion label Missy Empire. Both said they are investigating how the items ended up in their inventory.
“All animal fibers have particular structural features,” textile analysis expert Dr. Phil Greaves told Watchdog Live. “And it’s the actual nature and characteristic of these which determines the species of origin. “These fibers are very distinctive once under the microscope.”
While fur farming is banned in the U.K., it is not illegal to import.
Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International UK, told the program she would like to see changes in the import laws and said it is also incumbent on merchants to know what they’re selling. “Retailers need to be doing more to give consumers the confidence they need to buy fake fur and not be worrying that it might actually be fox, rabbit or mink,” she said.
In 2017, various retailers and brands started banning real fur in earnest.
Gucci eliminated fur from its entire product value chain and enacted a fur-free policy starting with its Spring 2018 collection, joining brands including Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein.
VF Corp., whose brands include Lee, Wrangler, The North Face, Timberland and Vans, last year unveiled its first-ever Animal Derived Materials Policy and said it would no longer use exotic leather or fur in apparel and footwear products—or accept them from its global supply chain partners.
Burlington Coat Factory restricted the procurement and sale of products with animal fur in fall 2017. Michael Kors and subsidiary Jimmy Choo phased out animal fur in its products this year, and debuted its “fur free” apparel, accessories and footwear items at its February 2018 runway show.
Most recently, Jean Paul Gaultier this week alluded to reconsidering the luxury line’s use of fur, according to WWD.