A recent Sky News investigative report found that major UK-based retailers Boohoo, Miss Bardo, Amazon, and TK Maxx–a subsidiary of TJ Maxx–have been selling products mislabeled as faux fur. The Sky News study was conducted in conjunction with Humane Society International (HSI). The report analyzed fiber samples from a variety of seemingly faux fur accessories and clothing from the brands in question. Shockingly, they discovered traces of real animal fur in each garment in question.
The investigation was spurred by TK Maxx customer Jayne Webster after she contacted HSI to report concerns over a keychain she had bought online. TK Maxx had confirmed the keychain pom pom was made of synthetic fur, yet Webster was still unconvinced. HSI sent the keychain to be tested and found that it was actually made of rabbit fur.
“As a company who proudly boasts that they have not sold fur or Angora products since 2003, I would assume TK Maxx takes a strong ethical stance on this issue,” Webster told Daily Mail. “So when I found out that the fur pom pom I bought was actually made of rabbit fur, I was extremely disappointed and concerned. I am aware of the horrific suffering that animals on fur farms go through and would never want to buy real fur.”
Currently, it is illegal to farm fur in the UK, but retailers can cheaply import fur from other countries. Yet, there is no clear regulation against misleading customers.
“There is no legal requirement to use the specific word ‘fur’ on items containing real fur,” HSI stated in a press release. “EU regulations do require items defined as ‘textile products’ to carry the confusing wording ‘contains non-textile parts of animal origin’ but as well as not clearly telling consumers it means ‘real animal fur’ in practice this wording requirement is rarely adhered to at all.”
Even real fur trim is also priced the same or sometimes even less than faux fur due to fur farms cheap production costs, making it indistinguishable for customers online. Each of these investigated retailers, however, have policies banning the sale of fur. The Sky News and HSI investigation found numerous items on each website made of authentic fur, directly contracting the retailers’ policies.
Boohoo was selling a pair of pom pom “faux” fur earrings for $6.70 that actually were made of mink. The brand also reportedly sold two pairs of bridal shoes containing rabbit fur fibers.
“We are very disappointed that on this occasion our high standards have been breached by the suppliers from who these items have been sourced,” a Boohoo representative stated. “Its standards are being investigated as a matter of urgency.”
Since the publication of the Sky News and HSI report, the earrings and shoes have been removed from the site.
In addition to the pom pom keychain that Webster had identified, TK Maxx was also retailing a “faux” fur-trimmed jacket for $160 that was actually fox fur. TK Maxx stood by their brand statement that they had banned authentic fur in 2003.
“TK Maxx has a longstanding ‘no fur’ policy and both our buyers and vendors understand that we do not knowingly purchase items containing fur,” a TK Maxx representative said. “With regard to the jacket, we intended to buy the ‘faux fur’ version of this item and very much regret what appears to be an error on our part.”
TK Maxx also took down the two identified items from their website.
A pair of mislabeled faux fur children’s slippers aptly named “Little Fox” on Amazon Marketplace were found to actually include remnants of real fur. Amazon apologized for the product, stating to Sky News that “all Marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who don’t will be subject to action including potential removal of their account.”
Trendy brand Miss Bardo was found to be selling a beanie for $11 that was made of fox fur. The brand issued an apology statement to its customers:
“Upon being told the findings the entire team was shocked to find that the style we had been told was ‘faux fur’ actually turned out to be 100% real fur! Here at MISSBARDO, we have an anti-fur policy and we feel appalled that we have been misled by an overseas manufacturer into buying a hat that is not faux fur.”
Miss Bardo also vowed to refund customers who had purchased the mislabeled beanie.
Previously, UK brand Missguided and American-based store Urban Outfitters were also accused of selling mislabeled “faux” fur products.
Due to this incredible amount of real fur in lieu of faux fur, the HSI is campaigning for the British government to make the UK an entirely fur-free area by extending the cat, dog, and seal fur bans to include all species.
“The amount of fake faux fur online is truly shocking,” Claire Bass, the executive director of HSI UK, said. “The combination of trusted brands, cheap prices, and items described as ‘faux’ or ‘100% acrylic,’ means many people will be justifiably horrified to discover they’ve inadvertently bought animal fur. Consumers rightly expect brands to sell what they say they’re selling, so urgent action is needed to stop this insidious creep of fur through the back door.”
In response, PETA has published guidelines for determining whether fur is faux or not. Suggestions include burning the tips of a product and check for a burnt plastic scent to confirm the fur is faux, checking the base of the fur detail for mesh or threading, and to observe the shape of the fur.
Hopefully, though, customers should not be forced to have the responsibility to determine whether or not their new purchase is as advertised. Faux fur should really be faux fur if the company says it is.
As whistleblower TK Maxx customer Webster said, “I don’t know how companies get away with this.”