California Becomes the First State to Ban Fur Sales

Just days before the end of 2022, a rich display of sable, chinchilla, mink, fox and other furs were set up inside a pop-up store where the luxury items were selling for 75 percent off.

The retail outpost inside the high-end Beverly Center, a large shopping complex adjacent to Beverly Hills, was the last hurrah for Maximilian Furs’ business in California. It was trying to sell as much of its merchandise as possible before a statewide fur ban went into effect on Jan. 1 after being approved by the California Legislature in 2019.

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“This has totally killed our business here,” said Andy Nicolaou, vice president and director of services for Maximilian, who was at the store. “It is not fair to the ladies who have been buying our furs here for years.”

Until early 2021, about 20 to 25 percent of Maximilian’s business was done in the state, Nicolaou noted. But fur opponents have spent years slowly whittling away at California’s fur business.

Anti-fur activists started initiating bans in the state as far back as 2011, when West Hollywood passed an anti-fur ordinance that eventually went into effect in 2013. It was followed a few years later by Berkeley, San Francisco and then Los Angeles. The fur bans don’t include selling used and vintage furs.

With these new laws taking effect in California and elsewhere, major department stores including Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus either banned fur sales and closed their fur salons or said they would imminently close them across the United States.

Macy’s and its subsidiary, Bloomingdale’s, shuttered their fur salons in early 2021, and Saks Fifth Avenue ended fur sales in March 2022. Maximilian had 130 leased departments in those locations.

In announcing the ban in 2020, Macy’s said it was moving away from natural fur to go along with new production methods and consumer trends. “With the rise of new fabric technology, alternatives like faux fur and other fabric innovations make this a seamless transition for our customers,” Macy’s said in a statement.

Two years ago, the Neiman Marcus Group announced that in March 2023, the Dallas-based company and its sister department store Bergdorf Goodman would do away with their 22 fur salons and not sell any products containing fur.

This goes along with several luxury brands and groups now eschewing fur, including Kering, Dolce & Gabbana, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Burberry, Canada Goose, Zegna Group and Moncler.

But many people are not happy about the ban. “Ninety percent of the people on the street will tell you that this is ridiculous,” claimed Doug Fine, a salesperson at Flier Furs, a small fur store in Beverly Hills. “We don’t know how this will affect us.”

The store used to sell new and used furs. As of Jan. 1, it only had used furs on its racks, including a purple mink jacket selling for $3,495 and a pink fox jacket going for $3,695. The company, which has been a family-run affair for nearly 90 years, supplements its revenues with fur storage, repairs and repurposing furs.

Until this year, Beverly Hills, which has its own city government, had been the go-to spot for fur sales after Los Angeles banned fur sales in 2021. That is no longer the case with the statewide ban.

“We are grateful to California for taking a stand against the cruel fur industry by implementing this statewide ban on the production of sale of new fur products,” said Jenny Berg, the California state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

But there is plenty of opposition to the fur ban and a movement to overturn it. “The [California] legislation represents another step in the overall strategy of ending animal use, both with respect to the clothes we wear and the food we eat,” said Mike Brown, the head of sustainability and public affairs at the Natural Fibers Alliance, a coalition of producers and associations in the U.S. and Canada supporting the use of natural sustainable materials in clothing and other products.

He said laws similar to the fur ban were made in California restricting the sale of pork that comes from breeding pigs that were not given sufficient space to live in. “The legality of these types of restrictions under the U.S. Constitution is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.  We are hopeful that the court confirms the illegality of these types of restrictions, which would have a direct impact on our ability to overturn the [fur] prohibition,” he noted.

Brown contended there is no difference between wearing a fox-trimmed coat or a pair of leather Christian Louboutin pumps or Salvatore Ferragamo dress shoes for men. “The advocates pushing fur bans only see this as a first step,” he said.

Even with its mild climate, fur clothing has been a big seller in California. Until the last few years, the state accounted for the largest fur sales in the country. According to the 2017 Economic Census, fur garment sales in the United States totaled $574 million, with $129 million, or 22 percent, being sold in California. New York came in second with $115 million in sales.

One of the reasons is that California is the country’s most populous state, with some 40 million residents, while New York’s population is about half that with 20 million people.

While fur may be big in the state, there are a number of ecologically conscientious consumers in California who began pushing for fur bans about a decade ago.

First came West Hollywood’s fur ban, passed in 2011 and going into effect in 2013. It made a statement and rattled a few customers, but it had minimal effect because shoppers could travel just a few miles away to neighboring Los Angeles to pick up a fur coat.

But in 2019, Los Angeles and California started to take a close look at the issue, and both decided to eliminate fur sales. Los Angeles’ ban went into effect in 2021.

The California anti-fur ban bill, known as Assembly Bill 44, was authored by Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, representing Glendale and surrounding areas.

She was pleased to see it finally passed. “Californians do not want to see animals live and die in cruel ways for nothing more than fashion,” Friedman said in a statement. “I’m so pleased that this law will help uphold our state’s animal welfare standards as well as potentially help drive innovation for more sustainable fashion alternatives.”

While the bill bans the sale of new fur products, it does not apply to leather or shearling. It affects brick-and-mortar stores in California as well as online sales of fur products into California.