When a label reads “faux fur,” one would expect it to be just that. But Kohl’s was recently caught selling a lie with a coat lined with real raccoon dog fur marketed as the fake stuff. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) uncovered the false advertising when the organization bought and tested a men’s hooded parka from the apparel line R&O.
Following the Humane Society’s consumer alert, the jacket was immediately pulled from the chain’s website (it was not being sold in stores). “Kohl’s standard vendor terms require that all merchandise must be free of any real animal fur,” the corporation said in a statement released Tuesday. “Unless expressly authorized in writing by Kohl’s. No such authorization was given here.” Less than 100 of the coats had been purchased to date and the item was not exclusive to the store. The statement continued, “We apologize to our customers who would not have otherwise purchased these parkas. Kohl’s will honor returns, no questions asked, for any customers who no longer wish to keep them.”
While the company has publicly said sorry and is doing right by its customers, this isn’t the first time that Kohl’s has been caught unwittingly fooling consumers. Last year, HSUS discovered that a rabbit fur handbag being promoted as “faux” was confirmed after laboratory testing to, in actuality, be trimmed with real rabbit hair.
Raccoon dog fur, the animal used in Kohl’s parka, is generally low quality and is actually cheaper than the fake material. The breed is also often skinned alive for its fur. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), more than half the fur in the U.S. comes from China where the raccoon dog is indigenous. Misrepresenting a product as animal-free is a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in commerce. Kohl’s is also in violation of the Fur Products Labeling Act for failing to properly notify the public of the fur’s true origin.
But Kohl’s isn’t the only retailer to make this kind of misstep. Last year, discount department store Century 21 labeled a Marc by Marc Jacobs jacket with a fur trim hood as artificial but further investigation proved it to be made of raccoon dog fur. In 2013, Neiman Marcus sold Stuart Weitzman ballet flats with faux fur pom-poms, an Alice and Olivia coat with a dark hood both, and more that were falsely marketed as a manmade alternative. The retailer was involved with DrJays.com and Eminent (conducting business under the name Resolve Clothing) in a settlement on federal charges for mislabeling animal products. The supposedly synthetic fur was actually rabbit, raccoon and, possibly, dyed mink. Cats have even been caught in the kerfuffle with different popular Last year, a slew of German stores were caught selling feline fluff as fake (the sale of dog and cat fur is banned in the U.S.).
While there’s obviously no surefire way to be positive a product tag isn’t telling the 100 percent truth, there are ways to remain fur free: check the origins of the materials and only buy from trusted, reputable sources.