The fashion retailer Nieman Marcus had a little run in with the Federal Trade Commission this week. It was one of three companies involved in a settlement over fake fur. It turns out that some Burberry coats they had advertised as faux fur were actually real fur. They were made from an East Asian animal called a raccoon dog.
A raccoon dog is not quite a raccoon and not quite a dog. What it definitely is not, is synthetic, which means it cannot be sold as fake fur.
Humane Society attorney Ralph Henry says the society tested coats in a lab and notified the FTC, when they discoverd that the coats were made from the animal's fur.
"The retailers have agreed to be bound by FTC orders," says Matt Wilshire, a staff attorney for the FTC.
The settlement signed by Nieman Marcus and two other retailers, DrJays.com and Eminent, does not force the retailers to pay any financial penalties. But they are required to accurately label all fur products. And says Wilshire, "if they violate the order on the future they may be subject to penalties."
Part of the problem, according to retail analyst Marshal Cohen, is that manufacturers have gotten really good at making fake fur. "It used to be that when you touched it or got close to it, you could tell that it wasn't real."
As more people shy away from wearing real fur for ethical reason, the demand for this new high quality fake fur is growing. But Cohen says, "there are just not a lot of companies that are producing the faux fur itself."
This has opened up opportunities for other sources of faux fur, like raccoon dog, which according to the law is faux faux fur and should be labeled as such.
The FTC would not comment on where the raccoon dog came from.