Fast fashion retailer Boohoo has been caught selling real fur as "faux" and criticised by the UK's advertising watchdog for "misleading" shoppers.
In a ruling published today, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said an online listing for a "faux fur" pompom jumper, which was spotted in September 2018, had broken its rules because it contained real animal fur. (The listing for the jumper can still be found online but it has since been removed from sale.) The ASA similarly criticised Zacharia Jewellers in a separate ruling today for selling a real-fur pompom headband on Amazon that also purported to be "faux".
The items were both challenged by the animal protection charity Humane Society International (HSI), as part of its investigation into the UK-wide practice of real fur being sold as fake. HSI bought the items and sent them to an independent textile laboratory to be tested. Both were confirmed to be real fur, most likely from rabbits, reported the Guardian.
Miles Lockwood, the ASA’s director of complaints, said shoppers "shouldn’t be misled into buying a faux fur product in good conscience only for it to turn out to be from a real animal," adding that it is not only "misleading" but "can also be deeply upsetting". Lockwood warned retailers to "get their house in order or face further action".
Boohoo said it "had a strong commitment against" selling products containing real fur and that the brand had believed the jumper "did not contain real fur". Zacharia Jewellers said it had been told that the headband contained faux fur when it bought it in China and was "shocked" to learn otherwise. The product listing has been removed from Amazon and its website.
It’s completely unacceptable that compassionate consumers setting out to buy fake fur are being misled into buying animal fur.
Claire Bass, Humane Society International UK
HSI says the problem is widespread and is calling for a ban on fur sales in the UK. "It’s completely unacceptable that compassionate consumers setting out to buy fake fur are being misled into buying animal fur," said Claire Bass, executive director of HSI UK, adding that the ASA rulings will hopefully "make retailers work harder to give consumers confidence in avoiding cruel animal fur."
In April 2017, the fast fashion brand Missguided was found to be selling a pair of pink high heels containing real cat fur, while a pair of gloves at House of Fraser also had real rabbit fur. Both products had been advertised as "faux fur". In another investigation in December 2017, several big-name retailers – including TK Maxx, Boohoo, Amazon, Etsy and Not On The High Street – were also found to be selling real rabbit, mink and fox fur labelled as "faux".
HSI says it has found numerous items of clothing with real fur trim labelled as faux fur, and real fur items for sale for less than the cost of fake fur equivalents." It states on its website: "Don’t be lulled into thinking that it can't be real fur because that information is not stated on the label, or because it seems inexpensive."
• Check the ends of the fur. "Real fur tends to taper to a point at the end of each strand, whereas the tip of faux fur tends to be blunt where it has been cut in the manufacturing process," HSI says, but notes that this isn't always the case.
• Check the base of the fur. At the base of the fur, "faux fur will be attached to a fabric backing, identified by its weave look. At the base of real fur, there will be an animal’s skin (leather)."
• The burn test. Items that you already own can be tested by burning a few hairs, notes HSI. "If it’s real animal fur, it will singe and smell like burnt human hair, whereas if it’s fake, it will melt and curl into tiny balls, and smell like burnt plastic."