The Furor Over Faux Fur That's Real
It is unusual for a lawmaker to use props while testifying about a bill. To wheel a garment rack adorned with designer apparel into a legislative hearing room is rarer still.
But after begging for the indulgence of the House Economic Matters Committee chairman, Del. Tom Hucker carted in nine coats featuring real or faux fur -- among them, a black Nicole Miller with pink fur trim, a black Burberry with rabbit trim, a black Sean John with fur trim.
"You're bringing out your wardrobe," a committee member snickered to Hucker.
And so began yesterday's hearing on House Bill 834.
The bill, introduced by Hucker (D-Montgomery), seeks to toughen coat-labeling rules in Maryland by requiring makers and retailers selling fur coats in the state to label the species and country of origin of the fur, regardless of value.
The legislation was inspired by an investigation by the Humane Society of the United States that found some of the biggest names in contemporary fashion, including Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Burlington Coat Factory, had sold coats made with rabbit or dog hair that were labeled or advertised as different species or as artificial.
The Humane Society said some stores were selling coats that were trimmed with the hair of raccoon dog, a canine species indigenous to China and other Asian countries that closely resembles the raccoon.
Representatives from Bloomingdale's, Saks and Burlington said they were misled by coat makers and have corrected the labels. But that hasn't slowed Hucker's crusade in Annapolis.
Hucker, testifying before the panel of lawmakers, pointed to the coats and said: "Some of these are advertised as faux fur when in fact they're not labeled, and when you do a chemical test you find they are actually from real animals."
He added: "This is a widespread and growing problem. . . . Maryland consumers have the right to know what they're buying and what they're wearing."
Although U.S. law prohibits the importing of dog and cat fur, federal regulations do not require manufacturers to label the type of fur if the amount of fur in the coat is valued at less than $150. Hucker said that this is a loophole he wants to close to protect an "unsuspecting public."
Pierre Grzybowski, who helps run the Humane Society's campaign against false advertising of fur coats, joined Hucker at the witness table. He showed the lawmakers a rainbow-hued fur scarf, pointing out that fur dyed in different colors may look artificial when in fact it could come from real animals. If the scarf is not properly labeled, he said, a consumer would never know for sure.