How to avoid real fur masquerading as fake

An article on the BBC website in mid-December described the perils of buying garments made with supposedly fake fur trim that turns out to be all too real ( Although “most embellishments are made from faux fur – synthetic fibres designed to look and feel like animal fur … adornments and trims from rabbits, dogs, raccoons, foxes and minks are appearing on clothes sold on market stalls, by smaller independent retailers and online.”

The problem arises from the very low cost of producing animal fur in countries such as China (which notoriously rears cats and dogs for their fur), so much so that price is no longer a reliable guide to whether the fur trim on a garment is real or fake. Unfortunately, labelling rules mean that “the label only has to reflect 80% of the item’s composition”, so that real fur trim can simply be left undeclared on the label, and, to make matters worse, “labelling laws do not apply to accessories such as shoes and handbags.”

According to the article, the only reliable way to distinguish real fur from fake fur is to either
1) Separate the fur at the base. If it’s fake, you will see the fabric webbing. If it’s real, it will be attached to skin, or
2) Clip off the tip of the fibres and set light to them. If they melt like plastic, it’s fake. If they singe and smell of burning hair, it’s real.
Method 2 is hardly practical until you have brought the garment home, by which time it’s too late, and method 1 risks damaging the garment in store, in which case you may have to pay for it anyway, so perhaps the best solution is to avoid buying garments with fur trim altogether unless they come from a reputable high street store with a stated animal fur-free policy.

Paul Appleby


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