Can the California fur ban be overturned?

Earlier this month, California’s fur ban went into effect, but opposition against it remains.
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Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

· 4 min read

Last week, we looked at how the California law banning sales of new fur products is impacting retailers, and pushing them to invest in fur alternatives.

Naturally, several retailers including LVMH and Fendi, have already started experimenting with faux fur. End of story, right? Well, not quite, because there are those who are not accepting defeat just yet.

Take the Natural Fibers Alliance, a coalition of supporters of natural materials in fashion, which includes fur, which is also vehemently trying to overturn the law. “The legality of these types of restrictions under the US Constitution is now before the US Supreme Court,” Mike Brown, the head of sustainability and public affairs at the Natural Fibers Alliance, told WWD, referring to California restricting pork sales, which is being challenged in the court. “We are hopeful that the court confirms the illegality of these types of restrictions, which would have a direct impact on our ability to overturn the [fur] prohibition.” (Note: Brown is also the Americas CEO of International Fur Federation.)

Meanwhile, some retailers are also talking about the negative impact of the ban on their bottom line. In a recent interview, Andy Nicolaou, VP and director of services for California-based Maximilian Furs, told WWD, that the fur ban has “totally killed our business,” adding that it wasn’t fair to the women who had been purchasing fur from the retailer for years.

While the pressure is on, with similar laws already in the works in places like New York, experts Retail Brew spoke with say it is unlikely that the law will be overturned.

A path well taken: When San Francisco first banned fur in 2018, the law was challenged in court, but was upheld nevertheless. “The fur trade doesn’t have that backing that it wants to. It doesn’t have the support of the Dolce and Gabbanas, the Pradas, and so their power is dwindling very quickly,” PJ Smith, fashion policy director at the Humane Society, told Retail Brew, adding that many consumers are in favor of the ban, which only increases the likelihood of the ban staying in place.

  • “This is really being driven by Gen Z consumers. They’re going to have the buying and voting power for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Companies and legislators understand that.”
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Timothy Derr, partner at Kearney’s consumer and retail practice, agreed, adding that especially when it came to California, overturning a law like the fur ban is going to be tricky. “There’s always going to be that option, but if we look at the scale of California, quite frankly, it’s a little bit more on the progressive side,” he told us. “If I were a retailer, you could plan it out as a scenario, but I wouldn’t put my eggs in that basket, so to speak.”

Across the ocean: Derr’s advice applies to retailers in the UK and Europe, too, where consumer support for fur bans is rapidly on the rise. The EU commission, for instance, is already gathering signatures for putting together a proposal for such a ban.

The UK, which banned fur production in the early 2000s, is also considering banning fur sales and import.

“The main argument is, ‘We banned the production because we thought it was too cruel to produce, but we still sell it,’” Smith explained. “We’re eventually going to make that connection everywhere….That’s what California has really questioned, and other places are going to as well.”

Unfashionable: But regardless of the opposition to the law, the concluding piece of the puzzle is that a lot of consumers have called time on the use of fur, which is ultimately why companies are reconsidering and looking to innovative fabrics like lab-grown fur.

“Retailers have proven [faux fur] is a real option, right?” Derr said. “So whether you look at Moncler, whether you look at Ralph Lauren, whether you look at places like Neiman Marcus that have already committed to these targets, it’s been proven, maybe on a smaller scale, that it is a viable option.”

Smith added that even the Natural Fibers Alliance, the lobbying arm for the fur trade, has shied away from using the word “fur” in their promotions and has instead embraced other natural fabrics like cotton and wool. “Their power is fading quickly…They’re trying to align more with wool products,” Smith said. “[If] they don’t even want to be associated with their own industry, why would any state or company want to do that either?”—JS

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.