NEW YORK CITY — The trendy faux fur jackets at Century 21 may not be fake at all, a new investigation found.
The popular retail chain, known for its discounted designer goods, has allegedly been caught illegally mislabeling its fur apparel, according to a new undercover investigation led by The Humane Society and New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal.
With a hidden camera on hand, Rosenthal and a representative from The Humane Society headed to the new Century 21 at 66th Street and Broadway, as well as the store's original Downtown, tourist-jammed location on Church Street, where they found several fur-lined jackets and sweaters either mislabeled as "faux" — but actually trimmed with rabbit and other animal fur — or not labeled at all.
Humane Society investigators also purchased three designer Marc Jacobs jackets online from Century 21 that were advertised as having “faux fur” trim.
But when they were delivered, all three jacket labels indicated “real raccoon fur” from China — and laboratory testing of one jacket found it was actually raccoon dog, animals that look similar to raccoons and are often skinned alive for their fur, according to The Humane Society.
"Many people want to avoid wearing fur at all," Rosenthal in a statement. "And, for them, knowing whether the garment they are about to purchase is made with real or faux fur is just as important a factor in determining whether to buy it as is the price.”
Century 21 posted a response on its Facebook page.
"Century 21 does not create garment labels, the manufacturers do. It is the manufacturer's responsibility to provide an accurate account of materials used in the garment and to be transparent with the consumer before his or her purchase," Century 21 said in the Facebook statement.
"We respect the diligence of the The Humane Society of the United States to uphold state and federal laws in regards to garment labeling."
In 2007, Rosenthal, who represents much of the Upper West Side and Hell's Kitchen, sponsored state legislation to force all apparel with real or fake fur to be clearly labeled as such, so that shoppers could easily know what they were purchasing.
The law was meant to complement a rarely enforced federal regulation that requires fur garments to include a description of the kind of fur used and the country of origin.
But, as the undercover video shows, figuring out whether certain jackets and sweaters at Century 21 were made of real fur was not so simple.
When asked for help, store salespeople were unable to find any fur labeling on the garments, and in some cases made matters more confusing, saying that they thought the unlabeled fur was fake, when Rosenthal and The Humane Society later found that certain items, like a child's sweater, were actually lined with rabbit fur.
The Humane Society has a breakdown of the mislabeled jackets and sweaters they purchased during the investigation on their site.