LOS ANGELES - Is it fur or is it fake? We went undercover with hidden cameras looking for fur-free fashions. But no matter what some of the salespeople said, we looked inside. You won't believe some of the things we found.
"This is real fur, this is similar to raccoon dog. Dog. You don't want dog around your neck?"
"I don't think so."
We sent our undercover producer out shopping. Along with Pierre Grzybowski, a fur expert with the Humane Society of the United States.
At Arden B. -- a popular chain of women's clothing stores -- at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, we found a vest for $68. The label says suede faux fur.
"Does it have fur?" our producer asked.
"Anything that we have... we don't carry real fur," the salesperson replied.
"You don't carry real fur?"
"No," the salesperson confirmed.
She said Arden B. is fur free! A second salesperson said the vest was too cheap to be real.
"OK, so no chance?"
"Absolutely, no way," the salesperson said.
So we bought it. In the car our fur expert cut open the backing.
"This is the inside of the fur trim," Grzybowski said adding, "you can see little pieces of skin that have been stitched together."
It turns out, according to our expert; this faux fur is a phony!
David Goldstein: "That's actually the skin of an animal?"
Pierre Grzybowski, HSUS: "Yes, whatever animal has been killed for this, this is their skin."
David Goldstein: "Definitely real?"
Pierre Grzybowski, HSUS: "Definitely real. Absolutely."
He says it's consistent with rabbit or fox that has been dyed. You might think that kind of fur is worth a lot of money. But not these small pieces.
Pierre Grzybowski, HSUS: "This could have cost a couple of dollars if even that much."
We went back to Arden B.
David Goldstein: "Did you know this was real fur?
Salesperson: "I thought, I think it's fake fur."
The salesperson says she was duped by the label. The company said when we told them what it was, they pulled it off the rack.
Across the mall at Grasshoppers children's clothing we asked the same questions about a $350 girl's jacket.
"Is that fur?"
"It's not real fur," the salesperson replied.
"I just don't want to put real fur on a baby."
"So, it's faux fur?"
This time the label said the shell is nylon, lining and padding polyester. No mention of the trim. The salesperson said that means it's a fake.
"If it's real fur they say real fur," the salesperson said.
But after cutting it open...
"Let's see what the backing is," our fur expert said while opening the jacket. "This is the skin and it has absorbed the pink ink."
Animal skin. Our expert says it's consistent with omething called raccoon dog.
David Goldstein: "What is raccoon dog?"
Pierre Grzybowski, HSUS: "It's the most misrepresented and unlabeled fur sold here and this animal was found to be skinned alive in massive numbers."
Investigators from the Swill Animal Protection Agency found raccoon dogs being raised by the millions in China -- caged and in inhumane conditions. A member of the dog family, their pelts sell for less than it would cost to make fake fur.
David Goldstein: "This is real fur. This is similar to raccoon dog. Dog. You don't want dog around your neck?
David Goldstein: "I don't think so."
The salesperson said she didn't know. The owner told me his wholesaler said it was fake fur.
"What if I told you this was dog? What do you think?"
We also found fur that our expert said was consistent with what they have found to be raccoon dog on a coat at the Burlington Coat Factory in Huntington Beach. It's made by Rocawear, the line created by singer Jay-Z. The salesperson didn't seem to care.
David Goldstein: "In the dog family. What do you think of that?"
Salesperson: "I don't care. I come to work. I do my job and I go home."
The label said nothing about the fur on the collar. Neither did the label on a men's jacket we found at Bloomingdale's. The salesperson said it was a fake.
"I really don't think it's real fur," the salesperson said.
Our expert said real fur, possibly fox or rabbit. The bottom line is none of these manufacturers or stores are doing anything wrong because of a secret loophole in the federal labeling laws.
"The loophole is that if the fur is valued at less than $150, there doesn't have to be any mention on the label that there is animal fur on the jacket," Grzybowski said.
That is right, so no matter what the label says if the garment just has a small amount of fur, they don't have to tell you if it's real or fake! So how do you know?
One way is to try and look deep into the fur.
"You want to push the hairs apart and try to get down to the base of the fabric," Grzybowski said. "If you see skin, that is real fur."
On fake fur, if you look closely you see fabric -- not skin -- at the base of the fur.
"The differences are stark," Grzybowski said.
If you cut them open you can really tell the difference.
"This is your real fur, it's leather," Grzybowski said while pointing out a sample of real and fake fur. "This is your fake fur. This is fabric."
That's the best way to tell -- not looking at the label or listening to the salesperson.
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