By and  on August 3, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Consumer Product Safety Commission is giving a thumbs-down to one of the latest fashion trends.

A CPSC spokeswoman said Wednesday that the popular ultrasheer style is causing concern at the agency about the risk of flammability and the danger it could pose to consumers.

The CPSC issued a voluntary recall alert last month on 120 Chanel silk scarves and 34 garments, including dresses, skirts and blouses that were 100 percent silk and did not meet the federal flammability standard. However, “nearly all” of the fashion items in question had already been returned to Chanel in May 2010, according to the CPSC. A Chanel spokesperson said the company began contacting all of its customers who had purchased the items last year and voluntarily recalled the items itself last year. The fashion items, ranging in value between $430 and $3,650, were sold in Chanel’s own boutiques in the U.S., and Neiman Marcus and Maxfield stores in March and April 2010. No injuries were reported in the case.

“The current fashion trend to use ultrasheer, almost see-through fabrics made from silk or rayon raises some serious flammability concerns with CPSC staff,” the agency spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Flammability depends on a number of characteristics, including fiber content, fabric weight and fabric construction, according to the CPSC.

“Some very sheer, lightweight fabrics made from silk or rayon tend to be more flammable and may not pass the test,” the spokeswoman said.

A Chanel spokesperson said, “We have always been extremely vigilant at Chanel where product quality and security are concerned. This was the first time we encountered this situation. Our items tested just slightly below regulations, which the CPSC had implemented a couple of months earlier…No other market has adopted such stringent regulations.”

The brand has modified its control procedures in the past year to “ensure that this issue does not re-occur in the U.S.,” the spokesperson said.

Stephen Lamar, executive vice president of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said, “It sounds to me [CPSC officials] are spending more enforcement time on that issue. Maybe that is something that folks in the industry need to look at and know that this is an area they need to be cautious about if it includes sheer.”

Lamar said drawstrings have been on the agency’s radar for some time. The CPSC recently deemed drawstrings at the neck in children’s wear, for example, a “substantial product hazard.”

While ultrasheer fabrics are facing new scrutiny from the CPSC, other fabrics “consistently” meet the requirements of the standard, the CPSC spokeswoman said. They include plain surface fabrics weighing 2.6 ounces per square yard or more, and fabrics made entirely from a combination of certain fibers, including acrylic, modacrylic fiber, nylon, olefin, polyester and wool.

The standard provides methods of testing the flammability of clothing and textiles by classifying fabrics into three classes of flammability based on how quickly they burn. Children’s sleepwear faces more stringent flammability requirements.

There are also some exclusions to the standard. Most hats, gloves, footwear and fabrics used between the linings of outer fabrics of garments are not required to meet the standard, according to the CPSC.

Eight apparel companies have been involved in recalls of apparel since January 2010 due to violations of the flammability standard, according to a search of the CPSC’s Web site. Topson Downs of California voluntarily recalled 2,100 women’s dresses in late June that were fully lined with a sheer rayon outer layer. In February, James Perse issued a voluntary recall of 6,700 units of men’s corduroy jackets fully lined with Sherpa fleece, and Tommy Hilfiger issued a recall of 400 children’s sweatshirts in the U.S. and 1,300 sweatshirts in Canada in May 2010.

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