West Hollywood Headed for Fur Ban

The city council took the initial steps toward approving an ordinance outlawing sales of clothes incorporating animal pelts or skins with fur or hair.

LOS ANGELES — Melrose Avenue and Sunset Boulevard without fur?

This story first appeared in the September 21, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That is likely to become a reality since West Hollywood, home to high-profile retail streets including Melrose Avenue, Sunset Boulevard and Robertson Boulevard, is expected to become the first city in the nation to ban sales of fur in apparel products.

On Monday evening, the city council of the small Southern California city bordered by Hollywood and Beverly Hills took the initial steps toward approving an ordinance outlawing sales of clothes incorporating animal pelts or skins with fur or hair. The proposed ban is the latest in a series of animal protection policies instituted by West Hollywood, which already forbids the declawing of cats and the sale of dogs from large commercial breeding facilities known as puppy mills.

“West Hollywood has always been on the leading edge of progressive, compassionate legislation. We are thrilled that this historic first has taken place right here in West Hollywood,” said Shannon Keith, an organizer with Fur Free West Hollywood, an advocacy group pushing for the fur ban.

The neighborhood has many upscale stores that will be affected by the likely fur ban, including Balenciaga, Arcade, H Lorenzo, Alberta Ferretti, Jenni Kayne, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Beckley. Several fashion retailers have been outspoken in their opposition to the ban, and both the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and The Avenues, an art, fashion and design district in West Hollywood, wrote letters to West Hollywood Mayor John Duran expressing their concerns.

“It is a completely antibusiness stance,” said Darren Gold, chairman of The Avenues and owner of men’s lifestyle boutique Alpha, where no fur is available. “They are really shortsighted to think they can restrict what merchants in this economy can and cannot sell. They don’t know how retail works, and they clearly showed it last night.”

The Fur Information Council of America, a fur industry group based in West Hollywood, commissioned research firm Horizon Consumer Science to conduct an economic study of West Hollywood fashion retailers that revealed 46 percent sell items with some type of fur. The council supports alternatives to the fur ban such as Origin Assured labeling giving consumers information about the source of fur products.

“It is a way to force areas of the world to evolve to the best possible standards,” said Keith Kaplan, the executive director of the council, which would consider filing a lawsuit to stop the fur ban should it go forward.

West Hollywood’s city council must approve a second reading of the ordinance before it is enacted. The fur ban would cover apparel from animals including fox, chinchilla, rabbit, mink, seal and bear, as well as sheep, but doesn’t pertain to leather or wool fiber. The ban would be implemented starting June 30, although the penalties for retailers that continue to sell fur after its implementation have yet to be determined. The city council is expected to discuss the penalty at its next meeting on Oct. 3, when it also plans to determine whether the ban would impact vintage retailers, garage sales and silent auctions for charity.

“It is a problem for us because we have [fur] stuff that we have already bought in the store, and we have stuff that we have bought for next season and the season after,” said Andrew Dryden, creative director of the men’s and women’s fashion retailer H Lorenzo. “I don’t see us complying anytime soon.”

Every season, the women’s fashion boutique Arcade collaborates with designer Adrienne Landau on exclusive fur styles. “Fur items are amongst our bestsellers each fall season. Our clients come to Arcade specifically to buy fur. It is a very important category for us,” said Arcade store director Lindsay Lebby. “We strongly disagree with the city council’s ban on the sales of fur apparel.”

Maribel Louie, West Hollywood’s economic development analyst, said city council members were aware that fall collections that include fur pieces are now in stores. By waiting until next June to impose the ban, she said, “They wanted to be sensitive for businesses to sell fur in their stock. They wanted to give ample time for clearance sales.”

In the first quarter of this year, family apparel stores, women’s apparel shops and textiles and furnishing stores generated $2.2 million in taxes for West Hollywood.

Although there was some apprehension among council members that retailers would move their operations out of West Hollywood to cities that allow the sale of fur, they voted unanimously for the ban. “They feel very strongly about the protection of animals,” Louie said.