CASHMERE WINS ONE IN LABELING IMBROGLIO
Byline: Joanna Ramey
WASHINGTON — Cashmere textile and garment manufacturers have claimed a court victory in their years-long bid to keep apparel labeled with false cashmere content claims from being sold.
The case stems from a lawsuit first filed in 1996 by the Cashmere & Camel Hair Manufacturers’ Institute against apparel maker Harve Benard Ltd. and retailers Saks Fifth Avenue and Filene’s Basement.
The institute, based in Boston, but with international membership, disputed Harve Benard’s claim that certain of its women’s blazers contained cashmere. According to the institute’s experts, the blazers had no virgin cashmere, but used coarser recycled cashmere woven into a wool and polyester blend.
On Monday afternoon, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston awarded the institute, along with cashmere maker L.W. Packard & Co., a new trial to decide whether Harve Bernard and the two retailers violated federal rules barring deceptive advertising. Earlier, a lower court judge had ruled against the institute and Packard, arguing they hadn’t demonstrated consumer injury, stopping a trial from moving forward. Packard is seeking millions of dollars in damages.
The appeals court judge said the lower court ruling was wrong. Since the institute demonstrated the Harve Benard blazers were mislabeled and “literally false, there is no need to burden the [institute] with the onerous task of demonstrating how consumers perceive the advertising,” the appeals judge ruled.
The judge also noted that Harve Benard has since started labeling its garments in question as containing recycled cashmere.
“Indeed, it seems obvious that cashmere is a basic ingredient of a cashmere-blend garment; without it, the product could not be deemed a cashmere-blend garment or compete in the cashmere-blend market,” the judge wrote.
Harvey Schutzbank, vice president and chief financial officer at Harve Benard, said, “At this stage, there is no adjudication of any of the facts in the case. What this now permits is the case to go forward and obviously we are quite confident that when all the evidence is known we will prevail.”
Schutzbank also said the decision to label garments containing recycled cashmere was made prior to the lawsuit being filed.
Calls made to Filene’s and Saks were not returned.
With a trial being granted, Karl Spilhaus, president of the institute, said, “We have the ability to show there is some consequence to flouting the law.”