What Top Fashion Players Are Saying About the Proposed NYC Fur Sales Ban

New York could soon become a fur-free city.

In late March, Council Speaker Corey Johnson introduced Bill No. 1476, which would outlaw the sale of fur apparel, footwear and other accessories throughout the five boroughs. Tomorrow, the legislation is slated for a hearing before the Consumer Affairs Committee at City Hall, where animal rights activists, fashion industry leaders, trade groups and furriers will argue their respective cases.

According to the proposal, the term “fur” is defined as “any animal skin, in whole or in part, with the hair, fleece or fur fibers attached,” while “fur apparel” means “any article of clothing or fashion accessory, to be worn on any part of the body, made of fur, in whole or in part.” Additionally, “used fur apparel” indicates “any fur apparel that a natural person has acquired for that person’s own use as an article of clothing or fashion accessory.”

“No person may sell or offer for sale any fur apparel except for used fur apparel or fur apparel made from fur sourced exclusively from used fur apparel,” the bill states.

If the legislation passes, violators will be slapped with fines of up to $500 for a first offense and up to $1,500 for additional ones. New York would also follow the lead of Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have already passed ordinances prohibiting the sale and manufacture of products made with fur.

Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing, a number of fashion and footwear players get vocal.

John Varvatos, designer

“I would think, just in our New York stores, probably over half a million dollars’ worth of sales would be affected. That’s just at retail. There’s another wholesale component … It’s a big one, like nothing I’ve ever seen in terms of the scope. We’re not a fur company — it’s a seasonal business for us, for the most part — but the definition is quite hard to understand. There are a lot of misnomers about what it is. When I really looked at the actual document that my team here showed me, I was actually shocked at the depth of it. It’s basically being called a fur ban, but it will affect us in many ways with products like shearling, longhair suedes and those types of things.”

Aurora James, creative director of Brother Vellies

“Our supply chain and the local farmers we work with across Africa would be incredibly impacted. This ban in New York includes hair on calf and shearling, and if you combine those materials, you’re looking at a large percent of my product assortment. So yes — we’d most definitely be impacted. I don’t use plastics like faux fur or other synthetics; plastic products are horrible for the environment, and we don’t have the infrastructure in Africa to recycle plastic fur offcuts… I have made commitments to certain communities in Africa, and I would not want to abandon those people because of New York’s legislation.”

Abe Rogowsky, owner of Shoe Parlor

“First of all, what right do they have to decide that for people? That should be up to the consumer to decide. If he chooses to stop eating meat or no longer buy fur, that should be up to them. Respect people who want to eat meat or wear fur. They’re dealing with people’s livelihoods. Right now, we’re just realizing what it is and shocked by it. If the public decides, then that is OK — not the government. Otherwise, people can buy [fur] in New Jersey.”

Charlie Ross, head of international marketing at Saga Furs

“We’re seeing the end of the fur, shearling and cowhide shoe business. We’re seeing factories that will close, craftsmen who have been doing this for multiple generations will be unemployed. We’re seeing a loss of income for the city of New York. We’re going to see empty lots in the Garment District and an increase of empty lots in major retail centers. We’re going to see department stores’ numbers and the products that they sell greatly diminished. We’re going to see that the consumers who want to continue to buy fur are going to take their business out of New York and shop out-of-state. There are so many negatives to this.”

Jacques Golbert, CEO at Pajar

“We have many boots with wool, wool blends and synthetic linings. A part of our business has genuine shearling lining in boots. I would be surprised if the city could follow through and check every item in stores to see what they’re made of. But if it goes through in New York, we will sell in the other 30 countries where we already sell, including Japan and England … [Pajar] also offers faux-fur items.”

Karen Giberson, president of the Accessories Council

“The problem with this, in my opinion, is that it’s a very broad, sweeping effort, [and] this could be a dramatic loss for the industry because it would fine offenders who sell at the retail level. There’s no precedent, and frankly, there’s no reason why any of this should be in place. Because if you really understand the economic devastation that it will cause all the way down the chain from job loss, people would be impacted.”

Nick Pologeorgis, owner of Pologeorgis Furs

“New York City is the fashion capital. If the fur ban went into effect, I would say there are 150 businesses here in the fur industry that would be closed, [and] about 1,000 to 1,500 people would be out of work. I would close for sure, and our people — who worked most of their lives in the fur industry, and most of them are definitely over 50 years old — would be out of work. It’s not so easy. People don’t just snap their fingers and go find another manufacturing job in New York City. Who’s creating the manufacturing jobs? We are one of the original industries of New York and have worked with the city for years … This is my industry, which I love, and I’m a New Yorker — and I can’t believe this is happening.”

Tim Gunn, fashion consultant and TV personality

“The fashion business has a troubling history with animals, but it is quickly evolving. Believe it or not, furriers used to slice up chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, leopards, baby seals and tigers for their fur. Most of that was declared illegal by the federal government in the 1970s. Now it’s time to safeguard all the other animals from such gratuitous violence by supporting New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s bill to ban fur sales in New York City as lawmakers have already done in Los Angeles and San Francisco.”

With contributions from Barbara Schneider-Levy. This story will continue to be updated with more comments.

Watch FN’s video with these top shoe players.

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