Neiman Marcus swaps fur for apple leather. Can it convince loyal customers?
NMG consumers should also be supported. “There is also a need to develop alternatives and educate consumers on why they are valuable and luxurious,” says van Raemdonck. Part of this positive framework is the transformation of NMG’s 22 in-store fur salons into alteration bars and circular fashion hubs, where customers can access customization, refurbishment and even resale, a process that is already underway. The group will continue to offer fur storage, restoration and cleaning services – to keep existing garments in circulation for as long as possible and prevent them from ending up in landfill. Brand partners who have not yet banned fur and who have applied to adopt the retailer’s fur customers have been turned down: NMG will not participate in sponsorships or benefit financially from fur.
Fur today, more tomorrow
When Dolce & Gabbana went fur-free in January, the Italian luxury brand promised to maintain its relationships with fur artisans, integrating their skills and supply chains while exploring alternatives to animal fur. NMG takes a similar approach by phasing out fur over time, allowing its partner brands to move in tandem and find suitable alternatives. “We didn’t want to put too much pressure on the activities of our partners,” explains van Raemdonck. “It might have been easier for us to do it immediately, but the big win is bringing brands and customers on the journey with us.”
The hunt for materials to replace animal products is on. “We are working to find alternative materials that give the customer the same beautiful emotional response as animal products, but in a sustainable and ethical way,” says van Raemdonck, including leather as well as fur. One of the challenges is finding alternatives that don’t rely on plastics. “It’s an underdeveloped set of solutions right now, and we don’t want to solve one problem by creating another. Part of our role as a retailer is to encourage brands to develop alternatives and expose their solutions to our market so they can get feedback and help.
Among the promising suitors, he highlights Stella McCartney’s ‘Koba’ plant-based faux fur – which claims to produce 63% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional synthetics and can sell for up to 1 £000 – and Prota Fiori’s upcycled grape and apple leather shoes.
The group’s new animal welfare policy was designed with an animal welfare organization, the Humane Society of the United States, which first worked with NMG over a decade ago, revising its labeling and its fur ad after reporting a loophole in US federal law that allowed fur in products under $150 to omit clothing tags (this has since been shut down).
The conversation has evolved since then and will continue to do so, said The Humane Society’s director of fashion policy, PJ Smith. NMG’s animal welfare policy allows it to continue to sell animal-based fabrics such as cashmere, leather, mohair, down, wool and silk, although it will continue to monitor issues. animal welfare associated with these materials. “If fashion companies want to remain sustainable and successful, they need to adapt to causes that matter to consumers,” Smith says. “NMG getting rid of fur is a signal to the rest of the industry that moving away from fur is inevitable.”
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