Merchants Say West Hollywood’s Fur Ban Doesn’t Fit High-fashion Image

WeHo ban on exotic animal displays comes after rowdy meeting

At this stage, it is difficult to measure the efficacy of the campaign to influence Americans’ perceptions of the law, in part because there is little transparency about how much third-party groups are spending on both sides. Three years after the law’s passage, confusion surrounding it is striking. Americans, even uninsured ones, remain divided over whether the law will help their families, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll. In an August survey, 1 in 8 uninsured Americans said they had been contacted about the law by phone, email, text or a door-to-door visit. That is where Obama’s collaboration with Hollywood long a home to Democratic campaign donors may end up being most helpful. The website for Funny or Die claims 19 million unique users and more than 60 million video views per month, and their demographic strength overlaps perfectly with the young people who must sign up for the healthcare law in order for it to succeed. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that young people will make up 40% of the 7 million who sign up. The website’s video featuring Paris Hilton ‘s response to Sen. John McCain ‘s 2008 campaign ad framing Obama as “the biggest celebrity in the world” snagged 11 million views. And as one healthcare law advocate noted, it would be difficult for the Department of Health and Human Services to match the punch of singer-songwriter Derulo’s Twitter message directing his 2.3 million followers to sign up at healthcare.gov (especially now that his single “Talk Dirty” is knocking Katy Perry ‘s “Roar” off the singles charts). Those celebrity efforts, of course, only augment what the administration and health insurance industry-allied groups are doing in churches, drugstores, clinics and beauty and barber shops across the country.

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But in the case of fur, the city’s zeal to protect animals is running up against its claim as a capital of high fashion. The boulevards in and around the city limits notably Beverly, Melrose and Robertson are lined with designer shops. Although some residents praise the city’s socially conscious stand on fur, the ban has angered many business owners. Retailers with multiple locations are busily moving fur products to stores outside West Hollywood. Independent boutiques, such as Darrel Adams’ Kin store on Sunset Boulevard, are seeing if suppliers will take back some of the fall fur coats on order. Furs make up a small fraction of Adams’ collections but are among the priciest items. “The furs are sometimes the most expensive pieces in the collection, so it affects sales dramatically, especially if you sell it at a larger percentage,” he said. “To cut off someone’s big-ticket item makes it hard for a business to survive.” Darren Gold, chairman of the board of the West Hollywood Design District, said the city has worked hard to establish itself as a premier fashion destination, attracting a collection of both established luxury brands and independent designers. The ban, he said, is a slap in the face. “It’s detrimental to our image as a West Coast fashion capital and could prevent fashion houses from choosing West Hollywood,” Gold said. Despite its politically incorrect connotations, fur continues to be a mainstay on the catwalk. International fur sales were at $15.6 billion last year, including $1.3 billion nationally, said Keith Kaplan, executive director of the Fur Information Council of America, a fur industry trade group. The organization, headquartered in West Hollywood, is considering a lawsuit to block the ban. Genevieve Morrill, president and chief executive of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, has received numerous calls in recent days from retailers confused about what they can and cannot sell. The ban applies only to “wearing apparel,” which includes shoes, hats and gloves but not pocketbooks and purses.