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West Hollywood fur ban takes effect Saturday; merchants outraged

West Hollywood's ban on the sale of fur clothing takes effect Saturday -- and many of the city's high-fashion boutiques are figuring out workarounds or making plans to move out of town.

The mannequin in the window of the Goldsmith & Klein fashion boutique in West Hollywood wore a sultry expression and a luxurious chocolate brown fox fur stole draped over her arm.

Next to the mannequin was a printed quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

The window display was one of several protests over West Hollywood’s first-in-the-nation ban on fur apparel.

West Hollywood is famous for its laws aimed at protecting creatures big and small. It declared itself a “cruelty-free zone for animals” and passed a slew of animal-friendly laws including bans on cat declawing, the retail sale of cats and dogs, and just this week, exotic and wild animal performances.

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 are lined with designer shops, notably Beverly, Melrose and Robertson.

While 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 locations outside West Hollywood. Independent boutiques, like Darel 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 most pricey 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 premiere 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.

The ban on fur apparel was approved in fall 2011, and city officials said they sought input from store owners and residents. During one boisterous seven-hour hearing, hundreds of people – many from out of town – crowded into council chambers and gave council members a standing ovation after they voted on the issue.

“West Hollywood is a very progressive community that puts a lot of emphasis on social justice and welfare,” Councilman Jeffrey Prang said. “People care about the humane treatment of animals.”

City officials said they know their ban is largely symbolic because fur is widely available just outside the city limits in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. But they hope the law sends a message.

For some merchants, it’s the wrong message.

David Klein, co-owner of Goldsmith & Klein, opened the Roberston Boulevard shop in August 2011, a few months before officials approved the ban.

They didn’t know about the ban as they were negotiating their store lease, he said. If they had, they never would have opened in West Hollywood. They put up the fur protest in their window. Then last year, they closed their store, vowing to reopen somewhere that allows fur. 

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hailey.branson@latimes.com 

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