Four weeks ago I ordered a pair of black UGG boots on the internet. According to the postal tracking service, they were due to arrive at my home in Kent on Monday.
But when the postman came knocking, he wasn’t armed with sheepskin-lined Sundance II boots in black, just an ominous-looking letter.
'Notice of Goods Detained,’ read the missive, bearing the UK Border Agency logo. ‘We have detained your parcel containing “UGG” boots because we believe they are counterfeit, pirated or patent-infringing goods. We have contacted the owner of the Trade Mark, Copyright or Right Holder and asked them to determine whether this is the case.’
A second letter is enclosed in the same envelope. It’s from Deckers, the owners of the UGG brand. They’ve examined the boots, confirmed that they are fakes and now plan to destroy them.
'As the goods are counterfeit and were not purchased from a genuine UGG site we are not in a position to offer a refund,’ it concludes .
So no boots and I’m £95 out of pocket. But worse is to come with the delivery of a second pair of UGG-style boots ordered over the internet.
Farmed in horrific conditions in China, the raccoon dog is a species related to the domestic dog. Animal rights activists recently released video showing sickening scenes of them being skinned alive on a Chinese fur farm.
But unlike dog or cat fur, which cannot be sold in Britain, there is no ban.
As a result, there are fears that, this winter, thousands of unsuspecting Britons may be fooled into buying imitation UGG boots made using pelts of animals skinned alive.
Clearly, the counterfeiters are prepared to go to just about any lengths to maximize profits. Across China, underpaid workers are risking their health in tanneries and sweatshops, producing boots for sale to fashion lovers in the West as the real thing.
While the genuine boots made by UGG Australia use only sheepskin produced in a humane way, there is no such guarantee with the lookalikes.
Some were sold as genuine UGG Australia boots, others closely copied their design. In total they cost £1,133.16. The cheapest pair cost £14.99, the most expensive £280.
The ten pairs were then examined by expert Dr Phil Greaves of Microtex, a textile fibre analysis laboratory in West Yorkshire, to see whether those sold as UGGs were real or fake. Then more testing was done to find what the boots were actually made of — with shocking results.
As Dr Greaves explained, the genuine boots are made of sheepskin with natural wool attached.
'Basically, you reverse the animal and have the wool as the lining and the suede outside,’ he says.
But three of the ten pairs he analysed for us weren’t sheepskin at all and a further three pairs — sold as 100 per cent Australian Sheepskin — were trimmed with animal fur. So what did we discover?