6 Fake ‘Facts’ about the Fashion Industry

The great news is that in 2018 we have access to more reliable, robust and in-depth knowledge on the fashion industry than ever before. That doesn’t mean you should stop using your ability to think critically and look for reputable sources to back up those shocking facts and figures you read about! Here are 6 persistent statements about fashion, that you’re probably familiar with, that deserve a closer look.

Fake Fact #1 – Fashion is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world

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This is one of the most enduring ‘statistics’ cited about the fashion industry, but the truth is there’s no scientific evidence to validate this claim. Despite this, there is plenty of evidence to show that fashion carries with it a very serious environmental footprint. According to calculations based on the Pulse of the Fashion Industry report, the fashion industry ties with the livestock industry as the fifth most polluting industry in the world – at least when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions – after electricity and heat, agriculture, road transportation and oil and gas production. That’s still one hell of an impact – and something we should all want to do something about.

Fake Fact #2 – Leather is a byproduct of the meat industry

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Though many justify buying leather by assuming the skins of animals in the meat industry will be discarded anyway, this isn’t actually the case. Contrary to popular belief, leather is a profitable resource, not simply an incidental by-product of the meat industry. Not to mention, the most “luxurious” leather is actually taken from newborn veal calves and sometimes even unborn calves taken prematurely from their mother’s wombs! We recently unpacked the hidden costs of leather production.

Fake Fact # 3 – Faux fur is an ethical option

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Though faux fur has been touted as an ethical alternative to real fur, much of the faux fur on the market is made from non-biodegradable and chemical-laden materials such nylon, acrylic and polyester. Sadly, a scandal in the UK last year highlighted the fact that you can’t always trust the labels on your clothes. A number of High Street brands including Missguided GoY-Ratings_1 and House of Fraser were found to have incorrectly labelled faux fur products that were actually made out of cat fur from China.

This issue likely goes beyond just a handful of stores, as the huge quantities of fur being produced in China mean that real fur is becoming cheaper to produce than faux fur. We suggest that you avoid both real fur and faux fur (unless it’s clearly made from sustainable materials), or buy it secondhand.


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Fake Fact #4 – Vegan leather is more eco-friendly than real leather

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Not always. Many fake leather products are made out of plastic materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is both non-biodegradable and produced using toxic chemicals that have terrible effects on both the environment and on factory workers. Polyurethane (PU) is somewhat less harmful but still not ideal for the environment.

It’s important to note that while leather is a classic, durable and ‘natural’ material that can potentially last a lifetime, its production can also be highly detrimental to both people and planet. Thankfully, there are eco-friendly leather alternatives on the market right now that are a truly ethical option!

Fake Fact #5 – By donating your old clothes you’re helping the environment and people in need

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Particularly in affluent Western countries, shoppers now consume cheap, low-quality fashion at such a rate that charities and op-shops can barely begin to deal with the vast amounts of clothes being dumped on them. Not only is the sheer volume of clothing a major issue, but the declining quality of donated clothes means that many of these are unsalable and end up in landfill anyway!

Any environmental benefit created by donating our old clothes is undone when we simply fill up the newfound space in our wardrobes with brand new clothes. Next time you’re about to donate some of your old clothes, why not give them a second chance at life by upcycling them, getting them tailored, selling them online or throwing a clothes swap party? If you are determined to donate, give your local charity shops a call to make sure they’re currently in need of your good quality items.

Fake Fact #6 – Ethical clothing is too expensive

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I won’t pretend that spending $50 on an organic cotton t-shirt instead of $5 on a cheaply made one is a realistic choice for lots of people. But the truth remains that buying ethical and buying less can save you money in the long term! For example, instead of buying five $10 shirts that will likely be out of fashion in a month’s time and won’t last more than a few wears, why not invest that $50 in a well-made, timeless shirt from an ethical brand that will last you a lifetime with proper care?

When shopping for clothes, consider the ‘cost-per-wear’ of the garment. You can calculate the cost per wear by dividing the total cost of the item with the number of days you wear it. For example, if you spend $200 on a pair of sneakers that you will wear four times a week for a year, the cost per wear comes to about a dollar. A blouse that you bought for $20 and only wore once seems pretty expensive in comparison! Also, don’t underestimate secondhand clothing! If you have some time to dedicate browsing through op shops or eBay listings, you might just find your new favourite piece for the fraction of the original price!


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Feature image by Makhmutova Dina on Unsplash. Additional images via Pexels.

Lara Robertson

Author Lara Robertson

Lara is a media student and writer at Good On You. She is a passionate vegan, bibliophile, fashionista and crazy cat lady, who hopes to spend her life writing about her passions and values.

More posts by Lara Robertson

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Harald says:

    Thank you for a great list! I’m just unsure about some of the advice under #5. How could it ever be better to throw your old clothes directly into the wastebin for landfilling or incineration? Even worn-out, lower quality clothes can be used to produce stuffing or industrial wipes or some other downcycled use that is above landfilling in the waste hierarchy. Also, several new companies (re:newcell, WornAgain, Evrnu, Saxcell) are innovating ways of taking waste textiles and processing them to make pristine new raw materials (ie upcycling). This is a potential new revenue stream for organizations that collect and sort donated clothes. Reducing consumption and reusing what you already have is always going to the best choice, but teaching consumers to send precious materials directly to landfill is not a good idea.

    • gordonrenouf@gmail.com says:

      Thanks Harald. You are totally right there are some great emerging initiatives to address waste textiles. But I’m a bit confused about your comment “How could it ever be better to throw your old clothes directly into the wastebin for landfilling or incineration”. The article talk states that donating low quality clothes to 2nd hand shops may have that result and gives a whole lot of alternatives to throwing clothes out … it does not suggest that anyone throws clothes directly into a wastebin! 🙂

      • Harald says:

        You are right of course, the article does indeed give good (even better) alternatives to donating. It’s just that I hope a reader that can’t choose any of the alternatives doesn’t decide to put their clothes in the waste-bin out of consideration for collectors. Donating does at least give the material a chance to be diverted from landfill, and more options for collectors to generate revenue are opening up! In any case, thank you for the great articles and the work that Good On You is doing!

  • Bee says:

    Great list of misconceptions about the fashion industry! Thank you for shedding light on these issues, especially the pitfalls of faux leather and fur. Too often, faux leather and fur are deemed as more ethical or eco-friendly, but they’re mostly made with non-biodegradable plastics, and there’s nothing eco-friendly about that. Moreover, even though these faux products were not actually sourced from animals, they continue to glorify and perpetuate the idea that wearing animal skin is fashionable.

  • Karen says:

    Interesting and informative post. However, a $50 well-made, timeless shirt from an ethical brand is unlikely to last a lifetime own. From my experience, ethical brands are just as likely to fall apart after about a year as the cheaper, unethical alternatives. It is one of the major issues with the ethical clothing industry. Also, having worked with many disadvantaged folks, they often can only afford to buy one cheap $10 shirt, not five, so the jump to one $50 item which may or may not last any longer than the cheaper item, often isn’t an option.

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