Don’t be fooled! Here are 6 “facts” about the fashion industry you’re probably familiar with that deserve a closer look.
Here’s the good news—these days, we have access to more reliable, robust, and in-depth information on the fashion industry than ever before. The bad news? Fashion has a misinformation problem. That means we can’t stop thinking critically just because info is easier to find! It’s crucial to track down reputable sources to back up all the shocking facts and figures out there. Thankfully, we did some digging for you. Here are 6 persistent fashion industry “facts” you’re probably familiar with that deserve a closer look.
Myth 1: Fashion is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world
Enter one of the most enduring “statistics” cited about the fashion industry, but the truth is there’s no scientific evidence to validate the 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 2019 Pulse of the Fashion Industry report, the fashion industry ties with the livestock industry as the third 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.
Myth 2: Leather is a by-product of the meat industry
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 or ‘co-product’, not simply an incidental by-product of the meat industry. Not to mention, the most “luxurious” leather is taken from newborn veal calves and sometimes even unborn calves taken prematurely from their mother’s wombs. If you want to learn more, we highly recommend looking at our article on the realities around this profitable material.
Myth 3: Faux fur is an ethical or sustainable option
Though faux fur has been touted as an ethical alternative to real fur, much faux fur on the market is made from non-biodegradable and chemical-laden materials such as nylon, acrylic, and polyester that are notorious for shedding microfibres. And sadly, in 2017, a scandal in the UK highlighted that you can’t always trust the labels on your clothes. Several high street brands, including Missguided and House of Fraser, were found to have incorrectly labelled faux fur products made out of cat fur.
This issue likely goes beyond just a handful of stores, as the vast quantities of fur being produced worldwide mean that real fur is becoming cheaper to produce than faux fur. We suggest avoiding both real fur and faux fur (unless it’s clearly made from sustainable materials) or buying it second hand.
Myth 4: Real leather is better for the environment than vegan leather
Short answer? Not always. It’s true many fake leather products are made out of plastic-based materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is non-biodegradable and produced using toxic chemicals that have terrible effects on both the environment and factory workers. Polyurethane (PU) which is also frequently used is somewhat less harmful, but still not ideal for the environment. But did you know animal leather often has a more significant impact on the planet than even PU and isn’t necessarily biodegradable, depending on how it’s treated?
While leather is a classic, durable, and ‘natural’ material that can last a lifetime, its production can also be highly detrimental to people and the planet. Thankfully, there are eco-friendly leather alternatives on the market right now that are far more ethical and often more sustainable.
Myth 5: By donating your old clothes, you’re helping the environment and people in need
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 landfills anyway! To make matters worse, according to a recent report by the ABC, a lot of this poor-quality clothing ends up flooding the local markets of places like Ghana. It sadly completes its journey by contributing to an “environmental catastrophe”, turning parts of the country into mountains of toxic landfill made from “dead white man’s clothes”.
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.
Myth 6: Ethical clothing is too expensive
We 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 everyone. For many, one look at the price tag on an item of ethical clothing is enough to turn them off for good. We’re here to tell you that it shouldn’t.
Clothing prices used to be much higher, and the production of more sustainable fashion harkens back to our roots. New clothing more than a few times a year was a rarity quite recently in history, and in just the last twenty years, the price of clothing has plummeted to the pitiful prices we see today. There is so much more that goes into a price tag than the cost of the fabric. There’s also the cost of paying a living wage and taking care of our Earth. “Cost per wear“ is a rule adopted by many interested in giving their wardrobe an ethical overhaul or with a particular budget in mind. It considers how many uses (or “wear”) you can get per item of clothing, and the more wears, the better the investment. Our mindset as consumers needs to shift away from the culture of instant gratification and materialism that often goes hand-in-hand with exploitation. The unrealistic and unsustainable price points surrounding us have warped our expectations, and something’s gotta give.
Also, don’t underestimate second hand clothing. If you have some time to dedicate browsing through op shops, VInted, or Vestiaire Collective listings, you might just find your new favourite piece for a fraction of the original price.
So there you have it—6 fashion industry “facts” we’ve busted wide open. It’s a confusing and contradictory world out there, so good on you for taking a moment to learn what’s what about the latest myths in fashion.