An article on the OneGreenPlanet site, for example, asserts that “the $3 trillion fashion industry is the second most polluting industry, just behind oil,” and then links to a piece on the EcoWatch site, which then quotes Eileen Fisher, the designer who made sustainability part of the platform for her namesake brand and who has been given awards for her work in this space.
When queried, Ms. Fisher said she believed she originally got her information from “The True Cost,” a 2015 film by Andrew Morgan, and that she believed it was also discussed by the Glasgow Caledonian Fair Fashion Center.
When Cara Smyth, the vice president of Glasgow Caledonian New York College, was asked, she also said she thought the claim derived from the film. But when I asked Mr. Morgan, the director, where he got the fact back in 2015, he referred me to the organizers of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, a conference on sustainable fashion, started in 2008. (I have been a speaker at the event.)
Jonas Eder-Hansen, the public affairs director of the Global Fashion Agenda, a forum on sustainability issues and fashion, which grew out of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, said he believed the original fact, oft repeated by Eva Kruse, the founder of G.F.A., had come from a report from the Deloitte consulting firm. That report surfaced in Denmark around 2012 but has since disappeared; when contacted, Deloitte was unclear about the identity of the report.
“I had my moment of fear that it came from me,” said Linda Greer, a former senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “About a decade ago, I was looking at industries that polluted in China, and fashion came up in regards to water. But it really depends what you are looking at.”
That is in part why Ms. Fisher has recently started to recant. “I’ve been trying to stop saying it because my team has been saying internally that we can’t confirm it,” she said. “I think it’s been about six months.”