Looking for fast fashion brands to avoid? We’ve got you covered. We’ll discuss the worst fast fashion brands to avoid and instead give you sustainable alternatives doing good for the environment and people in their supply chains.
Fast fashion is a major problem for the environment and workers in fashion supply chains. For example, huge amounts of pollution and waste are created, and workers are often underpaid, overworked, and forced to work in dangerous conditions where they’re exposed to toxic and hazardous chemicals without adequate protection.
The increase in fast fashion brands is fuelling the problems, promoting overconsumption of clothing, and causing irreversible damage to people and the planet.
What is Fast Fashion?
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Fast fashion is a term that refers to clothing that’s designed in large quantities, sold at low prices to encourage overconsumption, and based on quickly changing trends.
Fast fashion became mainstream in the 1990s with the rise of large mainstream brands like H&M and Zara. Since then, the fast fashion industry has boomed and is now worth over $40 billion US dollars, continuing to grow yearly.
Fast fashion garments have little longevity because they’re made from cheaper materials detrimental to the environment, like polyester or cotton. In addition, fast fashion garments are produced on a mass scale and are often not designed for prolonged use, which means that these items often end up being discarded after the first couple of wears – further fuelling the waste problem.
Why is Fast Fashion Bad?
The fashion industry is the 3rd most polluting industry in the world, accounting for around 8.1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Along with the damaging environmental effects, the fashion industry is notorious for exploiting its garment workers, with around 93% of brands not paying garment workers a living wage and most fashion brands not paying enough to cover their worker’s basic needs.
Fast fashion is also a major contributor to the global waste problem. The industry produces an estimated 100 billion pounds of textile scraps annually, which are often shipped overseas and dumped in landfills, oceans, or incinerated for energy production without any recycling process.
Studies have also shown that 20% to 35% of all primary source microplastics in the marine environment are from synthetic clothing sources.
Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid
Although there are many bad fashion brands out there, there is hope. As consumers, we’re changing our buying habits and demanding better social and environmental standards from our fashion brands. There are some great sustainable clothing brands out there that are driving change and creating sustainable fashion.
Below we’ve detailed the worst fast fashion brands to avoid and their sustainable alternatives to support.
Shein is the largest fast-fashion retailer in the United States, taking 28 percent of the fashion market. Shein is an ultra-fast fashion brand, and we would avoid the brand at all costs. The brand is notorious for exploiting its workers, with reports workers are forced to work 75-hour weeks and are paid as little as 3p per garment.
Shein also adds around 6,000 new pieces of clothing to its website daily and retails its clothes for as little as £1.50.
Shein Sustainable Alternatives
Instead of supporting Shein, try Mate the Label – an ethical clothing brand creating its clothes sustainable in Los Angeles, or Omnes – a European sustainable brand creating stylish clothing.
Spanish retailer Zara is considered one of the largest fast fashion brands in the world. The brand churns out hundreds of new items weekly, promoting the overconsumption of clothing.
Plus, Zara uses large quantities of environmentally damaging materials like polyester and cotton. The brand has greenwashing messages and still works with suppliers who don’t have 100% compliance with its code of conduct and wage policies.
Zara Sustainable Alternatives
Instead of Zara, check out brands like Reformation, Amour Vert, and Whimsy + Row, which focus on ethical production and sustainable materials
H&M is the largest fast fashion brand in the world. The H&M group, which owns Monki, Other Stores, Cos, Arket, and Weekday churns out over 3 billion garments per year, and it was reported in 2019 that the brand had around $4.1 billion worth of unsold clothes.
While the brand is improving its use of sustainable materials, transparency, and social impact, it is still the largest contributor to the massive waste problem we face in the fashion industry.
H&M Sustainable Alternatives
Rather than support H&M, shop from smaller fashion brands using responsible materials like Pact, Nobody’s Child, and Kotn.
Missguided is an online-only retailer famous for creating cheap clothing inspired by the latest trends.
Unfortunately, the brand does not disclose information about where its clothes are produced. In addition, reports say that the brand has left hundreds of garment workers without pay or compensation after canceling ready-made orders post-COVID.
Overall, Missguided is a fast fashion brand we would avoid, and we’ve given the brand a sustainability score of 0/5.
Missguided Sustainable Alternatives
Instead of supporting Missguided, check out sustainable clothing brands Afends, Colorful Standard, and Omnes.
5. Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters is owned by parent company URBN, which also parent sister companies Free People and Anthropologie.
We’ve given the fast fashion brand a sustainability rating of 1/5 because of its lack of transparency and the fact it doesn’t use many sustainable materials.
Along with the lack of sustainability and transparency, there are reports that an Urban Outfitters store fired all its employees and rehired them as agency staff on lower wages…Yikes, not a brand we want to support.
Urban Outfitters Alternatives
Afends, GOODEE (homeware), Pangaia, and Kotn are all great Urban Outfitters alternatives.
Edikted falls into the ultra fast fashion category because the brand creates hundreds of styles of low-quality clothing to follow rapidly changing trends and retails these items for a low price. The brand also heavily markets its apparel online, pushing discounts and sales to encourage its customers to purchase more and more clothing.
Edikted also provides no transparency on whether safe working conditions are met in its factories and provides no evidence, such as certifications or audit scores.
Instead of Edikted, check out cool sustainable brands like Back Beat Co, Girlfriend Collective, and Afends.
7. Dolls Kill
Dolls Kill is right up there as one of the worst fast fashion brands to avoid. The brand doesn’t give any information about the treatment of its workers, and it doesn’t use sustainable materials.
Not to mention the major reg flag statement on the brand’s website, which states that some of its products contain chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and congenital disabilities or other reproductive harm – not a brand we want to be shopping from.
Dolls Kill Alternatives
If you’d rather make sure your clothes are safe from cancer causing chemicals, or any other toxic chemicals, look out for brands that use fabrics that carry the Oeko-tex label. The Oeko-tex standard ensures products are checked and don’t contain high levels of dangerous materials or chemicals.
8. Princess Polly
Famed by millions of teens worldwide for creating Instagram and tik tok trending fashion, Gen-Z-focused brand Princess Polly is one of the largest growing fast fashion brands in the US, with net sales of $137.4 million US dollars in 2021.
The brand works with factories that currently don’t pay its workers a living wage, and audit reports show that 83% of its factories have failed to meet some ethical and safe working standards.
Princess Polly Alternatives
Try Whimsy + Row for dreamy dresses, skirts, and co-ord sets created ethically from sustainable materials in Los Angeles.
We’ve given Cider a terrible sustainability rating of 0/5. The brand doesn’t publish any carbon emissions information and offers no transparency into its supply chain processes. So the only conclusion we can conclude is that Cider isn’t an ethical brand.
Reports also detail that Cider has been accused of stealing designs from small independent designers like Saturday by Megan Alleby and copying them.
Try brands like Saturday, Afends, Plant faced, and Pangaia instead of Cider.
10. I Saw it First
I Saw it First is a textbook example of a fast fashion brand to avoid.
The brand creates low-quality clothing from unsustainable materials. It holds regular flash sales to create urgency in the buyer, promoting consumers to buy more clothing – leading to the problem of overconsumption of clothes.
I Saw it First Alternatives
Instead of I Saw it First check out Omnes and Reformation for stylish dresses and clothing.
Lulus is a fast fashion brand to avoid because while it has an ethical code of conduct, the brand states also don’t actively participate in checks of its suppliers. This leads us to ask how the brand knows it is not working with sweatshops or unethical factories.
Why not try Valani or Reformation instead of Lulus.
Boohoo hit the headlines this year after they revealed that Kourtney Kardashian joined the group as a sustainability advisor.
While the brand claims to focus on sustainability, we smell a lot of greenwashing. For example, it was reported that the factories that Boohoo owns in the UK were paying as little as £3.50 an hour (lower than the UK minimum wage), and workers were forced to work in appalling conditions. Boohoo uses large amounts of virgin polyester, a nonbiodegradable material that relies on crude oil to produce.
Boohoo is a fast fashion brand to avoid. Instead, check out the UK slow fashion brand Molby the Label, which makes all of its clothing to order.
You may not think of Asos as a fast fashion brand, but the brand is actually fast fashion brand to avoid, and here’s why.
Firstly Asos is one of the largest fashion retailers in the world, its website receives over 70 million monthly hits and in 2021 the brand generated almost £4 billion in revenue. The brand produces clothing on a mass scale, contributing to the global textile waste problem.
Secondly, ASOS doesn’t publish whether clear guidance is in place for their factories. For example, there’s no mention whether workers receive living wages, whether their factories are certified, or if their factories use safe products and dyes in their production processes.
Overall, we consider Asos another fast fashion brand to avoid.
Theres many great ethical online marketplaces out there, offering an alternative to Asos. Our favorites are Made Trade, Urbankissed, and Staiy.
14. American Eagle
While the brand has set targets to improve its use of sustainable materials, American Eagle still has a long way to go. The brand is a fast fashion brand that doesn’t provide much information around its supply chain. Plus, AEO achieved a poor 16% overall score in the Fashion Transparency Index 2021, a tool designed to hold large clothing retailers accountable for human rights, social and environmental impact, and sustainable production practices.
American Eagle Alternatives
Our top picks for AEO alternatives are Reformation and Amour Vert.
15. Brandy Melville
The following fast fashion retailer on the list is Brandy Melville. When we rated this brand, we struggled to find any positives we liked about the brand.
First, the brand has adopted a ‘one size fits all model,’ which can seriously damage the mental health of the young girls it targets.
Secondly, reports of racism and body shaming towards customers and staff are standard at the brand. Add these red flags to the fact the brand isn’t transparent about its factories and doesn’t prioritize sustainable materials, and it equals a fast fashion brand to avoid.
Brandy Melville Alternatives
Instead of supporting the brand, check out alternatives such as Girlfriend Collective and Parade.
16. Yes Style
YesStyle is a fast fashion retailer that we see as using greenwashing tactics. For example, the brand pushed its YS collection by Yesstyle, which claims garments are made with sustainable fabrics like organic cotton or recycled polyester. However, when we dig deeper, the brand only uses a small percentage of these materials and uses mostly unsustainable materials like cotton or virgin polyester.
Pact, Mate, and Graceful District are all sustainable brands using fully sustainable materials across their collections.
While Aritzia is increasing its use of sustainable materials, the brand has a long way to go regarding the transparency of its supply chain. Aritzia scored a poor score of 23% in the Transparency Materials Index 2021 report, which reflects the lack of information given by the brand regarding the factories it works with and the treatment of garment workers in its supply chain.
Discover brands like Tentree, United By Blue, or Frank and Oak for ethical fashion.
Express had many red flags regarding worker treatment and environmental protection. Big red flags include the brand’s lack of transparency about where its clothes are made or the audit scores of its supply chain.
Express isn’t doing enough to ensure workers are paid a living wage and instead is compliant in allowing workers to be paid low wages.
Discover slow fashion brands like Whimsy + Row and Christy Dawn instead.
Pacsun has a code of conduct in line with international labor standards, stating that its factories must comply with no forced labor, child labor, or excessive hours worked. However, Pacsun doesn’t publish its audit scores, so how can we know that these standards are being met? Plus, Pacsun gives zero information about its where its clothes are made.
We recommend Pangaia, Afends, and Girlfriend Collective as Pacsun alternatives.
As well as being a fast fashion brand, when looking through hundreds of reviews of Romwe’s products, there are hundreds of negative reviews regarding incorrect sizing, poor-quality materials, and poor-quality garments. This leads to customers discarding clothing after only a couple of wears, which adds to the textile waste problem.
Check out UK brand WAWWA and Lucy and Yak.
21. Nasty Gal
Nasty Gal is a fast fashion retailer which is now owned by the Boohoo group. Need we say anymore?
Nasty Gal Alternatives
Sustainable fashion brands like Warp + Weft, For Days, and Reformation are great alternatives to Nasty Gal.
Modcloth doesn’t share enough information about its supply chain, making it difficult for consumers to tell if the brand is ethical. For example, the brand didn’t disclose whether workers are paid a living wage and have safe working conditions. Plus, we didn’t find any use of sustainable materials like organic cotton, recycled materials, or Better Cotton Initiative cotton.
Check out thought, People Tree, and Big Bud Press for Modcloth alternatives.
You may not automatically think of Hollister as a fast fashion brand. Still, the brand produces large quantities of rapidly rotating seasonal styles made from unsustainable materials – much of the stock destined for end-of-season sales.
Along with being a fast fashion brand, the brand has been exposed for discriminating against disabled shoppers over ‘inaccessible’ stores and for not being an inclusive brand.
If you’re looking for sustainable Cali style, check out Back Beat Co, Pact, and Mate The Label.
Zaful releases new styles daily based on the latest fashion trends. The brand has been spotted stealing pictures of products from other brands and using them to advertise its website.
In addition, there is a lack of sustainable fabrics used, and the brand doesn’t give any information about its suppliers, the treatment of workers, or any information on its animal welfare policies. We therefore consider them a fast fashion brand to avoid.
Instead of Zaful, check out Kitty & Vibe for sustainable swimwear, Wolven for activewear, and Organic Basics for t-shirts.
What is the Ecothes Rating?
We rate brands based on the transparent information we can find as consumers. Therefore, we keep the rating simple from a consumer perspective.
When we rate a brand, we’re looking at things like the information given about the treatment of workers in its supply chain, disclosure of where a brand’s clothing is made, whether the brand works with certified factories, and the audit scores of factories. We also use external information like The Fashion Transparency Index by Fashion Revolution and certifications such as B Corp, GOTS, and Oeko-Tex.
In addition, we look at the information given about environmental impacts, such as the use of sustainable fabrics, control of hazardous chemicals, and whether the brand is working to reduce carbon emissions.
We take all of the research we can find as a customer looking to shop from that brand and then give an Ecothes opinion rating; any rating under 3 is a brand we wouldn’t personally support.
Wrapping Up: Fast Fashion Brands to Avoid
We hope you’ve enjoyed our article on the worst fast fashion brands to avoid. If you’re looking for sustainable alternatives, check out our post on the best affordable sustainable brands.