Is American Eagle Fast Fashion? Analysis & Alternatives

As we reduce our carbon footprints and make the change to shop more sustainably, it’s important to tell which brands are greenwashing and which are actually sustainable.

That’s why we ask the question Is American eagle fast fashion? We discuss whether the brand is ethical, its materials, and where its clothes are made.

Let’s jump in.

While we wouldn’t consider American Eagle to fall under the same category of fast fashion as Zaful, Shein, or Romwe, we wouldn’t exactly consider American Eagle a slow fashion brand either.

Overall, we’d still consider American Eagle to be a fast fashion brand.

American Eagle creates clothing at an affordable price but doesn’t retail its clothing for shockingly low prices as we see with other fast fashion brands. However, the clothing brand does follow the fast fashion model of creating hundreds of garments that follow rapidly changing trends.

We checked how many different styles of tops American Eagle currently has on its website, and it has over four hundred different styles – which doesn’t exactly scream ‘sustainable slow fashion’ to us.

American Eagle is a clothing retailer creating laidback men’s and women’s clothing and accessories.

Founded in Pennsylvania in 1977, the brand has grown to become one of the largest retail brands in America, with its clothing available in its 1,000 stores worldwide and online.

American Eagle is currently owned by the parent company American Eagle Outfitters® (AEO), which also parents sister company Aerie.

American Eagle has introduced the use of some sustainable materials into its collections like organic cotton, recycled cotton, and BCI cotton. In addition, the brand has also started to introduce some recycled polyester.

While the introduction of some sustainable materials is great to see, there are still improvements AEO can make.

When we initially researched AEO, the company aimed to source 100% of its cotton from sustainable sources by 2023 (this includes recycled, organic, and BCI cotton). In 2020 the brand only achieved a meager 26% from sustainable sources and hadn’t yet published the data for 2021.

We went back to their sustainability goals page in January 2024, and the 2023 target has now been removed, instead, stating: “All cotton used in products will be 100% more sustainably sourced”. This doesn’t inspire confidence in us that the brand is on track to shift to a more sustainable model.

On the other hand, the brand still uses large amounts of polyester in its clothing. Even though the brand has pledged to use 50% more recycled polyester, the plastic synthetic material is not biodegradable and will stick around the planet for hundreds of years.

No American Eagle is not carbon neutral.

The brand plans to be carbon-neutral in its offices, stores, and distribution centers by 2030 and reduce GHG emissions by 40% in all manufacturing facilities.

While it’s great to see a brand putting forward these targets to reduce carbon emissions, there is no indication from the company on whether it is set to meet its targets.

It would be an improvement if AEO were more transparent about its current carbon emissions in relation to its carbon-neutrality goal.

American Eagle does have a Code of Ethical Conduct, which its factories must adhere to. The brand also states that factories are audited and visited annually by the AEO team to ensure standards are met.

However, one caveat with this is that American Eagle doesn’t disclose scores from these audits, so we cannot verify if all of its factories meet its ethical code of conduct or whether there are non-conformances within its supply chain.

In addition, AEO states that it encourages its suppliers to pay a living wage but does not demand this as a standard in its code of conduct.

AEO achieved a poor 16% overall score in the Fashion Transparency Index 2021, a tool designed to hold large fashion brands accountable for human rights, environmental policies, and sustainable production practices.

Overall, the lack of transparency surrounding AEO, which includes audit scores and factory lists, makes it difficult to determine if American Eagle is ethical or is hiding behind CSR jargon used as a tool for its stakeholders.

AEO manufacturers its clothing in 300 factories in more than 20 countries worldwide.

One issue we have with the brand is that it doesn’t disclose a list of these factories. AEO fails to provide factory-specific information about pay, working environments, or other important attributes for workers’ safety and treatment in each factory.

American Eagle doesn’t tolerate animal cruelty within its design, manufacturing, or testing stage.

The brand also excludes the use of fur, endangered skins, Mulesed wool, animal testing, and Angora wool in its products.

The brand still permits leather, alpaca, and down, but these must carry responsible sourcing standards, including the Leather Working Group and Responsible Down standards.

American Eagle has implemented a recycling system within its stores to recycle old denim. The “Blue Jeans Go Green” initiative is a collection program turning old jeans into home insulation.

American Eagle has also partnered with the Give Back Box initiative, where customers can print a free returns label and donate their pre-loved clothes to charities.

Ecothes Opinion: Overall Sustainability Score

Is American Eagle Fast Fashion?
We give AEO an overall poor sustainability score of 2/5. We consider it a fast fashion brand we’d avoid.

What we liked

✔ We like that the brand is introducing more sustainable materials such as organic cotton, recycled cotton, and sustainably sourced cotton into its collections.

✔ We also liked that the brand actively participates in recycling initiatives and has a plan to reduce carbon emissions.

What we didn’t like

❌ We didn’t like the lack of transparency around its manufacturing partners.

❌ We also didn’t like that the brand doesn’t disclose a list of its suppliers and doesn’t disclose its supply chain traceability or audit scores, so it is difficult to check whether American Eagle is creating all of its clothing ethically.

❌ Although we liked the targets the brand has set around reducing its carbon emissions, we don’t like the fact the brand is not disclosing its progress on these targets.

While American Eagle is talking about improving its use of sustainable materials and ethical sourcing, there are brands out there who are creating genuinely sustainable clothing.

Check out our favorite sustainable alternatives to American Eagle:

1. Reformation

Reformation sustainable alternatives to American eagle

Sustainability: Carbon-neutral brand creating sustainable clothing using natural and recycled fabrics and ethical production.

Best for: Denim, tops, dresses

Ships to: Worldwide

Reformation ethical alternatives to American eagle


Afends eco friendly alternative to American Eagle

Sustainability: Ethical production, supply chain transparency, natural and biodegradable fibers

Best for: Dresses, t-shirts

Ships to: Worldwide

Afends sustainable alternatives to American Eagle

3. Pact

Pact ethical alternative to American Eagle

Sustainability: GOTS-certified organic cotton created in Fair Trade-certified factories

Best for: tank tops, dresses, pajamas, underwear

Ships to: Worldwide

Read our breakdown of Pact’s Sustainability initiatives here.

Pact organic cotton vests

4. Amour Vert

Amour Vert ethical alternative to American Eagle

Sustainability: Zero-waste design, sustainable fabrics, and tree planting

Best for: Casual wear and dresses

Ships to: Worldwide

Amour Vert sustainable alternatives to American Eagle

To find out if those other popular fashion brands are really fast fashion and ethical, check out our other brand ratings, including Banana Republic, Nasty Gal, Lulu Lemon, Pacsun, and YesStyle.


Bethany Worthington BSc (Hons) (she/her) is the Sustainable Fashion Editor and Co-founder of Ecothes. She has a passion for the environment, and a long love of all things clothing, and combines those two interests with Ecothes. In her free time she loves dancing, hiking in the countryside, and laughing with friends.

Articles: 207

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