Fast fashion can be seen all over our society – from daily emails arriving in our inbox through to targeted advertising across our social media profiles. Fast fashion trends need our attention and input to stay relevant – though now more than ever, people are pushing back against the tide.
Most people know about the largest fast fashion brands such as H&M and Forever21. However, there’s actually many more brands that are classified as fast fashion, even if you may not think it. We’re going to look at some of the most popular brands that people shop at regularly.
Why is Fast Fashion Bad for the Planet?
Fast fashion refers to the rapid production of high volumes of clothing by retailers to keep up with the latest fashion trends.
While fast fashion allows consumers to buy trendy clothes at an affordable price, it has significant environmental and social impacts. Here are several reasons why fast fashion is considered harmful for the planet:
- High Carbon Emissions: The fashion industry contributes to around 10% of global carbon emissions due to its energy-intensive production processes and logistics. This is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
- Excessive Water Usage: The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of water worldwide. For example, it can take up to 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton t-shirt – that’s how much water an average person drinks over 2.5 years. The industry also contributes to water pollution through the discharge of untreated wastewater from factories into rivers and oceans.
- Waste Generation: Fast fashion results in excessive clothing waste because of the short life cycle of the clothing items. When trends change rapidly, consumers may discard their clothes after only a few wears. It’s estimated that 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year.
- Pollution: Dyeing and treating clothes require harmful chemicals, which end up in the earth’s water systems. Some of these chemicals, particularly those used in dyeing clothes, can be hazardous to the health of the workers in the factories and the ecosystems where the factories are located.
- Overconsumption: Fast fashion encourages overconsumption, a habit that is fundamentally unsustainable. Overconsumption means using up resources at a rate that the planet cannot replenish, leading to depletion of natural resources.
- Poor Working Conditions: While not directly an environmental issue, this is a significant ethical problem associated with fast fashion. In order to keep costs low, many fast fashion brands outsource production to countries where labor is cheap and regulations are lax. This often results in poor working conditions, inadequate pay for workers, and in some cases, child labor.
So aside from the fact that they often make poor quality clothing and ill-fitting clothes, fast fashion companies are also not great for the environment. Let’s look at some of the largest out there that you’ll find.
Mango, also known as Punto Fa, S.L., is a Spanish clothing design and manufacturing company. It was founded in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain) by brothers Isak Andic and Nahman Andic in 1984. Mango specializes in designing, manufacturing, and selling women’s and men’s clothing and accessories.
Mango is renowned for its fashionable, modern, and high-quality offerings. Their business model is built on a fast-fashion foundation, with a strong emphasis on keeping up with the latest trends, producing new lines rapidly, and making them readily accessible to the consumer. They achieve this through a well-streamlined supply chain and effective logistics management.
They’re known for their frequent collaborations with high-profile models, celebrities, and influencers, as well as their recent commitment to sustainable practices and ethical production. However, Mango is considered part of the “fast fashion” industry.
Boohoo is a UK-based online fashion retailer launched in 2006. The company sells a variety of clothing, accessories, and beauty products for men, women, and children. Boohoo operates a number of different brands, including PrettyLittleThing, Nasty Gal, and MissPap.
Like Mango, Boohoo is also considered part of the “fast fashion” industry. They are known for their inexpensive prices and trend-driven styles, with new items added to their website frequently to keep up with the latest fashion trends.
However, like other fast fashion brands, Boohoo has faced criticism for the environmental and social impact of their business model. Fast fashion has been associated with poor labor conditions, environmental degradation, and excessive waste. There have been particular concerns raised about Boohoo’s supply chain practices.
In response to these criticisms, Boohoo has claimed to be taking steps to improve their labor practices and increase transparency in their supply chain.
Zara is a Spanish clothing and accessories retailer founded in 1975 by Amancio Ortega and Rosalía Mera. It is the flagship brand of the Inditex group, one of the world’s largest fashion retailers. Zara is known for its men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing and accessories.
Zara is often cited as a pioneer of the “fast fashion” model. The brand is known for its rapid turnaround of new clothing designs, with the ability to go from the design stage to the store shelf in a matter of weeks. This fast-response system, coupled with a high frequency of inventory turnover, allows Zara to keep up with changing fashion trends and customer demands.
However, like other fast fashion brands, Zara has faced scrutiny for the sustainability of its business practices. Critics argue that fast fashion encourages overconsumption and leads to significant waste and environmental damage. There have also been concerns about labor rights in the fashion industry’s supply chains.
Forever 21 is an American fast fashion retailer founded in 1984 by Do Won Chang and Jin Sook Chang. The company is known for selling trendy clothing, accessories, and beauty products at relatively low prices for young men, women, and teens.
Forever 21 is indeed considered a part of the “fast fashion” industry. Like other fast fashion retailers, the company is known for rapidly producing affordable versions of the latest styles seen on runways or worn by celebrities. They often update their inventory with new items, keeping in line with the latest fashion trends.
In terms of labor practices, fast fashion has been linked to poor working conditions and low wages in factories, particularly in developing countries where many of the goods are produced.
Forever 21 itself filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and closed many of its stores. However, it was bought out of bankruptcy by three companies: Simon Property Group, Brookfield Property Partners, and Authentic Brands Group.
Urban Outfitters is an American multinational lifestyle retail corporation headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1970 by Richard Hayne, Judy Wicks, and Scott Belair.
Although Urban Outfitters operates somewhat differently from typical fast-fashion retailers like Zara and Forever 21, it still operates within the broader fast-fashion ecosystem. They don’t necessarily bring out new pieces as rapidly as some other fast fashion retailers, but they do update their collections quite frequently to stay on trend and respond to the latest consumer demands.
However, like many retailers within this sector, Urban Outfitters has faced criticism regarding its production practices.
Missguided is a UK-based online fashion retailer, founded by Nitin Passi in 2009. The brand is known for its trendy and affordable clothing aimed at young women, offering a wide range of products including dresses, shoes, accessories, and more.
Missguided is considered a “fast fashion” brand. Similar to other fast fashion retailers, Missguided frequently updates its product line to reflect current trends and styles, often drawing inspiration from celebrity fashion and runway looks.
They produce high volumes of clothing at relatively low prices, aiming to provide fashionable items to consumers as quickly and affordably as possible.
However, as is the case with many fast fashion brands, Missguided has faced criticism regarding sustainability and ethical issues. In response to such criticisms, some fast fashion brands, including Missguided, have started to take steps to address these issues, such as introducing lines of clothing made from recycled or sustainable materials.
Probably the most well known fast fashion brand in the UK, the brand is almost synonymous with fast fashion there. They’ve built a reputation as the cheapest shop for clothes in the country, and they’re a household name that’s used by most working class folk.
They turn around new styles and trends quickly to provide consumers with affordable, up-to-date fashion. As with other fast fashion brands, this involves producing high volumes of clothing and updating inventory frequently. Primark has been subject to criticism for its environmental and social impact
In response to these criticisms, Primark has launched a number of initiatives aimed at improving the sustainability of its operations and products, such as its “Primark Cares” initiative, which aims to make more sustainable clothing and to improve labor conditions in its supply chain.
Topshop is a British multinational fashion retailer of clothing, shoes, makeup, and accessories. It was founded in 1964 as a youth-oriented spin-off of the department store Peter Robinson.
The brand caters primarily to young adults and is known for its trendy, up-to-date fashions and collaborations with celebrities and high-profile designers.
Topshop rapidly produces new collections to keep up with the latest trends and styles. They regularly introduce new items to their stores and online platforms, allowing consumers to stay in line with current fashion trends at a more affordable price point compared to high-end designer brands.
However, like many other fast fashion retailers, Topshop filed for administration in November 2020 due to financial struggles exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Topshop, along with other Arcadia Group brands, was purchased by the online retailer ASOS in February 2021. ASOS decided to keep the brand online-only, meaning all physical Topshop stores were closed. It’s worth noting that the fast-fashion industry’s status and practices may have evolved since writing.
Fashion Nova is an American-based fast fashion retail company. It was founded in 2006 by Richard Saghian, originally as a chain of physical stores located in malls throughout Southern California. The brand gained rapid popularity through its online presence on social media platforms, particularly Instagram, where it has collaborated with numerous influencers and celebrities.
Fashion Nova is considered a prime example of “fast fashion.” The company is known for its ability to quickly translate popular, trendy styles into its own products at affordable prices
The fast fashion model, due to its rapid turnaround and high volume production, has been linked to significant environmental issues, including pollution and waste. Moreover, there have been concerns about poor working conditions and low wages in the Fashion Nova factories where the clothes are produced.
Hot Topic is a US-based retail chain founded in 1988. It is known for selling counterculture-related clothing and accessories, as well as licensed music and pop culture merchandise. Their products typically cater to styles including punk, goth, rock, and various fandom-related styles.
While Hot Topic could be seen as a fast fashion retailer because they often update their product line to keep up with various pop culture trends and consumer demands, it doesn’t fully fit the traditional model of fast fashion.
Unlike brands such as Zara, H&M, or Forever 21 that rapidly produce high volumes of garments to mimic high fashion trends, Hot Topic’s product range is more influenced by music, art, and popular culture rather than runway fashion trends.
Is American Eagle fast fashion?
American Eagle Outfitters is a US-based clothing and accessories retailer that was founded in 1977. The company primarily targets teens and young adults with its product range, which includes jeans, graphic T-shirts, sweatshirts, outerwear, footwear, and accessories.
American Eagle Outfitters does not fit the traditional definition of a “fast fashion” brand in the same way that companies like H&M, Zara, or Forever 21 do.
While American Eagle Outfitters does offer trendy, fashionable items, it doesn’t cycle through clothing collections as rapidly as typical fast fashion brands. Instead, the company has certain staple products, such as its denim range, which it sells year-round with variations and updates according to the seasons.
That being said, the company is part of the broader fashion industry, which has come under scrutiny for issues such as labor rights and environmental impact. American Eagle has made some steps toward addressing these issues, such as launching a recycling initiative for jeans and committing to reducing water use in its denim manufacturing process.
Is Uniqlo fast fashion?
Uniqlo is a Japanese casual wear designer, manufacturer, and retailer, which is a subsidiary of the Fast Retailing Company. It was originally founded in 1949 as a textiles manufacturer, but opened its first retail store in Hiroshima in 1984.
Uniqlo is known for its emphasis on simplicity, quality, and longevity in its clothes, often featuring minimalist styles that are not heavily influenced by changing seasonal trends. Uniqlo is sometimes included in discussions of “fast fashion” due to its low prices and high production volumes.
However, its approach differs from that of typical fast fashion brands like H&M or Zara. Uniqlo does not focus on imitating high-fashion designs or rapidly cycling through different trends.
Instead, they focus on creating high-quality, basic items that are meant to be versatile and long-lasting. The brand is particularly known for its innovative fabrics, such as Heattech for cold weather.
That said, like all brands in the fashion industry, Uniqlo faces issues related to environmental sustainability and labor rights.
Is Victoria’s Secret fast fashion?
Victoria’s Secret is an American lingerie, clothing, and beauty retailer known for its high-profile marketing campaigns, which have included top fashion models and an annual fashion show.
Victoria’s Secret is not typically classified as a “fast fashion” brand. The term “fast fashion” usually refers to companies that rapidly produce high volumes of clothing to keep up with the latest trends at a low cost.
While Victoria’s Secret does keep up with fashion trends, particularly in the lingerie industry, their production cycles, price points, and brand positioning differ from those of typical fast fashion retailers like Zara, Forever 21, or H&M.
However, like all fashion companies, Victoria’s Secret faces issues related to sustainability and ethical production. The company has made commitments towards sourcing more sustainable materials and improving labor practices, but as with all such initiatives, they are subject to scrutiny and critique.
How Can I Stop Buying Fast Fashion Brands?
Shop in thrift stores or charity shops
If you’re okay with wearing clothes owned by someone else, a thrift shop can be a fantastic option to both save some cash and think about the environment at the same time. You can usually find a shop that sells clothes in your local city center, with thrift stores being a great alternative if you want to avoid the fashion cycle.
Buy from sustainable fashion brands instead
One of the best ways to combat this is to go with sustainable, or slow fashion brands, instead. Here are some brands known for their sustainability efforts:
- Patagonia: Patagonia is often hailed as a leader in sustainable outdoor clothing. They offer a repair and reuse program, and their mission is to cause no unnecessary harm to the environment.
- Eileen Fisher: Eileen Fisher is a women’s clothing brand that focuses on sustainability and social responsibility. They have a take-back program where customers can return their old clothes for store credit.
- Everlane: Everlane is committed to transparency and works with ethical factories. They also aim to use more sustainable materials and have a line of “climate-neutral” clothing.
- People Tree: People Tree is a pioneer in ethical and sustainable fashion. They use organic cotton, avoid harmful chemical dyes, and work with artisan groups to produce their clothing.
- Alternative Apparel: This brand uses organic cotton and recycled materials to create casual wear. They also emphasize fair labor practices and transparency.
- Stella McCartney: Stella McCartney is a high-end designer who has been a vocal advocate for sustainability in the fashion industry. Her brand does not use leather or fur and is working towards being more circular.
- Reformation: Reformation is a popular brand that creates women’s clothing. They focus on reducing their environmental impact by investing in green building infrastructure, recycling and upcycling efforts, and using sustainable fabrics.
- Outdoor Voices: Outdoor Voices makes activewear using sustainable materials, including recycled polyester.
- Allbirds: While not a clothing brand, Allbirds is a footwear company known for its sustainable practices. Their shoes are made from materials like Merino wool and eucalyptus trees.
- Veja: Veja is a shoe brand that uses organic, recycled, and fair-trade materials to create their sneakers.
It’s important to remember that sustainability in fashion isn’t just about the environment but also includes fair labor practices and working conditions. Consumers can promote sustainability by not only supporting these brands but also buying less, choosing well, and making it last.
Share and swap clothes with friends
Many people choose to swap and share clothes with each other, and this can be a great way to avoid buying cheap clothes. When you buy new clothes, many of us only want to wear them to a few occasions, so trading them with your friends for something else is a good way to make the most of what we have.
Don’t buy so much ‘stuff’
If you want to avoid mass textile waste that is inevitable with the fast fashion market, it’s a good idea to buy high quality clothes in a limited amount. The truth is that you probably don’t need that new dress, and most of us have too much stuff to begin with.
Look for better quality clothing
As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to opt for better quality clothing instead that will last you many year, as opposed to fast fashion clothing that can be out of shape after a few washes. Though you may pay more upfront, in the long term you’ll feel more comfortable in your high quality clothes – whilst helping the environment at the same time.