There used to be four fashion seasons, and I remember as a kid that we would store our winter clothes during the summer, and vice versa. Did you do this too?
But this is no longer the case with the introduction of fast fashion.
There is an immense pressure on people to purchase new clothes frequently, whether it’s on social media, in our friend circles or seeing ‘fashionable’ co-workers in the office.
It’s no wonder people buy so much, because it’s cheap and readily available at the mall or online with next day or even same day delivery. But what happens to the price of labor when we keep buying clothes en-masse? What about the conditions of these factories?
I’ve put together a list of the major fast fashion brands to avoid buying from if you want to be environmentally conscious and socially responsible with your wardrobe purchases.
We’ll also look at the impact of fast fashion on the environment and garment workers, how you can avoid buying from fast fashion brands and some ethical brands you check out instead.
Disclaimer: This post is not meant to make anyone feel bad for where they choose to shop. It is for information purposes only and to make people aware of what fast fashion is and what impact it has on our earth. Your choice is just that – your choice.
Table of Contents
What is fast fashion & why should we avoid it?
Fast fashion is a term used to describe clothing that is cheaply made at low quality and quickly produced.
Fast fashion brands are a huge problem. They use unethical business practices and make clothing production unsustainable.
The fashion industry is one of the leading contributors to pollution, which has devastating effects on our environment. It’s also responsible for unfair working conditions in factories around the world, where workers often face unsafe work environments and long hours without breaks or proper compensation.
Its popularity has been growing steadily for decades now, but it’s really picked up speed in the past 10 years. Fast fashion clothing is known to have many problems, including:
- The prevalence of sweatshops that produce most fast fashion items
- Huge amounts of waste and pollution due to the pressure to continue manufacturing more quickly at lower costs
- Unsustainable use of resources, often with little regard for environmental and social consequences
- Reliance on unethical labor practices
Fast fashion brands use sweatshops and unfair labor practices because the demand for their clothing is so high that they need to meet it as quickly as possible.
They also prioritise profits over environmental and social responsibility, which is why such a large percentage of fast fashion clothing is made by sweatshop workers who are paid unfair wages.
Fast fashion brands also produce an unbelievable amount of waste – both in the form of clothing items and in the materials needed to make them. It takes almost 700 gallons of water to make a t-shirt, for example!
Because fast fashion brands are always coming up with new styles, their production is incredibly resource intensive, which has a tremendous effect on the planet’s natural resources.
Fast fashion shocking facts
Around 85% of all textiles thrown away in the US are either dumped into landfill or burned – BBC Future (2020)
The legal minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is 8,000 taka a month (less than $4 a day) – The Guardian (2020)
93% of surveyed brands aren’t paying garment workers a living wage – Fashion Checker (2020)
Fast fashion brands use open-loop production cycles that pollute water and land – The New York Times (2019)
68% of fast fashion brands don’t maintain gender equality at production facilities – Ethical Fashion Guide (2019)
Washing, solvents, and dyes used in manufacturing are responsible for one-fifth of industrial water pollution – McKinsey (2020)
One in three young women in Britain consider a garment worn once or twice to be old – The Guardian (2019)
The fashion industry is responsible for 8% of carbon emissions – UN Environment (2019)
The world now consumes a staggering 80 billion pieces of clothing each year – 1 Million Women (2015)
Less than 11% of brands are implementing recycling strategies for their items – Peppermint Magazine (2019)
The average American throws away around 81 pounds of clothing yearly – Saturday Evening Post (2018)
Up to 20,000 litres of water is needed to produce 1kg of cotton – meaning it takes up to 2,700 litres of water to produce a single cotton T-shirt – Ethical Fashion Guide (2019)
Fast fashion brands to avoid in 2021
This list is only a list of 50 of the worst fast fashion brands which you should try to start avoiding today. Unfortunately, there are still many more brands that are engaging in fast fashion:
- & Other Stories
- Abercrombie & Fitch
- Ally Fashion
- American Eagle
- Ben Sherman
- Brandy Melville
- Cotton On
- Fashion Nova
- Forever 21
- Free People
- Fruit of the Loom
- Hot Topic
- Massimo Dutti
- Miss Selfridge
- Nasty Gal
- New Look
- Pretty Little Thing
- Pull & Bear
- Rip Curl
- River Islands
- Urban Outfitters
- Victoria Secret
How to avoid fast fashion retailers
Do a little research before you shop
Next time you go shopping, make sure you give some consideration to where your clothing is coming from.
Do some research and check out brands that are committed to creating sustainable fashion. Look for brands that use organic cotton, recycled materials, fair trade practices and other eco-conscious business models.
Not everyone can afford to support these brands, but if you buy clothes often, even vegan clothing can help shift the industry practices towards sustainability.
As you may already know, I let go of over 70% of my belongings some years ago in a bid to reduce stress and find happiness. I went from shopaholic with over 100 pairs of shoes to only owning things that I truly love and need.
I understand that not shopping at all isn’t an option for everyone, so hunting down thrift stores and yard sales is another great way to find new pieces at low costs.
Remember that although it may be tempting to buy new clothes all the time, every piece of clothing you bring into your wardrobe is something that will need to be dealt with.
Buying less can help conserve natural resources and make sure that each item you do decide to purchase goes a long way!
Try a capsule wardrobe
A capsule wardrobe is a great way to help minimise the amount of clothes you need and look at how your existing wardrobe can be altered.
I am planning to put together a capsule wardrobe at the beginning of 2022 in a bid to reduce the amount of clothing I own and the need to buy new clothes.
Buy from ethical clothing brands
Sustainable fashion brands, which produce clothes with ethically made practices in mind, have been on the rise for years now.
To help counterbalance fast fashion’s negative impact on our planet we should strive for sustainable fashion by purchasing pieces with high quality fabrications and designs.
This way we can reduce waste in landfills while also making an effort towards living more sustainably here on Earth.
We are all here on planet earth together– Stella mccartney
Some of the more sustainable fashion brands are:
Patagonia – this company is top of my list, and not just because I love hiking and everything to do with the outdoors. Their mission statement is “build the best product, cause no unnecessary hard, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis” and they are true to their word when it comes to their sustainable efforts. In a bid to stop over-consumption, they have a used gear initiative which extends a garment’s life by another two years and also cuts its combined carbon, waste and water footprint by 73%.
Vetta – Vetta are dedicated to being sustainably responsible and use sustainable fabric, such as organic cotton and tencel, for their clothing. Their clothing is made in factories in the US and they ensure payment of a living wage. Many of their employees in their New York factory have been with the company for over 30 years! Over 70% of their energy is produced by solar power.
Pact – Their mission is to build the “earth’s favourite clothing company”. They are Fair Trade Certified and use many eco-friendly materials, including organic cotton. Pact allows their customers to give back clothing they no longer want / need and they will pay it forward to non-profit organisations. Fair Trade work closely with those who work in Pact factories to ensure fair pay and a safe working environment for the garment workers.
KOTN – this company believes in ‘buying less and enjoying more’. They use natural fibers in their clothing which will biodegrade at the end of their lifetime. They have been voted best in the world by B Corporation in their community category and are passionate about building relationships at every stage of the supply chain. They work with over 2000 small farmers, with guaranteed payment, and donate a portion of their proceeds to fund and build primary schools in Egypt (10 schools and counting so far).
Stella McCartney – Stella McCartney has made a public commitment to be sustainably responsible and accountable. Over the past 20 years they have eliminated fur, skin, leather, PVC; began using organic cotton and biodegradable materials; banned plastic water bottles and ensured all the wood, paper and cardboard they use is sustainably certified and began using LED lighting and solar powering in their stores.
Learn More About Fast Fashion
If any of the above makes you want to delve further into the world of fast fashion, here are some of the documentaries that shocked me into changing the way I shop.
The fashion industry is one of the most unsustainable industries in the world. This makes it easy to see why fast-fashion brands are so popular. After all, who wants to buy something that might not be fashionable next season?
But what we need to start understanding is how these types of clothing can have a negative impact on our environment and garment workers alike if we don’t stop buying them.
The unfortunate reality is that this industry will continue to grow as long as people keep buying from it, which they’re likely to do if they don’t know where their clothes come from or what kind of impact the production process has.
If you are looking to make small changes in your life that can have a big impact on the environment, consider starting with what you wear.
Start by making the switch from fast fashion brands like H&M and Forever 21 to sustainable clothing brands like Patagonia or Kotn. You may not be able to afford these more expensive clothes upfront but they will last longer which means less waste for our planet.
Not only is it better for the environment, but this change also benefits garment workers who receive higher wages when they work at companies committed to sustainability!
How do you feel about fast fashion brands? Has your view changed since learning about the impact they have on the earth and the industry workers?