Which Brands Are Fast Fashion? We Break It Down

posted in fashion industry

Last Updated on May 26, 2023

Typically when we think of fast fashion, H&M, ZARA, Forever 21, Primark and Topshop are usually top of mind. But there are a lot of other brands that can’t be as clearly identified as fast fashion. We looked into some popular brands and make calls on which classify as fast fashion and which don’t.

How do we define Fast Fashion?

While some brands, like the ones mentioned above, can easily be identified as fast fashion solely based on their extremely high volume of clothing sold at cheap prices, others seem to live in a more grey area. Here is the other criteria we used to determine if a brand classifies as fast fashion or not:

  • How often do they release new styles? (e.g. 4 collections per year vs. new products weekly)
  • Is the focus on quantity over quality?
  • Is the brand heavily trend driven?
  • What is the price point?
  • Do they have info and transparency around their manufacturing and sustainability initiatives? (Also keeping an eye out for greenwashing)

Is ASOS fast fashion?

Yes, ASOS is fast fashion. They add up to 7,000 new styles to their website every week—a ridiculous amount of clothing and a clear indicator they are a fast fashion brand. ASOS has published sustainability targets but only for its own brands, which in FY2021 comprised 40% of sales. The rest of their sales come from 850+ other brands that they work with.

Is Athleta fast fashion?

We’re honestly on the fence with Athleta. They seem to make decent quality products and have some good initiatives. However, Athleta is owned by GAP Inc., and while they are doing things better than other brands under the GAP umbrella, such as using more sustainable materials, receiving B Corp certification, and manufacturing some garments in fair trade factories, their parent company GAP Inc. is a clear fast fashion manufacturer with many ethical issues. So if you’re looking for activewear, we recommend checking out these activewear brands instead.

Is Adidas fast fashion?

Yes, Adidas is fast fashion. The sportswear brand produces a massive volume of clothes annually, is lacking transparency around wages, and has been accused of wage theft.

In 2022, Adidas produced more than 1 billion items of clothing, footwear, and accessories; that production scale alone indicates it’s a fast fashion brand. In addition, the Foul Play report by the Clean Clothes Campaign and Collectif Ethique sur l’Etiquette (an organization that defends human labor rights in the textile industry) called out Adidas for shelling out millions of dollars every year on athlete sponsorships, yet paying poverty wages to the workers—primarily women—who make their products.

Is Aritzia fast fashion?

Yes, Aritzia is fast fashion. While their price point is higher than other brands, which may lead you to think they aren’t fast fashion, Aritzia is still producing an excessive amount of clothing, constantly adding new styles, and is highly trend driven. Even though they have a few small sustainability initiatives, Good on You found “no evidence Aritzia is actively reducing its carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain” and well as “no evidence Aritzia ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain.” Aritzia also received a score of only 20% on Fashion Revolution’s 2022 Transparency Index, and transparency is just the starting point for ethical production.

Is Costco/Kirkland fast fashion?

Yes, Costco is fast fashion. When we think of fast fashion Costco usually doesn’t come to mind, however, according to Insider, “Costco has become an unlikely $7 billion fast-fashion destination.” While we definitely wouldn’t call Costco clothing trendy, they do produce and sell a large volume of clothing (both their own Kirkland collection and other brands) and have a high turnover of product. Costco also has very little transparency around ethical and sustainable sourcing and manufacturing. Additionally, they have not signed the International Accord and recently were named in a report as having engaged in unfair trading practices in Bangladesh during the pandemic.

Is Everlane fast fashion?

No, we don’t consider Everlane fast fashion, however we find their “radical transparency” suspect and wish they were actually bring transparent where it matters. We also think they could be doing more regarding sustainability and ethical manufacturing. Check out our ethical alternatives to Everlane instead (there are a lot of better options!).

Is Express fast fashion?

Yes, Express is fast fashion. They produce a high volume of clothing and have very little information available about their manufacturing and sustainability. Express also has the lowest possible rating on Good on You and received a terrible score of 5% on Fashion Revolution’s 2022 Transparency Index. Don’t be fooled by their “Conscious Edit” collection, which is utter greenwashing!

Is GAP fast fashion?

Yes, GAP is fast fashion, and they also own Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta (see above). Gap Inc. produces a high volume of clothing and has faced many labor controversies over the years—most recently, GAP Inc. initially refused to pay workers at the start of the pandemic and lobbied against the Garment Worker Protection Act, according to PayUp Fashion. Good On You rates GAP as “Not Good Enough” on overall sustainability and ethics.

Is Lululemon fast fashion?

No, we don’t consider Lululemon fast fashion, however they also don’t have great ethics and sustainability standards. We’re not labeling them fast fashion due to the fact they have a strong focus on quality and their garments are not highly trend-driven or “disposable.” But they’re still not a “good” brand as there have been accounts of unethical manufacturing and accusations of Lululemon greenwashing.

Check out these ethical activewear brands instead!

Is Madewell fast fashion?

Yes, Madewell is fast fashion. Again we have a brand producing a high volume of clothing with a lot of turn-over and little transparency. Madewell does seem to have some better initiatives such as a few Fair Trade Certified products but this is only a small percent of their production. There is no evidence Madewell pays a living wage.

Madewell is also owned by J. Crew, and J. Crew is fast fashion too.

Is Nike fast fashion?

Yes, Nike is fast fashion. While Nike has had many labor and sweatshop controversies over the years, they do seem to be cleaning up their act and offering more transparency. However, they still produce a high volume of clothing and have a fast fashion business model.

Is Roots fast fashion?

No, we don’t consider Roots fast fashion due to their quality, price point, and some sustainability initiatives. However, Oxfam Canada notes that Roots works with many third-party manufacturers and has very little transparency around their supply chain and code of conduct, so we also wouldn’t recommend shopping from them. If you want to support Canadian brands instead check out this list of fashion brands in Canada.

Is Shein fast fashion?

Yes, Shein is fast fashion and has become the leading brand of an even worse ultra-fast fashion model. Learn more about why Shein is particularly bad and what ultra fast fashion is here.

Is UNIQLO fast fashion?

Yes, UNIQLO is fast fashion. They produce around 1.3 billion items of clothing every year (source). The owner is the richest man in Japan, meanwhile UNIQLO has wage controversies such as refusing to pay 5.5 million dollars in severance pay.

Is Urban Outfitters fast fashion?

Yes. Urban Outfitters is fast fashion, including subsidiary brands under URBN, Anthropologie and Free People are all fast fashion. All these brands are highly trend driven and produce an excessive volume of clothing with new garments constantly in stock and high turn-over of styles. They are lacking in transparency and two years later these brands still haven’t paid for orders placed at the start of the pandemic.

  1. […] to steer clear of fast fashion, from environmental concerns to human rights issues. Check out My Green Closet’s “Which Brands are Fast Fashion? We Break it Down” article to know which brands to […]

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