Top 10 Fast Fashion Brands You’ll Want To Stay Away From

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Learn to identify fast fashion brands, uncover the top offenders, and understand why you might want to avoid them for more ethical wardrobe choices. 

A young woman sitting on a bed full of clothes looking problematic

Join us on an educational deep dive into making conscious fashion decisions. Discover the hidden costs of fast fashion in this revealing guide!

Quick Look: 10 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid

Here’s a list of the top fast fashion brands to avoid and the reason why in a glance:

BrandReasons To Avoid
ZaraEthical concerns, imitation over innovation
H&MEnvironmental damage, lack of transparency, ethical issues
SheinLack of transparency, ethical concerns, imitation over innovation
BoohooEthical concerns, lack of transparency
UniqloEthical concerns, lack of transparency
Fashion NovaImitation over innovation, lack of transparency, ethical concerns
MangoEnvironmental damage, ethical concerns
ASOSOverproduction, poor quality, ethical concerns
Primark Ethical concerns, environmental damage
Urban OutfittersEthical concerns, imitation over innovation, lack of transparency

What Is a Fast Fashion Brand?

A fast fashion brand is a term for clothing retailers that rapidly produce inexpensive, trendy clothing to keep up with the latest fashion.

They are able to quickly design, manufacture, and distribute new styles in high volumes to consumers.

These brands utilize streamlined supply chains and quick turnaround production to deliver frequent new arrivals to stores, sometimes as often as weekly. 

Their business model relies on producing clothing cheaply and pricing it affordably to encourage impulse buying.

A pile of clothes and shoes on a white background.

List of Fast Fashion Brands + Reasons To Avoid Them

In this section, we’ll explore fast fashion brands to avoid (in no particular order). 

Keep in mind that we’re not here to shame or blame. Our goal is to help you make smarter, more ethical shopping choices.

Zara

Zara, one of the most popular fast fashion brands worldwide, is a Spanish fast fashion retailer owned by the Inditex group. 

This brand, which includes the Zara Home segment, had the highest net sales of the Inditex Group worldwide in 2022, amounting to over 23 billion euros.

Zara is known for its quick turnaround times, with around 12,000 new designs making their way from the design table per year across its product lines.

This starkly contrasts with non-fast fashion apparel brands, which typically introduce a mere 200 to 500 new designs per year.

A young woman looking at clothes in a clothing store.

Why It’s on the Avoid List

  • Ethical concerns: A January 2023 report from Al Jazeera stated that Zara is among the top clothing brands exploiting Bangladesh garment industry workers.
  • Imitation over innovation: In a September 2022 Mixmag article, Zara withdrew a hoodie from sale amid allegations of copying a T-shirt design owned by London record label and DJ collective SlothBoogie.

H&M

H&M, Hennes & Mauritz AB, is a Swedish multinational fashion retailer known for its fast fashion approach, rapidly translating catwalk and mainstream fashion trends into inexpensive, mass-produced clothes and accessories.

A key part of H&M’s brand image is providing affordable on-trend styles, with most items priced lower than traditional retailers. 

Thanks to its over 5,000 stores worldwide, H&M has achieved enormous global scale and brand recognition.

Why It’s on the Avoid List

  • Environmental damage: A report by Quartz in June 2022 said H&M exaggerated the ecological benefits of its products. Some scorecards showed items used less water when they used 30% more. 

    Fast fashion, like H&M, causes environmental harm via overproduction and textile waste.
  • Lack of transparency: Fashion United’s article in June 2023 states that an investigation by news outlets exposed H&M shipping used clothes overseas for dumping rather than recycling as claimed. 

    This issue arises from the brand’s swift production of affordable and fashionable clothing, leading to a significant increase in textile waste.
  • Ethical issues: In September 2018, Reuters reported that civil society groups claim that H&M is not meeting its commitment to provide a fair “living wage” to garment workers supplying its stores, leading to excessive work hours for survival. 

    This assertion is based on interviews with workers from six supplier factories in Bulgaria, Turkey, India, and Cambodia, who reportedly earn less than a living wage.

Shein

Shein is a Chinese-based fast fashion e-commerce company that grew rapidly to become a top global online fashion retailer. 

Shein operates only via its website and app, selling clothes, shoes, accessories, and home goods for women, men, and kids.

This online fast fashion brand can design and make an item in three days, enabling it to produce thousands of trendy new styles daily. 

Per the report compiled by Money.co.uk, Shein has surpassed industry giants like Nike and Adidas as the most searched clothing brand on Google and has outperformed Zara and Macy’s in online sales.

Woman Shopping Online Using Laptop Sitting Near Big Smartphone Choosing Clothes On Rail Over Beige Studio Background.

Why It’s on the Avoid List

  • Lack of transparency: This article from Elle in April 2023 highlights the lack of transparency in Shein’s supply chain. 

    Additionally, the article notes that Shein needs to disclose more concrete information on its sustainability practices.
  • Ethical concerns: Time magazine’s article published in January 2023 cites ethical concerns surrounding Shein, stating that workers in Chinese factories endure unfit conditions. 

    Investigations by Wired and Channel 4 revealed labor and consumer suffering due to Shein’s clothing production, with employees subjected to grueling 75-hour shifts and minimal time off.
  • Imitation over innovation: An article by Dazed in December 2021 revealed that Shein was blamed for numerous fashion blunders, gaining a reputation as the universally disliked fast fashion antagonist.

    Major brands have initiated numerous lawsuits, with Levi Strauss accusing the platform of copying a patented stitch pattern in 2018.

    Small-scale designers are similarly affected, with Tracy Garcia, a seller of sustainable unique silk cami blouses, discovering her designs replicated by the company.

Boohoo

Founded in 2006 as a small online retailer in Manchester, UK, Boohoo has gained popularity recently for its trendy and affordable clothing.

Boohoo has since expanded to include several other brands, including PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal, and has acquired the online businesses of several high-street retailers, including Oasis and Warehouse.

In 2017, Boohoo was named the fastest-growing retailer in the UK. However, UK Investor Magazine reported a decline in revenues of the brand in the last four months of 2022, with their sales dropping by 11% to £637.7 million.

Why It’s on the Avoid List

  • Ethical concerns: According to Business of Fashion’s post in February 2023, Boohoo faced a labor scandal in 2020. 

    The company’s UK garment suppliers were discovered to be paying less than the minimum wage and neglecting safety measures in their Leicester factories.
  • Lack of transparency: As per a Vogue article in September 2022, Boohoo’s target of using recycled or sustainable materials by 2025 necessitates that each garment utilizes just 20% of the preferred fabrics to qualify. 

    Plus, it’s unclear what certifications they’ll use to back up their 2030 target for more sustainably sourced materials.

    This ambiguity left consumers questioning the true sustainability of Boohoo’s initiatives.

Uniqlo

Uniqlo is a Japanese multinational casual wear brand owned by Fast Retailing. Since its founding in 1984, Uniqlo has expanded to become one of the largest global apparel retailers with around 3,000 stores worldwide.

Uniqlo is known for its simple, functional, and affordable approach, offering customers stylish looks without breaking the bank and sacrificing comfort. 

Also, this top fast fashion brand has clothing solutions for all climates through its proprietary Heattech and Airism technologies.

A plus size woman is looking at clothes in a clothing store while holding different colors of longsleeves

Why It’s on the Avoid List

  • Ethical concerns: In an article by Le Monde in May 2023, it was reported that several rights groups filed a complaint in France against Uniqlo, accusing them of profiting from forced labor of the Uyghur minority in China. 

    The allegations state that Uniqlo committed crimes against humanity, servitude, genocide, and human trafficking.
  • Lack of transparency: Uniqlo lacks certification for its textiles as stated by an article from Earth.org in August 2022. 

    More concerning, the brand set a target to cut emissions in its supply chain but still does not report progress or provide details on implementing this goal, despite making the pledge.

Fashion Nova

Fashion Nova is an American fast fashion e-commerce retailer headquartered in Los Angeles, California, founded in 2006 by Richard Saghian.

The brand is focused exclusively on womenswear, offering trendy, sexy clothing, and accessories inspired by celebrity styles. 

With no physical stores, Fashion Nova sells solely via their website and app. 

The brand has gained immense popularity among young female millennials and Gen Z consumers, attributed to its astute social media tactics and budget-friendly offerings, with most items costing less than $50 each.

Why It’s on the Avoid List

  • Imitation over innovation: According to a 2022 article by Fashionista, online fast fashion brand Fashion Nova removed a copied design from their online store. 

    This action came in response to being called out for apparently plagiarizing a style by Black-owned knitwear brand Hanifa.
  • Lack of transparency: In a 2022 article posted via FTC.gov, it was reported that Fashion Nova will be barred from suppressing customer reviews. 

    Additionally, the company has agreed to pay $4.2 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges, alleging that they blocked negative reviews from being posted on its website.
  • Ethical concerns: NY Times’ article published in December 2019 revealed that The U.S. Labor Department discovered that Fashion Nova’s garments are often made by workers in Los Angeles, paid illegally low wages, sometimes off the books, to compete with cheaper overseas labor. 

Mango

Mango, founded in 1984 by brothers Isak and Nahman Andic, is a Spanish clothing retailer renowned for its stylish, contemporary choices for women, men, and kids. 

The brand’s style balances classic European elegance with high street edge.

Mango operates over 2,700 stores across 109 countries. The brand has a strong online presence and e-commerce focus, operating mango.com across 45 markets. 

The website and app allow 24/7 access to Mango’s latest styles and collections. This digital strategy has strengthened globally during the pandemic.

A woman is holding up a smartphone with a shopping app on it.

Why It’s on the Avoid List

  • Environmental damage: According to an article by Earth.org, Mango has made some sustainability progress. In 44% of its 18,000 products, sustainable materials are used, and it has eliminated hazardous perfluorocarbon chemicals.

    However, while Mango discloses its supply chain emissions, it has not set a target to reduce its carbon footprint and greenhouse gases.
  • Ethical concerns: A 2016 article by Hindustan Times revealed that BBC journalists uncovered that Syrian refugees were working long 12-hour shifts in factories, distressing jeans for fashion brands including Mango.

    These workers were reportedly using chemicals without sufficient protection.

ASOS

ASOS, which stands for As Seen On Screen, is an online-only fashion and cosmetics retailer based in London, England.

It is known for its trendy and affordable clothing, shoes, accessories, and beauty products aimed at Millennials and Gen Z customers. 

The brand features a collection of more than 850 third-party brands alongside its in-house labels. They regularly introduce new items to stay in sync with evolving styles and trends.

Why It’s on the Avoid List

  • Overproduction: The Independent argues that ASOS’ sustainability efforts, including the Circular Collection, are mere greenwashing techniques.

    The article claims that it does little to address its role in fast fashion overproduction and waste through constant new item additions.
  • Poor quality: According to The Guardian, a study by the RSA found that approximately half of clothes sold on ASOS and other fast fashion brands are made entirely from cheap materials, like virgin plastics or polyester. 

    These garments may be vulnerable to quicker wear and tear, hence they can be easily destructible.
  • Ethical concerns: This article by the Guardian in March 2020 revealed the ethical concerns surrounding ASOS’s handling of staff safety during the coronavirus pandemic. 

    Over 98% of warehouse staff in Barnsley reported fears over insufficient protection measures, despite new safety implementations. Workers couldn’t maintain advised distancing and lacked protective gear. 

    Also, inadequate sick pay raised fears of ill colleagues coming to work..

Primark

Primark is an international cheap fast fashion brand that is known for offering trendy and affordable clothing, accessories, beauty products, and homewares.

Founded in Ireland in 1969 under the Penneys brand, Primark now operates over 400 stores across 14 countries in Europe and North America. Primark aims to make fashion trends affordable for all shoppers.

A unique aspect of Primark is that it does not offer an online shopping option. Customers can only view and purchase products from Primark’s extensive range in physical stores.

Nice hairstyle. Modern beautiful woman with nice hairstyle looking for new outfit while coming to shopping mall

Why It’s on the Avoid List

  • Ethical concerns: According to an article by The Guardian, research conducted by the Clean Clothes Campaign found that fashion brands like Primark had not broken any laws. 

    However, they had failed to ensure that workers in their supply chains were properly paid throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Environmental damage: As per Euronews.com’s post, Primark has pledged that all its clothes will be made from recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030, but currently only 25% meet these criteria. 

    However, critics contend that Primark’s focus on material sourcing doesn’t directly tackle the problem of overconsumption. Overconsumption, largely fueled by low pricing, is a fundamental issue of unsustainability. 

    They argue that without addressing the rate at which consumers are purchasing and discarding clothes, sustainability cannot be achieved, regardless of the materials used.

Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters is an American fast fashion brand that was founded in 1970 and is primarily known for its unique urban-style clothing offerings and eclectic, youth-oriented shopping experience. 

This brand essentially pioneered the idea of hip, city-centric fashion driven by music, art, and culture. It aims to offer an unconventional combination of styles — think boho, vintage, hipster and urban streetwear all under one roof. 

Urban Outfitters focuses on spotlighting up-and-coming designers and providing one-of-a-kind items you can’t find elsewhere.

Why It’s on the Avoid List

  • Ethical concerns: ClassAction.org reported on a class action case against Urban Outfitters. 

    The case claims the company broke a New York payment law by paying its manual workers semi-monthly instead of the required weekly basis, allegedly without proper authorization.
  • Imitation over innovation: According to a CBC article, an artist from Canada initially agreed to collaborate with Urban Outfitters on a collection. 

    However, she later felt deceived when the company created similar products without her involvement.
  • Lack of transparency: According to a Good on You article from September 2022, Urban Outfitters has made a somewhat unclear response to the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. 

    The company has outlined its labor policies, which include third-party audits and a commitment against child or slave labor. 

    However, the article points out that Urban Outfitters falls short in providing transparent evidence to support these claims, notably lacking details on audit frequency, supplier information, and measures ensuring a living wage or COVID-19 protections for workers.
A woman laying on top of a pile of clothes.

How To Spot a Fast Fashion Brand

It can be hard to spot fast fashion brands in the wide world of fashion. But don’t worry; we’re here to help simplify it for you. 

This part will show clear signs to help you spot which brands are fast fashion. Remember these signs to make smart fashion choices that match your beliefs.

  • Frequent new arrivals: Fast fashion clothing brands quickly churn out new styles, sometimes releasing new collections weekly or even more frequently. 
  • Low prices: Fast fashion thrives on producing clothing as cheaply as possible. Look at tag prices; if items seem unusually cheap for their quality, it’s a red flag.
  • Poor quality: To keep costs down, fast fashion often uses inferior materials. Warning signs include thin, see-through fabric, uneven stitching, and garments that skew toward polyester versus natural fibers. 
  • Overproduction: Fast fashion brands usually produce clothing on a large scale. If the brand has a vast amount of stock or sizes, it might be a fast fashion brand.
  • Imitation over innovation: Fast fashion thrives on replicating high-end fashion designs. If a brand often sells items that look surprisingly similar to designer pieces, it’s likely a fast fashion brand.
  • Excessive promos or sales: If a brand constantly has clearance or end-of-season promotions, it might be a fast fashion brand. They use this technique to clear out inventory for new collections.
  • Association with ethical concerns: The worst fast fashion brands often face criticism for their labor practices. 

    If you find negative reports about the brand’s working conditions or environmental impact, it’s likely a fast fashion brand.
  • Lack of transparency: Fast fashion brands often lack transparency about their supply chains. Also, if you check their website, you’ll see nothing but positive reviews!

    If it’s hard to find information about where and how their clothes are made or no constructive criticisms from unsatisfied customers, beware!
  • Contribution to environmental damage: Fast fashion brands promote immense waste and pollution through their rapid production model. 

    They utilize toxic chemicals, emit immense carbon, and generate huge volumes of discarded clothes that overwhelm landfills.
A pile of clothes in a room with pink walls.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are There Fast Fashion Brands That Are Worth Patronizing?

While some fast fashion brands are taking small steps toward more ethical operations, their core business model inherently leads to sustainability issues and worker exploitation. 

As such, no best fast fashion brands can be wholeheartedly recommended for conscientious consumers aiming to shop responsibly. 

The only way to effect real change is to reject the rapid, high-volume production model completely. 

Instead, buy less, support slow fashion focused on quality and ethics, and use your influence to push the entire fashion industry toward reform of its unsustainable practices.

Is Upcycling or Redesigning Clothes Sustainable?

Upcycling and redesigning clothes are more sustainable than buying new fast fashion, but they have limitations. 

While creative reuse extends the life cycle of existing materials, production is still required to make the original garments. 

Overall, upcycling is admirable but not a complete solution.

To make fashion truly sustainable, brands must fix production methods. And people must buy less.

Be Trendy With a Conscience!

Ditching fast fashion doesn’t mean sacrificing style. Plenty of conscious brands offer on-trend pieces sustainably. 

It just takes some savvy research to find fashion that aligns with your values. That way, you can stay hip and help our planet thrive!

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Author

  • Janille Gultiano

    Jan, a distinguished freelance makeup artist, also boasts a BA in Mass Communication, laying the foundation for her diverse talents. For over four years, she's carved a niche as a captivating content writer, with her articles resonating in various spheres. Beyond writing, her expertise extends to crafting robust Public Relations and Corporate Communications strategies. Each endeavor reflects Jan's unique blend of creativity and precision

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