14 min read

29 Fast Fashion Brands to Avoid in 2023

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At this point, it’s well established that the fast fashion business is in direct competition with the goal of making the world a more sustainable, equitable, and habitable place for all. 

By definition, fast fashion brands cut corners for speed, lower costs, and turnover. 

This business model perpetuates a global race to the bottom. It’s about who can make clothes the cheapest and fastest, all while getting consumers (us) to buy the most. 

The planet loses, workers lose, we all lose. 

Avoid these brands like the plague they are! They are willing to sacrifice the health of the planet and the safety of the people who work for them. 

We have to say that’s not okay. One way to do so is not to buy their clothes. Don’t participate. Boycott. 

I wrote this post to help us all take that action. I’ll provide a list of brands to avoid and at the end share briefly how to identify a fast fashion brand.

And, if you’d like to dive deep into the future of a more just and sustainable fashion industry, consider checking out my series of interviews with industry leaders here: The Impact of Fashion.


Fast Fashion Brands to Avoid

Here’s a brief list that contains some of the most popular fashion brands out there. Under each listed brand, you’ll see a referenced “Fashion Transparency Index Score.” This measures the brand’s transparency within their supply chain and overall impact out of 100. More on that score and the organization behind it, Fashion Revolution, down below.

1. Zara 

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Let’s start with one of the leading brands in the fast fashion industry.

Zara is one of the brands responsible for establishing the concept of fast fashion back in the early 90s when the Spanish brand opened up in New York.

The brand is known for manufacturing and distributing tons of items per year, with some estimates going as high as 450 million items annually, with hundreds of new designs every week.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 50


2. H&M

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H&M is one of the world’s most recognizable fast fashion brands, and it comes second only to Zara in terms of revenue, sales, and global market share.

Besides accounting for tons of textile waste in landfills, H&M is notorious for poor worker conditions. The company made and then failed to meet a promise to improve workers’ wages back in 2019. 

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 71


3. Forever 21

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Forever 21 is another major brand in the fast fashion sector known for its incredibly cheap prices. 

Working conditions in Forever 21 manufacturing facilities are terrible, and the Los Angeles Times reported that the company’s workers are grossly underpaid and worked to the bone. 

The reporting explained, “workers were paid as little as $4 and an average of $7 an hour for 10-hour days spent sewing clothes for Forever 21, Ross Dress for Less, and TJ Maxx” in factories outside downtown Los Angeles. 

Fashion Transparency Index Score: N/A


4. Primark

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The Irish multinational retailer is one of the best-selling brands in Europe. 

The Guardian released a report about “The Hidden Face of Primark,” which uncovered that the company relies on child labor in an Indian refugee camp to keep its prices low.

Primark was also one of the brands connected to the Rana Plaza Collapse, the deadliest garment factory disaster in history. 

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 15


5. Topshop

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Top Shop is a UK-based fast fashion retailer with over 500 stores worldwide. However, the brand has established a bad reputation regarding ethics.

For instance, workers at TopShop are heavily underpaid and work under highly stressful conditions, according to a report by The Guardian.

The company’s head “Philip Green” was accused of stealing over £517 million of employees’ pension funds.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 15


6. ASOS

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The British online fast fashion retailer has seen a fair share of backlash.

The company has been criticized for its environmental and ethical practices and accused of knowingly using cheap, disposable materials.

Additionally, a report by Forbes shows that its suppliers are linked to egregious working conditions and child labor. 

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 50


7. Mango

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Mango is a Spanish fast fashion mammoth, achieving profits of billions of dollars in the last few years. 

A Business and Human Rights Center report revealed Mango’s garment worker rights violations in Myanmar, including denial of leaves, forced overtime, poor wages, and backbreaking near-unachievable productivity targets.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 54


8. Uniqlo 

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Uniqlo is one of the largest fast-fashion retailers in Japan and is owned by Fast Retailing Co., which is among the biggest names in the industry besides Zara and H&M.

Although the company released multiple statements about its commitment to sustainability and ethical work conditions, it recently faced inquiries over its suspected ties to exploiting Uyghurs in Xinjiang and forced labor in China.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 42


9. Boohoo

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Boohoo Group is another online giant that hails from the United Kingdom. The company released a statement about “modern slavery” and its measures to avoid such a problem within its facilities and affiliated organizations.

However, a recent Business and Human Rights report shows that the company is liable for human rights violations according to United Nations guidelines. 

Unfortunately too common a thing to see—the brand will tell you one thing, and reality says another. 

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 18


10. Missguided

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Misguided has seen rapid growth since its establishment in the United Kingdom in 2009. 

The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) suspended the company in June 2022 amid allegations of sacking hundreds of underpaid workers in Pakistan without pay.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: N/A


11. Shein

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Despite its headquarters in Singapore, Shein is one of the most popular Chinese fast fashion retailers globally. The company is considered an “ultra-fast fashion” retailer compared to some names on the list.

The brand is known for its meteoric rise in the last few years, offering thousands of new models every month at exceedingly low prices. 

Public Eye and Business Human Rights reports reveal evidence of forced labor, poor health and safety in manufacturing facilities, and much more.

Recently, Shein has been accused of copying independent designers’ work

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 0


12. Fashion Nova

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Fashion Nova is a relatively new fashion brand that has only existed since 2006. 

Reports by Business Human Rights show that workers are paid below minimum wages and work long hours to meet the rapid turnaround demands. 

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 0


13. PrettyLittleThing

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PrettyLittleThing is a UK-based retailer that specializes in women’s fast fashion. 

A 2022 report by LSU Media shows that some of the materials used in its products are carcinogenic and cause birth defects.

Additionally, PrettyLittleThing is actually a part of Boohoo Group. This might explain why the two companies abide by similar levels of ethics. 

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 18


14. Urban Outfitters

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Urban Outfitters has a long history of “borrowing” ideas from independent artists and cultural appropriation without giving any credit. 

This has led to several scandals, and the company has been accused of illegal copyright infringement on multiple occasions.

Additionally, Urban Outfitters was accused by a few independent reports that the company relies on unethical suppliers with sweatshop-like working conditions.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 0


15. GAP

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The American fast fashion giant has been around for decades, but its practices are anything but timeless. 

GAP’s clothes are often made from cheap, disposable materials that pile in landfills, polluting the environment, according to a report by iNews.

Additionally, the company’s overseas suppliers have faced multiple labor abuse allegations over the years, such as low wages and poor working conditions. 

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 36


16. Old Navy

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Old Navy is a fast fashion brand known for its cheap prices and trendy styles. 

According to a report by HuffPost, the company has been accused of relying on suppliers with known child labor problems, although Old Navy’s parent company still denies these allegations.

There’s also a petition on Change.org that specifically calls for reconsidering the company’s business practices and labor and sustainability issues.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 36


17. Charlotte Russe

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Charlotte Russe is another example of a fast fashion retailer with shallow transparency, as the company avoids revealing any information about its workers’ conditions or sustainability efforts.

The company is rated poorly by many sustainability indices out there, and according to a report by The Center for Environmental Health, some of the company’s products contain illegal levels of neurotoxins and lead.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: N/A


18. Wet Seal

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Wet Seal has headlined the news in the last few years for poor wage allegations, according to LA Times, and much more. 

The company faced lawsuits for racial discrimination and unexpected laid offs against its employees, settling for around $7.5 million in 2013.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: N/A


19. Aeropostale

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Aeropostale is an American fast fashion retailer specializing in teenager apparel and accessories. 

The company built its business off sweatshop labor, as their clothes are often made in factories where child labor is quite common; this includes facilities in Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

The company refuses to provide any evidence that they’re not affiliated with these manufacturing plants to this day and has dismissed accusations of child labor in affiliated cotton farms in Uzbekistan since 2011.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 0


20. Abercrombie & Fitch

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Abercrombie & Fitch has been called out multiple times for the company’s environmental and ethical faux pas. These include discrimination against certain body types, poor environmental practices, and even sexual harassment in the workplace.

Additionally, Abercrombie & Fitch has come under fire for its unethical organizational practices of discrimination, which led to multiple lawsuits over the years.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 52


21. American Eagle

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American Eagle Outfitters set up shop in the 1970s during the boom of the fast fashion industry. 

Besides receiving a Fashion Transparency Index Score of just 1, a report by AlJazeera found American Eagle Jeans among the brands that used sandblasting while making their jeans, which is a dangerous technique that causes health issues like silicosis.

Additionally, a report by Global Labor Justice shows that the company’s workers face terrible work conditions, and many were fired when they tried to unionize and ask for their earned rights.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 1


22. Hollister

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Hollister Co. is a brand owned by Abercrombie & Fitch, and despite being somewhat independent, the company’s ethical and sustainability record is still relatively poor.

Hollister markets itself as an ethical brand, but its manufacturing practices tell a different story, as it is among 27 companies accused of breaking child labor laws

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 52


23. Cotton On

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Cotton On is an Australia-based retailer with over 1,500 stores worldwide that specializes in fashion and lifestyle.

A recent report by News24 shows that the brand illegally underpays its employees and overworks them for long hours without proper compensation.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 22


24. Pull & Bear

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Pull & Bear is another fast fashion giant with many styles and items produced weekly. The brand is owned by Inditex, the same company holding other major fast fashion brands like Zara.

Pull & Bear’s parent company has faced multiple allegations of employment abuses in the supply chain, according to The Guardian, including a famous case in 2015 in Brazil.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 11


25. Bershka

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Bershka is another popular company that is owned by Zara’s Inditex, and it was also mentioned in The Guardian’s report of the company’s employment abuse allegations in 2015.

Another report by Prezi shows that the cotton Bershka uses to make its garments are collected by children who are put under highly abusive conditions.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 11


26. Romwe

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Romwe is an up-and-coming brand that specializes in creating teen apparel and accessories. 

The brand has been owned by Shein since 2014. According to a report by Curiosity Shots, Romwe has been accused of labor abuse and child labor over the years, and the company refused to comment about them.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 0


27. Nasty Gal

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Another brand that you should avoid for a variety of reasons is Nasty Gal. For starters, the company is owned by Boohoo Group. 

If that’s not enough for you, you should also know that the company’s employees frequently complain about the company’s toxic and inferior work environment

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 0


28. Miss Selfridge

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Miss Selfridge is another relatively small fashion brand that started as a high-street store chain but then switched to fast fashion to expand its market.

The store is owned by Philip Green, the owner of major fast fashion brands like Topshop, so it’s no wonder that Miss Selfridge is also adopting the same business model. 

In fact, a recent report shows that the brand uses extremely poor quality materials that don’t last, which is a major reason why Miss Selfridge is continuously shrinking.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: N/A


29. New Look

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Lastly, New Look is another British fast fashion brand that relies heavily on poor-quality materials and cheap labor to mass produce tons of new styles and items weekly.

New Look is one of the brands named in a report by The Guardian, which revealed companies that use child labor, forced overtime, and other poor and unsafe work conditions to keep their prices low.

According to the report, the high street brand pays the workers in Myanmar factories as little as 13p an hour, half the legal living wage.

Fashion Transparency Index Score: 43


How to Identify a Fast Fashion Brand

Before diving into our list, let’s start by looking at the signs and methods you can use to identify a fast fashion brand.

Cheap Prices 

It’s common for fast fashion brands to sell their clothes at meager prices. While I’ve previously written that “affordability” is one way I assess a product’s sustainability, there’s a limit. 

Low costs can come at a price. 

For the fast fashion brand, this might mean cheap, low-quality non-organic materials and low wages for workers. 

Low-Quality Materials

Fast fashion brands often use synthetic materials, such as polyester and other plastic-based materials, because they are cheap and easy to produce. 

Besides not being as durable as natural fibers (like cotton, linen, or now hemp), plastic-based fabrics leach microplastics into waterways, soils, and just about everything else. 

Vague or Poor Working Conditions

Take a minute to investigate a brand’s working conditions. If they don’t clearly describe where their products are made and don’t publicize their supply chain, it’s best to assume that there is something they don’t know or don’t want consumers to understand. 

Globalized supply chains are highly complex and challenging to track. However, that’s not an excuse for the brand; their supply chain is their responsibility. 

Unfortunately, we must be very skeptical if a brand doesn’t tell us where their products are made and by whom. 

Favoring Trends Over Timelessness

Fast Fashion brands are constantly releasing new styles (or other designer’s styles!). Remember, getting products from design to shelf that fast inevitably comes at a cost. 

It’s worth considering whether the brand you’re shopping from seems to have its own style or just releases its line to capitalize on trends. 

Lack of Transparency 

Again, transparency (or the lack of it) is a major giveaway. If a brand can’t or won’t tell you how their clothes are made, do not give them the benefit of the doubt. 

The major fast fashion brand retailer hopes that you don’t ask those questions or you don’t care! 

Lacking transparency in fashion is rampant. This issue is at the core of why organizations like Fashion Revolution exist. 

In their recently released Fashion Transparency Index, where Fashion Revolution surveys 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands, they reported “nearly half (45%) of brands telling us little to nothing” about their supply chains. 

That’s 1 out of 2. We must be aware of that; demand for complete transparency becomes the minimum bar to be in business, and we refuse to purchase from brands that won’t disclose. 

As co-founder of Fashion Revolution Orsola de Castro explained, “A closed-door mentality leads to rife environmental and human abuses.” 

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Brands might claim particular sustainability practices or high levels of labor ethics; however, those claims aren’t worth anything without the documentation to prove it. Greenwashing or woke-washing (making false or misleading claims about sustainability/ethics) is common among fast fashion brands.

*You’ll see that along with each brand listed, we include their listed “Fashion Transparency Index Score.” To be clear, this isn’t a score assessing the brand’s sustainability; this is a score assessing the extent to which the brand is willing to share anything about their operation. 

Please refer to the Fashion Transparency Index for more detail. 

To better understand the mentality and strategy of the fast fashion industry, I suggest going back to the beginning with our article: The History of Fast Fashion.


Fashion Transparency Index

This sort of post wouldn’t be possible without the incredible work of organizations like Fashion Revolution

Please consider reading their latest Fashion Transparency Index, which we referenced many times for this article. 

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Source: Fashion Revolution

I had the pleasure of speaking with one of Fashion Revolution’s co-founders, Orsola de Castro, on the importance of transparency in fashion. 

Listen to that interview here. Also, consider picking up her book, Loved Clothes Last: How the Joy of Rewearing and Repairing Your Clothes Can Be a Revolutionary ACT.


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Cory Ames

Co-Founder& CEO, Grow Ensemble

I’m Cory Ames. I’m a writer, podcaster, social entrepreneur, and the Founder of Grow Ensemble.


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