Brand Research

6 Fast Fashion Brands I’m Avoiding

January 29, 2019

I took a poll last week on my Instagram stories about what my next post should be and the people have spoken! Today I’d like to share with you 6 fast fashion brands that I’ve personally committed to avoid moving forward. I tried to pick brands that are more everyday, that I and most people I know have frequently purchased from. There are a great many high fashion designers that I could add to this list but to be honest, they’re all out of my price range / lifestyle so it’s not personally relevant to me.

I used several different platforms to evaluate and to ultimately decide to avoid these brands:

Good On You was established by Ethical Consumers Australia and has over 2,000 brands they’ve rated since their first version of the app on 2015.  They used statements from independent sources and as well as brands themselves to rate them on a scale of 1 (We Avoid) to 5 (Great) for how their companies affect animals, environment and labor conditions for workers. This is probably my favorite platform to use when it comes to rating brands because with every brand you search, they provide ethical alternatives with similar clothing styles (and their corresponding websites) and you can save your favorite brands as you go. I have this app on my phone and I consult it constantly!

Fashion Revolution 2018 Transparency Index ranks 150 of the biggest global fashion “according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact”. Their main focus is transparency, and they rank each brand by policy & commitments, governance, traceability, know, show & fix and spotlight issues. They rating system is from 0 to 100% with 100% being the most ethical,  which shows the brackets of what each brand is rated. You can read more about their manifesto here.

Baptist World Aid 2018 Ethical Fashion Guide  grades the “measure of the efforts undertaken by each company to mitigate the risks of forced labour, child labour and worker exploitation in their supply chains”. Their rating scale is A to F, with higher grades are given to companies with labour rights management systems that should reduce exploitation. I gained access to this full report by “purchasing” for free the full report which was emailed to me, but you can still do a quick search on their website!

Ethical Consumer is a UK based database with nearly 20 years of work conducting primary and secondary research and systematically organizing it with their rating systems addressing 5 main areas: animals, environment, people, politics and sustainability. Brands are rated on a scale of 1 to 20, which 20 being the most ethical and recommended. The downsides to this rating systems is that you have to pay in order to access the full reports, and they provided the least amount of rated companies.

Not every brand was rated on every platform but I made sure to include all the information I was able to find on as many platforms as possible. I don’t have these in any particular order of worst to worstest (more worst? grammar?) so the order isn’t that important!


Good on You: 2 out of 5 Stars (Not Good Enough)
Fashion Revolution: 6%
Ethical Fashion Guide: D

This was my go-to store until honestly about two years ago. During my college years my clothing budget was non-existent so if I ever wanted to jazz my wardrobe up for less than the price of a trip to McDonald’s, I could always count on Forever21 for ‘deals’. It never occurred to me that the reason I could get a tank top for $3 was because it was produced through child labor and Los Angeles sweatshops with shady fabric sourcing and supply chain practices. I’ve bought countless items here because it’s the biggest and most convenient store at my local mall and I could find cheaply made blazers and cardigans for my forays into business casual. I’d been trying to move away from Forever21 because I’m about to be Forever28 and it just feels like it’s time, all the more now in light of it’s ratings.


Urban Outfitters
Good on You: 2 out of 5 Stars (Not Good Enough)
Fashion Revolution: 6%
Ethical Fashion Guide: D+

I only ever purchased a few things from Urban growing up because it was honestly out of my price range but I would have bought so much more if I could have. Most of the people I considered really cool and trendy at my college had pieces from Urban and I was forever sad that I never looked as cute. $45 dollars for a top seemed too much for me and it’s ironic that Urban (along with its sister companies Anthropologie and Free People) boasts nearly the same prices as many ethical brands I’ve encountered, yet lacks the transparency or accountability. There’s no evidence that it provides its workers a living wage and it’s unclear how often their supply chain is audited. As quoted from Good On You, “Despite the fact that their collections are often designed to appeal to open-minded and progressive young people, Urban Outfitters has a long way to go before it can be considered a sustainable and ethical brand”.



Victoria’s Secret
Good on You: 2 out of 5 Stars (Not Good Enough)
Fashion Revolution: 19%
Ethical Fashion Guide: D+

I have to be honest, this one probably hurts the most so far. I’ve been shopping here for years for reliable and sturdy bras and of course made a special trip right before my honeymoon (as one does). Victoria Secret is owned by the Limited Brands which contracts its work to sweatshops all over the globe (predominantly in Jordan) and also makes it very difficult to get information about their supply chains. Apparently there has been concern with their conduct and treatment of their workers for some years, as this Huffington Post article from 2007 details. I’m going to have to do some research when it comes time to replace my unmentionables, but I’m thankfully already primed to drop a substantial amount.



Good on You: 3 out of 5 Stars (It’s a Start)
Fashion Revolution: 55%
Ethical Fashion Guide: B+
Ethical Consumer: 7.5

H&M’s reviews have me a bit conflicted–Good on You and Ethical Consumer have them rated pretty low, but Fashion Revolution and Ethical Fashion Guide seem to project them as pretty reasonable all things considered. Here are my thoughts on this: if there’s a deep discrepancy between my platform ratings and ample articles available with a quick Google search detailing H&M sweatshops, unethical working conditions and below living working wages, I’m going to err on the side of caution and toss H&M out. It’s difficult enough to know for sure if a brand is truly ethical, so if there’s enough cause to doubt that’s enough for me.


J. Crew
Good on You: 2 out of 5 Stars (Not Good Enough)
Fashion Revolution: 13%

J.Crew is also a bit higher priced than I previously cared to spend but I used to walk past their stores with longing and try things on from time to time. I even visited the outlet with my now husband early on in our dating years because I was convinced it was a better and more responsible choice than Papaya for business casual. The ratings I discovered are actually pretty surprising to me because I know that J. Crew is a sister company of Madewell, which I’ve seen allllll over Instagram with ethical influencers and had me under the impression that it was an ethical brand? However according to Good on You, J. Crew “sources its final stage of production from countries with extreme risk of labour abuse”. They describe having robust and seemingly specific policies in place, but ultimately don’t share a complete lists of suppliers and there is no evidence they provide a living wage. No bueno, J. Crew. Out you go!

Good on You: 2 out of 5 Stars (Not Good Enough)
Fashion Revolution: 7%

I have shopped Express quite a bit over the years, and still have a few items in my closet from them–all on my journey to find my more mature and professional looking wardrobe. Express gave me dress slacks and button ups and cardigans and my most expensive pair of jeans came from here. It was only rated by Good on You and Fashion Revolution but the findings were pretty consistent. According to Good on You, Express “sources from countries with high or extreme risk of labor abuse”, pays a legal but not living wage and does not share a complete list of all its suppliers. This is pretty disappointing for me personally but I can’t in good conscience support a company that scores a 7% out of a 100% on the ethical fashion scale.

I really debated on how I wanted to format this post, and even though there are many more brands that I’m giving up (honestly, I might just shop secondhand the rest of the year) but I didn’t want to just throw together a list of no-no brands and just post it haphazardly. I wanted to have some thought, research, and sources behind my post before I put it out there.

Part of me is nervous to post this as well because I don’t want people to think that I have a superiority complex or that I’m judging them every time they tell me they bought something on sale at Target, because I truly am not! I’m still so new to this whole ethical fashion thing and am open to the idea that I might have to correct myself or try something different. This is just where I am right now. I hope that if you are interested in making some personal changes in your life as a consumer to move towards more ethical shopping habits by skipping a few big brands that this was helpful for you!

If there are more brands you’d like me share about specifically or if you’d like me to simply do a basic bullet point list of more brands to avoid, let me know in the comments!


  • Reply
    January 29, 2019 at 6:07 am

    Wow, you outdid yourself, girl! This is amazing information, right here! 😲

    I pretty much live in workout attire that I buy off clearance racks most of the time! I’d be interested to know if there are any ethical fitness fashion brands out there (AND if there are any fitness brands I may want to avoid in the future!) 😱

    I’m so proud of you for putting this out there! It was truly eye-opening. Keep on keeping on, ma’am! ❤️

    • Reply
      February 1, 2019 at 3:57 pm

      Thank you so much!

      I was actually thinking of eventually doing a athletic / fitness brand specific blog for all my fit friend who want to shop ethically!! Gotta go back to my research and see what I can dig up!

      • Reply
        February 2, 2019 at 4:56 am

        That sounds amazing!!! Do it, girl!!! I’ll be waiting!!! 💪😁✔️

  • Reply
    February 1, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    J. Crew surprised me! So sad to mark another fun brand off the list of places to shop.

    • Reply
      February 1, 2019 at 3:56 pm

      I know! It’s so hard because I feel like many companies are marketing themselves as being ethical / conscious when they really have only scratched the surface of the issue. 😩

  • Reply
    Mark Rothko
    March 24, 2019 at 11:05 pm

    wow…really your fashion is very nice .i like your fashion ..

  • Reply
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    NeP-C Ledesma
    May 24, 2019 at 1:44 am

    OMG Thank you for the info! I didn’t know that Victoria’s Secret was included in the list! 🙁

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