The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid Image by Shein #fastfashionbrandstoavoid #listoffastfashionbrandstoavoid #worstfastfashionbrands #worstclothingbrands #fastfashiontoavoid #sustainablejungle
Image by Shein
The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid Image by Zara #fastfashionbrandstoavoid #listoffastfashionbrandstoavoid #worstfastfashionbrands #worstclothingbrands #fastfashiontoavoid #sustainablejungle
Image by Zara

The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid

Molly Willows

Fast fashion facts are: this perilous fashion system churning out polyester pants from design to doorstep in just half a week for pocket-change prices has to stop.

Sadly, it’s not new news that someone, somewhere, pays the true cost of fast fashion; then there is the environmental destruction that comes with mass produced toxic plastic garb.

So, what are the worst fast fashion brands to avoid?

We’ve gathered the major fast fashion companies to avoid; you know, those top offenders that come with as much scandal and strife as they do stylish streetwear for a steal.

The Full List Of Fast Fashion Brands to Avoid

1. Shein

The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid Images by Sustainable Jungle and Shein #fastfashionbrandstoavoid #listoffastfashionbrandstoavoid #worstfastfashionbrands #worstclothingbrands #fastfashiontoavoid #sustainablejungle
Images by Sustainable Jungle and Shein

About Shein 

There’s nothing shiny about Shein.

Ultra-fast fashion’s notorious number one offender of the most unethical and unsustainable fashion practices today means they’re one of the most problematic fashion brands of the modern era.

With over 10,000 new styles dropped daily, their plastic pillaging releases as much CO2 as 180 coal-burning power plants and their hyperspeed production moves clothes from idea to your doorstep in as little as THREE days. 

In a few years, Shein went from an unknown low-cost Chinese wedding and womenswear marketplace to a fashion titan with a net worth of $100 billion dollars and over 150 million buyers, especially among the Gen Z social media set. 

Shein’s Unethical & Unsustainable Practices


Almost 70% of Shein’s apparel is made of fossil fuel-based virgin polyester—not to mention the issue of their cotton, which allegedly comes from Uyghur forced labor in China.

While a recent Sustainability Report committed the brand to traceable cotton, man made cellulosics, and recycled materials, Shein has yet to clarify how they’ll achieve this or track progress.

Supply Chain & Labor Practices: 

With their spun-out web of thousands of informal Chinese factories, Shein is infamous for its exploitative labor and alleged slave labor, although the brand is supposedly trying to clean the skeletons from its closet.

Despite repeated abuses, shifty apologies, and no remediation, they’ve introduced a Supplier Code of Conduct, Responsible Sourcing Program, Chemical and Product Safety Code, and thousands of factory audits—which found 80% of their supply chain requires immediate action, with no evidence of subsequent improvement. 

Unsustainable Practices: 

The extraordinarily un-green Shein promotes virgin plastic packaging, speedy worldwide shipping, toxic clothes rejected by Canada’s health ministry, over a million fashion styles launched annually, zero circularity or textile waste initiatives, and minimal tracking of their total carbon and water footprint. 

The brand admitted their 2022 carbon emissions increased by a whopping 52%, cementing them as one of the worst fast fashion brands for the environment.


From November 2021 to October 2022, three reputable journalistic exposés— here, here, and here—disguised themselves as workers to reveal just how deplorable Shein factory supplier conditions are.

While design theft is sadly nothing new for fast fashion, Shein takes it to the next degree, with an ongoing lawsuit to prove they created an algorithm to systematically steal designs, with the case accusing them of organized crime to steal designs. 

2. Zara

The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid Images by Zara #fastfashionbrandstoavoid #listoffastfashionbrandstoavoid #worstfastfashionbrands #worstclothingbrands #fastfashiontoavoid #sustainablejungle
Images by Zara

About Zara 

Zara is one of the most notorious fast fashion companies to avoid, because they helped stitch together the ugly hallmarks of the fast fashion system. The term “fast fashion” was actually coined to describe the way this specific brand could take clothing from design room to storefront in under two weeks and sell it for affordable prices.

Their parent company is the sixth largest fashion company worldwide, and in 2022 Zara grew by another 23% to see sales surpass $35 billion dollars. 

For many, Zara is a global icon of runway fashion turned affordable affluence, with the likes of Kate Middleton and Selena Gomez dressed in their sophisticated-looking clothing. 

Zara’s Unethical & Unsustainable Practices


Zara pledged that by 2020 all hazardous chemicals would be gone from their clothing. Evidence this has been met does not exist.

In 2016, they launched their sustainable line “Join Life,” and in 2019, announced by 2025 all products would be included. Currently the eco-line represents just 5% of their total merch and traceable progress is unavailable.

They also use wool, down, leather, and exotic animal materials without tracing their sources.

Supply Chain & Labor Practices:

Zara does not provide a living wage or safe working conditions to garment workers, with a number of scandals emerging over the years where their supply chains are located, including Brazil, China, and Turkey. 

Although parent company Inditex provides a Code of Conduct for Manufacturers and Suppliers that clearly outlines no child or forced labor, fair wages, and safe working conditions, Zara’s utter lack of global supplier disclosure and transparency leaves us to assume they’re “skirting” it. 

Unsustainable Practices: 

Zara has lofty sustainability goals—like 100% renewable energy by 2022, zero single-use plastic by 2023, 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025, and zero net emissions by 2040—that lack a proper action plan or traceable targets. Hello, greenwashing

Zara’s ‘Closing the Loop’ pre-owned platform is a mere drop in the bucket of their total textile waste from churning out 450–800 million units of clothes every year.


#BoycottZara recently became mainstream, alongside global protests and discussions around fashion, ethics, activism, and genocide, with Zara accused of mocking the crisis in Palestine via a disturbing ad campaign. 

Zara was also a part of the largest wage theft in history, which occurred during COVID when supply chains halted and brands refused to pay factories for already-made items.

The Brazil labor ministry found slave-like conditions and underage garment workers it had to “rescue” in Zara’s Sao Paulo factories—after which Zara continued to behave unethically, plus reputable fashion advocacy sources say Zara continues to use Uyghur slave labor.

3. Temu

The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid Images by Temu #fastfashionbrandstoavoid #listoffastfashionbrandstoavoid #worstfastfashionbrands #worstclothingbrands #fastfashiontoavoid #sustainablejungle
Images by Temu

About Temu 

With gamified shopping and outrageously low prices on virgin plastic clothes, toys, craft supplies, home decor, electronics, and SO much more, Temu has quickly emerged as the biggest competitor for ultra-fast fashion powerhouses like Shein.

Temu claims to cut costs by reducing middlemen and offering products directly from factory to consumer—thereby erasing any broker, wholesaler, distributor, or retailer overhead costs. Their profit is earned via commissions on visitor traffic, which is then charged to factory suppliers. 

Since Temu is a privately-held company, the public is provided zero data about business practices OR ethics. 

Temu’s Unethical & Unsustainable Practices


Temu sells huge volumes of cheaply-made electronics, plastic knick-knacks, and clothes made from microplastic shedding synthetic fabrics—all individually wrapped in plastic (sometimes multiple times). Sustainable items comprise less than 1% of their total product offerings. 

Supply Chain & Labor Practices: 

When a brand is as transparent as a brick wall, it’s hard to gauge their ethics, but given Temu’s parent company was recently accused of forcing employees to do intensive overtime that led to employee deaths, we can only assume abysmal factory conditions.

US lawmakers also warned consumers of the likelihood that some goods offered on the Temu app are produced from Uyghur forced labor in China. 

Unsustainable Practices: 

Despite proof that they do, in fact, plant a tree for every order, it’s customers who pay for it at the checkout, not Temu donating a portion of their profits to sustainability initiatives.

The pervasively plastic brand provides absolutely no mention of any carbon cutting, offsetting initiatives, resource saving manufacturing practices, or restriction of hazardous materials.


Thanks to de minimis provisions, items under $800 in value imported to the United States are not subject to inspections or tariffs. This means hazardous ingredients easily sneak past borders in the 600,000 Temu packages sent to the US every day.

Ironically, the design thieves at Shein are currently suing Temu for intellectual-property issues. Temu has since fired back with a lawsuit that alleges Shein leverages their market dominance to compel exclusive agreements with apparel manufacturers, violating US antitrust laws with “mafia-style” intimidation. 

4. Primark

The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid Images by Ronak Valobobhai #fastfashionbrandstoavoid #listoffastfashionbrandstoavoid #worstfastfashionbrands #worstclothingbrands #fastfashiontoavoid #sustainablejungle
Images by Ronak Valobobhai

About Primark

With NO online sales and a $9.5 billion dollar annual revenue, Irish-born Primark remains an uncanny unicorn of the otherwise dwindling brick-and-mortar fashion world.

With 400+ stores in over fifteen countries, Primark is one of the world’s most popular shopping destinations thanks to its massive inventory, bargain basement prices, epic sales, and relentless turnover—making them the very epitome of fast fashion to avoid.

Recently, Primark unveiled ambitious “commitments” to give clothes a longer life, protect life on the planet, and improve people’s lives; however, they continue to operate under an inherently catastrophic business model to people and the planet alike.

Nevermind their think tanks on environmentalism and consortiums on workers rights; how about ending virgin plastic production and paying workers a living wage? 

Primark’s Unethical & Unsustainable Practices


55% of all Primark clothes contain recycled or more sustainably sourced materials—but with no bare minimum, many items feature a dismal fraction of sustainable fibers. Their Primark Cares sustainable label is set to expand to 100% of their range by 2030, but without a roadmap to get there, we’re doubtful.

We also have no idea what they do with textile waste or deadstock, although they’ve launched repair workshops and recycling boxes across the UK and Europe. In 2023, they launched a circular product capsule collection that represented a scant total percentage of their entire range. 

Supply Chain & Labor Practices:

Primark publishes all Tier 1 factories and performs unannounced audits regularly via SA8000, but tier 2 and 3 supplies remain unaccounted for. 

While they’re members of Ethical Trading Initiative, signatory to the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, and advocates of the Cotton Pledge, Primark labor scandals are recurrent.

They also use leather and wool without ethical sourcing practices or being traceable to the first stage suppliers, in spite of being Leather Working Group members.

Unsustainable Practices:

Primark has published two annual reports to share ethical and sustainable (but undated) targets and progress. But without receipts that they’re meeting targets or minimizing textile waste—for example, through their recent clothing recycling program—we have no idea if Primark really is mitigating its eco impact. 

Although they help suppliers to reduce chemical use and invest in cleaner power, Primark’s scope 3 emissions have increased by 10% in the last three years, and they’ve yet to disclose their total GHG emissions or energy demand.


Primark was one of the main labels being sewn in the Rana Plaza garment factory at the time of its collapse in 2013. They’ve also been busted for child labor, illegal immigrant labor, pandemic era wage theft, and SOS notes (and a human bone!) found in garments.

Most recently, they were sued in the Netherlands for blatant greenwashing and misleading environmental claims in advertising materials. 

5. H&M

The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid Images by Cassandra Hamer and Meghna R #fastfashionbrandstoavoid #listoffastfashionbrandstoavoid #worstfastfashionbrands #worstclothingbrands #fastfashiontoavoid #sustainablejungle
Images by Cassandra Hamer and Meghna R

About H&M 

Swedish brand H&M is another one of the major fast fashion stores to avoid. 

Despite pouring over $100 million into sustainability (marketing?) efforts, it’s more likely a “trend” the brand chases over meaningful environmental endeavors.

Their website regularly sells well over 7,000 trendy items for men, women, children, beauty care, and home, and the brand operates in a whopping 75 different countries with over 4,500 stores and 100,000 employees, raking in $22.6 billion in revenue in 2023.

With a checkered past of controversies, questionable ethics, minimal sustainable materials, and microtrend business model, H&M is the antithesis of people and planet respecting slow fashion brands, in spite of greenwashing attempts. 

H&M’s Unethical & Unsustainable Practices


The brand claims that 100% of its fibers will be recycled or sustainably sourced by 2030 and 30% recycled by the end of 2025—yet the majority still feature conventional cotton, rayon, polyamide, wool, leather, and polyester or other virgin plastic materials. 

Supply Chain & Labor Practices: 

The Rana Plaza disaster (H&M was being sewn there, too), a Cambodian factory collapse, workers fainting at factories frequently, Chinese forced labor, and Burmese child labor are all examples of labor disasters H&M is responsible for during the last ten-plus years.

Today, they’re trying to clean up their supply chains and joined the Fair Labour Association (FLA) and to ensure fair wages by the year 2030. Which begs the question—with billions of annual profits, why not NOW? Or yesterday? Or last year? Or a decade ago…? 

In fact, by 2018 they promised to pay 850,000 workers a living wage, which they failed to uphold. 

Unsustainable Practices: 

While the H&M Foundation has existed for over a decade to support initiatives that address humanitarian and environmental challenges in the fashion sector, these are minor initiatives that bring about minimal positive change. 

The brand has previously been busted for a very unsavory practice of “damaging out” merchandise, which avoids inventory tax and stops devaluing of brand image, when that deadstock clothing should be donated or recycled. 

Despite a science-based target to reduce full-scope greenhouse gas emissions, H&M provides zero evidence it’s on track to meet the target.


From racist merch to greenwashing busts to female garment worker abuse, a Cambodian factory collapse, slave cotton, a China-wide brand boycott, and ads that overtly sexualize kids, H&M has had its fair share of controversies unworthy of our respect or our hard-earned dollars.

6. Free People

The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid Images by Free People #fastfashionbrandstoavoid #listoffastfashionbrandstoavoid #worstfastfashionbrands #worstclothingbrands #fastfashiontoavoid #sustainablejungle
Images by Free People

About Free People 

Although Free People clothing is intricately designed and sold for premium prices, the brand remains one of the worst fast fashion companies.

Operating as a label and a store in over 1400 locations globally under the retail powerhouse URBN, its sister brands include heavyweights Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. 

With its history rooted in counterculture and its more recent “sustainable” Care FP line, the reality is that Free People is anything but Earth or people friendly.

Free People’s Unethical & Unsustainable Practices


Most of their 3000 items sold (especially their Movement yoga line) are still made from virgin nylon and polyester, although Free People wants us to think they care about the planet via their limited, untraceable, and uncertified Care FP label. 

Their website greenwashes by allowing shoppers to search by ‘artisanally made’, ‘responsible materials’, ‘reusable products’, and ‘vintage clothing and accessories,’ which are all a tiny fraction of their inventory. 

Supply Chain & Labor Practices: 

Free People has a tangled web of factories across 22 countries, but does not publish audits or factory names. 

They also make absurd claims like a promise to save ALL shelter animals from slaughter in the US, or that a collection like their Bali Collection, which sells for upwards of $200 for a garment, somehow ISN’T total exploitation and appropriation. 

Unsustainable Practices: 

Free People provides no evidence that they use renewable energy, prevent deforestation, reduce hazardous chemicals, minimize synthetic production from petroleum, or lower their water usage across their sprawling global supply chain.

Although they splash “circularity” across website marketing, they still produce THAT much virgin plastic clothing, for which any carbon offsetting would be futile. 


From Rana Plaza to wage theft to sweatshop factories in LA to alleged child labor, Free People ironically doesn’t seem to support free people.

Additionally, they’ve had a number of controversies around racial profiling for which celebrities even spoke out against the brand, along with a number of culturally appropriated and highly insensitive items sold like fake dreadlocks and Native American headdresses sold for outrageously high prices.

7. Urban Outfitters

The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid Images by Urban Outfitters #fastfashionbrandstoavoid #listoffastfashionbrandstoavoid #worstfastfashionbrands #worstclothingbrands #fastfashiontoavoid #sustainablejungle
Images by Urban Outfitters

About Urban Outfitters 

For thirty-plus years, Free People’s sister brand Urban Outfitters has been an iconic American purveyor of “cool” by setting trends, pushing boundaries, and selling hipster wares to the 16-to-25 crowd.

Although their premium prices match those of ethical fashion brands, their staggering list of eco no-no’s and ethical controversies tops the list of clothing brands to avoid

While the brand recently started publishing annual impact reports, UO is simply not doing enough to become more transparent, reduce their carbon footprint, ensure fair and safe working conditions, or minimize textile, chemical, and water waste—especially given their 600+ stores raking in $5 billion in profit per year.

Urban Outfitters’ Unethical & Unsustainable Practices


UO admits that only 10% of their direct-sourced raw materials are responsibly sourced, but even then, they provide no evidence to back it up.

Their BDG jeans line is now vaguely more ‘sustainably made’, and their new KOTO line claims to use recycled cotton, recycled polyester, and responsibly sourced US cotton—but without certifications or transparency we can’t confirm the validity of these claims.

One cool thing the brand has done is push upcycling since before it became trendy with their Urban Renewal line. 

Supply Chain & Labor Practices: 

Despite a long list of labor scandals, they don’t publish where their clothing is made, nor does parent company URBN’s Impact Report, despite claims of “improving supply chain transparency” and auditing factories.

Unsustainable Practices: 

The brand is guilty of hardcore marketing greenwashing to mask the environmental abuses associated with the mass production of mostly polyester and conventional cotton clothes.

Although UO uses some renewable energy in their direct operations, no meaningful action is being taken to mitigate or eliminate hazardous chemicals, water pollution, or GHG emissions. In their 2021-2022 Impact Report, they vaguely promise to set science-based targets (nevermind meeting them!) by 2025. 


UO arguably encourages scandals as if “no press is bad press”. They’re guilty of or implicated in the Rana Plaza disaster, COVID wage theft, Californian sweatshop labor, alleged child labor, racial profiling in stores, dangerously toxic jewelry, damaging-out unsold products, and ongoing design theft. 


The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid Images by ASOS #fastfashionbrandstoavoid #listoffastfashionbrandstoavoid #worstfastfashionbrands #worstclothingbrands #fastfashiontoavoid #sustainablejungle
Images by ASOS

About ASOS

ASOS: more like an SOS on the dangers of fast fashion.

The British online marketplace lures a whopping 26 million shoppers yearly (mainly Gen Z-ers,) thanks to their relentless online marketing and constantly rotating selection of 85,000 products, which includes 5,000 weekly added shoes, cosmetics, dresses, and more.

With over 850 brands available plus their own clothing brands sold, ASOS knows it has a responsibility to people and the planet, which is why they launched their Fashion With Integrity strategy—though it has yet to live up to its commitments.

ASOS’ Unethical & Unsustainable Practices


Their Responsible Edit collection was pulled in 2022 for greenwashing, which indicates that even their lower-impact selections are dubious at best–especially with no proof ASOS minimizes textile waste during manufacturing, or reduces chemical use.

While they have a circular collection made of repurposed materials, it comprises just 1% of their marketplace.

Supply Chain & Labor Practices:

A Buzzfeed investigation found poor working conditions like below-living wages, docked pay for arriving late, surveillance monitoring, and wrongful terminations, followed by a BBC investigation on exploitation of temporary workers AND child labor. 

If that’s not bad enough, 45 separate ambulance callouts to their UK warehouse near Grimethorpe in 2019 led to accusations of ASOS running ‘satanic mills’.

They’ve now signed the Global Framework Agreement to strengthen labor standards across their global supply chains, working towards 100% of ASOS brand products’ supply chains being fully traced across all tiers. Now for living wages, please. 

Unsustainable Practices:

ASOS does publish yearly impact reports to track their progress and provide some transparency. 

They’ve to be net zero and to have more product circularity by 2030, but that seems ambitious given the current reality. They also plan to reduce Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 87% (2018 baseline), reduce transportation emissions by 58%, and ensure ASOS brand items are made with sustainable and recycled materials and packaging. 


Cultural appropriation, fat shaming, quality control issues, and false marketing are some of their lesser controversies; their larger ones being child labor and ‘satanic mills’… yikes. 

9. Cider

The Cheap & Dirty: 9 Fast Fashion Brands To Avoid Images by Cider #fastfashionbrandstoavoid #listoffastfashionbrandstoavoid #worstfastfashionbrands #worstclothingbrands #fastfashiontoavoid #sustainablejungle
Images by Cider

About Cider

Doesn’t it suck when bad fast fashion brands make stuff that’s also impossibly likable and cute? 

Enter: Hong Kong-based Cider, which burst onto the online fashion scene to disrupt today’s shopping landscape, all thanks to their adorably trendy viral clothes and snappy social media marketing. 

Like Shein, Cider is a direct-from-factory marketplace that works by listing small weekly batches of clothes made for specific moods and occasions. Thanks to user data and social media algorithms, Cider knows precisely where demand lies, which they say keeps their costs low and reduces textile waste.

Cider’s Unethical & Unsustainable Practices


Most of Cider’s textiles are harmful ones like virgin polyester, rayon, nylon, and viscose, which are all made from fossil fuel-based petroleum and contribute to the microplastics crisis.

They offer Recycled Cider Collection made with recycled materials certified by the Global Recycled Standard (GRS), but there’s only about forty items out of thousands and most have just 30% recycled polyester. 

Aside from wool, they are a vegan brand, although their wool isn’t certified cruelty-free. 

Supply Chain & Labor Practices:

Cider provides a snapshot of three factories on their heavily greenwashed “sustainability” page, although fortunately they do have BSCI certifications and SMETA memberships.

That said, we have no transparent full scope to really understand their value chain and manufacturing—especially given their factories are all located around Guangzhou, which is notorious for abusive factories.

Unsustainable Practices: 

Since Cider doesn’t provide an annual sustainability report, their carbon footprint and manufacturing impact remain a mystery.

They are also accused of dropshipping (the opposite of on-demand fashion) and make no efforts to reduce the environmental impact of delivering these goods worldwide. 

Cider continues to tout their oxo-biodegradable shipping pouches as if they’re eco-friendly, even though the EU just banned them, with one EU commission member saying that marketing this type of plastic as eco-friendly “is absurd.”

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