Is ASOS Fast Fashion? Image by ASOS #isASOSfastfashion #ASOSsustainability #isASOSsustainable #isASOSethical #isASOSagoodbrand #isASOSbad #ASOSethics #sustainablejungle
Image by ASOS

Is ASOS Fast Fashion?

Hailey Carrillo

ASOS: a sustainable clothing dealer or an SOS on the dangers of fast fashion brands? 

Short for ‘As Seen On Screen’, the U.K.-based brand had humble beginnings in 2000 when they uploaded their very first product: a pestle and mortar replica of one used by beloved chef, Jamie Oliver.

Yeah, that’s not what we were expecting either.

Fast forward to this year, the online clothing haven now boasts 85,000 products, including 5,000 weekly added shoes, cosmetics, dresses, and more.

ASOS now lures an estimated 26 million active buyers each year (mainly Gen Z-ers) with their expert marketing and constantly rotating selection of items.

Which obviously makes us wonder: is ASOS fast fashion? 

Unlike mass made clothing, our answer isn’t going to be a fast one. 

We pull out all our sustainable fashion stops and know-how to answer the pressing question: is ASOS okay to buy from? And if not, why is ASOS bad?

1. Uncovering Why ASOS Is Fast Fashion

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Image by jackf

Ever wonder: why is ASOS so cheap? 

Is it A SOS-picious brand, or is the online fashion retailer simply following its mission of “making sure everyone has an equal chance to discover all the amazing things they’re capable of“?

It turns out ASOS isn’t actually all that cheap when put next to other brands in the fast fashion industry. 

Similar to Shop Cider, the brand charges more on average than its other fast fashion rivals, with an average price of $57.16 compared to the nearly $25 average from powerhouses H&M, YesStyle and Forever 21. 

Promising, since higher prices = higher pay for workers… right? 

Not necessarily.

Fast fashion does not always equal cheap fashion. Remember this. 

Just how ethical is ASOS then?

As we dive deeper into the ASOS supply chain, you can put those sustainable sunglasses away because the brand sure is shady. 

Even though their priorities supposedly include “transparency; fair wages; worker health and safety; addressing and reducing modern-slavery risks, and identifying and stopping child labor ”, we can’t help but wonder: is ASOS like Shein?

We’d love to say the brand is not like Shein or Temu the mass manufacturing mammoth making headlines for its modern day slavery, but we’re just not sure.

Keep reading to uncover our full take on ASOS’ weaknesses and problematic areas—as well as any ASOS sustainability efforts, because we’re always happy to acknowledge what brands are doing right, even if they’re still wrong on the whole.

2. ASOS Controversies

Is ASOS Fast Fashion? Image by prostock-studio #isASOSfastfashion #ASOSsustainability #isASOSsustainable #isASOSethical #isASOSagoodbrand #isASOSbad #ASOSethics #sustainablejungle
Image by prostock-studio

ASOS has some surprisingly stellar PR. 

The beloved brand has repeatedly received online praise for their inclusivity, including their wheelchair friendly jumpsuits, realistic body modeling, and extensive size range (of 30 sizes!).

Though, like Madewell, they have had a few slip ups throughout the years.

Most of the controversies we mention were called out and solved promptly on X (formerly Twitter) without any mass consequences.

Cultural Appropriation

In 2019, ASOS created a stir after putting a traditional South East Asian accessory up for sale: the maang tikka.

Traditionally worn by brides, it symbolizes the union between two people on a spiritual, physical, and emotional level, so when ASOS marketed it as a “chandelier hair clip”, people got rightfully upset.

In 2021, ASOS released a bridal range that sent warning bells (not wedding bells) chiming once again.

The collection featured Lehengas, traditional garments worn at special South East Asian events.

While some people praised the brand for their inclusivity, others claimed that the wedding dresses were being inappropriately marketed for the wrong occasions. 

Others had an even bigger problem with the big corporation capitalizing the culture by stealing customers and profits from authentic local businesses. 

ASOS addressed these statements, saying that one of their South Asian garment workers suggested creating more inclusive pieces. He helped in buying, designing, and creating the products from fabric selection all the way to final design approval. 

They redacted their designs and issued an apology via Twitter, stating that they shouldn’t have used the word ‘bridal’ to describe the line.

Body Shaming

Despite an overall body positive brand image, in 2019, ASOS received backlash after stocking a ballerina fat suit game on their website. 

The product, marketed as “Ballerina Charades” was captioned: “The perfect ice breaker and party game filled with laughter!” 

A catchline that only insinuates plus-sized body types are something to be ridiculed. 

In the initial call out post, fashion blogger Danielle Varnier wrote:

“Erm, @ASOS – What is this please? Why would you stock something that is clearly marketed towards laughing at a body like mine?”

The brand apologized, stating that this wasn’t their intention. That was just one of four inflatable character suites (blueberry, sloth, sumo, and a unicorn ballerina) that the charade game was offered in.

It was quickly removed from their website. 

False Marketing 

In 2019, ASOS was called out for misleading marketing after accidentally uploading a photo that showed bulldog clips being used.

The altered dress gave a more fitted appearance, leaving many customers feeling cheated when the products arrive completely different in real life. 

Especially considering the retailer’s updated return policy, threatening to block accounts for people who repeatedly return ASOS clothing.

ASOS promptly edited and removed the clips from the dress, but the scandal still has people asking: is ASOS trustworthy?

Who knows what other products are not as they seem.

Quality Control

Is ASOS good quality? Or is ASOS a cheap brand with quality and durability to match?

There are at least two issues (albeit, really gross ones) in which the quality of ASOS clothing was called into question.

One woman went to Twitter after finding a clearly used face mask in her brand new jacket.

Another woman was in utter shock and horror when, upon opening her newly purchased pants, she smelled human feces and saw a mysterious brown stain on the bum.

Both matters were investigated and both women received formal apologies and a full refund.

Yet, we can’t help but wonder how issues like those could possibly go unnoticed, especially in such a massive supply chain filled with workers trying to meet fast fashion’s unrealistically massive quotas.

This brings us back to our original question: is ASOS a fast fashion brand?

Even fast fashion alternatives can be subject to the occasional controversy, so to really answer this question, let’s dive into some of ASOS’ ethical issues.

3. ASOS’ Ethics Are Unclear

Is ASOS Fast Fashion? Image by africa images #isASOSfastfashion #ASOSsustainability #isASOSsustainable #isASOSethical #isASOSagoodbrand #isASOSbad #ASOSethics #sustainablejungle
Image by africa images

Is ASOS ethical, and if so, just how ethical is ASOS?

The brand has been called out on their labor standards several times, with jarring claims of human rights violations.

It all started in 2016 when Buzzfeed published an article highlighting the conditions ASOS workers had regularly endured, including docked pay for arriving late, surveillance monitoring, and wrongful terminations.

The same year, the BBC found child workers in their supply chain AND the brand was accused of exploiting temporary warehouse workers.

In 2019, ASOS was accused of running ‘satanic mills’ following 45 separate ambulance callouts to their warehouse near Grimethorpe.

Suffice to say, an important question arises: does ASOS use sweatshops?

The brand claims it prohibits child and forced labor, or any form of modern slavery, with regular factory audits that also ensure workers are guaranteed a living wage and safe conditions.

Yet, none of their supply chain bears any ethics certifications so there is no evidence ASOS actually abides by these claims regarding fair trade compliant labor rights.

A brand that makes $4.51 billion in revenue can surely afford those regular factory audits and third party certifications—so why don’t they have any proof of either?

The brand doesn’t have all red marks, however.

Hoping to seal its ranks among other ethical clothing brands (or perhaps avoid cancel culture), ASOS has strengthened guidelines to ensure worker health and safety.

In 2017 (notably before some of these scandals arose,) ASOS became the first online retailer to sign the Global Framework Agreement, a framework that strengthens international labor standards across global supply chains.

Users searching “where are ASOS clothes made?” will discover that the brand is actually fully transparent about Tiers 1, 2, and 3 of their supply chain, which has also been brought into line with the Ethical Trading Initiative’s (ETI) base code of conduct. 

Under their 2030 Fashion With Integrity strategy, the brand vows that 100% of ASOS brand products will have supply chain mapped down all the way to raw material suppliers.

Though it’s a great step in the right direction, that won’t guarantee each ASOS factory is free from dirty business practices.

Animal Welfare: Is ASOS Cruelty-Free?

We applaud ASOS’s animal welfare policy that effectively removes animal testing and some less sustainable materials from their offerings, including angora, fur, down, and exotic animal skin.

They still use other animal derived materials like leather, shearling, and wool, which ASOS claims to source from non-mulesed sheep (though again there is no evidence to verify these ethical wool claims).

4. ASOS’ Sustainability Is Questionable

Is ASOS Fast Fashion? Image by vimaliss #isASOSfastfashion #ASOSsustainability #isASOSsustainable #isASOSethical #isASOSagoodbrand #isASOSbad #ASOSethics #sustainablejungle
Image by vimaliss

Is ASOS sustainable? 

They’d sure like you to think so—but what does ASOS do for the environment, really?

In 2019, ASOS introduced an “environmentally sustainable” ASOS clothing collection deemed The Responsible Edit. The collection featured both outsourced and private label pieces made with sustainable fabrics like in partnership with fair labor partners in Kenya.

The very same collection was quickly and quietly scrapped following a greenwashing investigation by the UK Competition and Markets Authority.

The brand made a shot for sustainability once again in 2020 by introducing their Circular Design Collection.

Featuring “innovative designs” made from pre- and post- consumer recycled materials like recycled polyester, cotton, plastic, zinc, and steel.

With a lack of a take-back program, critics are once again questioning the truth of this collection.

Funnily enough, now if you search “ASOS materials”, the circular design collection is the first thing that pops up. Quite jarring considering it makes up less than 1% of their total stock.

Instead, you’ll find the brand has a roster of repeat chemically-intensive or synthetic fabric offenders: polyester, polyester, non-organic cotton, and more polyester…

Both are frequently flaunted in their Reclaimed Vintage line—which one, would naturally think, is made from reclaimed vintage items.

We’ll just leave this here…

Considering the brand’s main fabric choices and the fact that all of these sustainable initiatives came following the brand’s callout in the 2017 ‘Dirty Fashion‘ report, we can’t help but wonder about the real intentions of ASOS’ sustainability initiative.

Are they actually aiming for a lower environmental impact, or do they want to lower people’s guards?

An ever concerning question with ASOS’s new Fashion With Integrity strategy, which pledges to be net zero and have more product circularity by 2030. 

This means reducing Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 87% (2018 baseline), reducing transportation emissions by 58% (2018 baseline), and ensuring ASOS brand items are made with sustainable and recycled materials and packaging. 

Lofty goals considering the brand’s entire business model relies on not-so sustainable practices of rapid clothing cycling (which produces an unreal amount of textile waste.)

Though unlike many clothing brands with similar goals, ASOS does track and openly publish their progress toward meeting them for those wondering, “How sustainable is ASOS?” from one year to the next.

Anyone can view this info in their equivalent of an ASOS sustainability report in their Fashion With Integrity Progress Report that provides a year-by-year comparison of annual scope 1–3 emissions, circular products, supply chain transparency, and more of ASOS’ sustainability problems and solutions.

However, even if ASOS does reach these goals, they’d be far from the more sustainable fashion brands on the market.

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Final Thoughts On Why ASOS Is Considered Fast Fashion

So, is ASOS fast fashion?

It’s quite literally the definition.

  • Replicating recent catwalk trends. Check.
  • Mass producing clothing. Check.
  • Quick production and rapid cycles. Check.

The brand is undeniably fast fashion, but is ASOS a good brand?

With its commitments to environmental sustainability and promises for transparency, we hope ASOS can be added to as one of our list of eco-friendly clothing brands one day.

Until that day comes, we recommend purchasing your sustainable sweaters and ethical jewelry from one of our trusted sustainable fashion brand roundups instead.

Or, try popping tags at second hand stores. It’s likely you’ll run into pre-loved ASOS pieces at a more affordable price anyways.

But before you go adding things to your cart, don’t forget to send this article to your favorite anti-fast fashion fashionistas so they, too, can be aware of any potentially grimy greenwashed garments.

Pin these:
Is ASOS Fast Fashion? Image by prostock-studio #isASOSfastfashion #ASOSsustainability #isASOSsustainable #isASOSethical #isASOSagoodbrand #isASOSbad #ASOSethics #sustainablejungle
Is ASOS Fast Fashion? Image by africa images #isASOSfastfashion #ASOSsustainability #isASOSsustainable #isASOSethical #isASOSagoodbrand #isASOSbad #ASOSethics #sustainablejungle

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