How Ethical is Forever 21?

Forever 21

Positioning themselves as fun ‘n’ flirty on a budget has worked well for Forever 21. This family-owned brand has grown over the last 30 years to be the fifth biggest specialty retailer in the United States and over 480 stores globally. But is Forever 21 doing the right thing for people and the planet?

Environmental Impact: Very Poor

Forever 21 have failed to say anything meaningful about their sustainability policies. As a shopper, we believe that you have the right to know how their production practices impact on our environment. This lack of transparency is really not good enough.

Labour Conditions: Not Good Enough

Forever 21Forever 21 received an overall score of D+ from the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report – which looks at criteria including payment of a living wage, transparency and worker empowerment initiatives. They do trace some of their supply chain and have a Supplier Code of Conduct, but that’s the only good news. Forever 21 only audits a tiny portion of their facilities over a two-year period and has failed to provide any worker empowerment initiatives.

They are one of the only fast fashion brands to still refuse to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety – a legally binding agreement which requires brands to ensure safe working conditions in supplier factories. They’ve also made no significant progress towards paying employees across their supply chain with a living wage.


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Animal Welfare Rating: Good

Forever 21Animal welfare is one of the only areas in which Forever 21 is doing relatively well. They don’t use wool, fur, down or angora. The do, however, use leather without specifying their sources.

The Verdict: ‘Not Good Enough’ GoY-Ratings_2

We’ve rated Forever 21 ‘Not Good Enough’ based on information from the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report and our own research. Even compared to other fast fashion giants such as H&M, Zara and Uniqlo – Forever 21 is left trailing behind. It’s time for Forever 21 stop paying lip-service to corporate social responsibility and to be more transparent.

Discover ethical alternatives

Delikate Rayne GoY-Ratings_4

delikate rayne vegan leather shortsWhite Slit Back Blouse + Vegan Leather Shorts | Ships internationally from the US

Delikate Rayne is a 100% vegan brand created by sisters Komie and Meg to prove that cruelty-free fashion can be edgy and contemporary. All of their products are manufactured in a family-owned factory in the US where the workers are paid a fair wage. The brand’s name, pronounced ‘delicate rain’, is an amalgamated translation of the sister’s Hindi names.

Bon Label GoY-Ratings_5

Bon Label Ouf Fitted Sweater ‘Ouf’ Fitted Sweater | Ships internationally from Australia

Mixing luxe looks with a dash of sexy, Bon Label brings fun ‘n’ flirty to the realm of ethical fashion. They make all their products in Australia where they conduct regular audits on suppliers and manufacturers, assuring workers are provided fair conditions. Bon Label also uses 100% Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton.

Auria good on you great rating

Auria Wish You Were Here SwimsuitWish You Were Here Swimsuit | Ships internationally from the UK

Auria is like riding through the 80s on a unicorn! This ethical label creates retro prints and neon candy designs that are the height of playfulness. A great bonus is that almost all of their pieces are crafted from regenerated waste such as carpets and fishing nets.

Vaute GoY-Ratings_5

Vaute_Couture Fox Print TopThe Boxy Top in Fox Print + Linen | Ships internationally from the US

Vaute pride themselves on being the world’s first vegan fashion brand. Their prints are gorgeous and whimsical, and their fabrics are sustainable. Vaute’s pieces are all cut and sewn in New York’s garment district. Conscious of minimising waste, Vaute produce limited runs and use technology such as “machines that use one piece of yarn to create an entire sweater, leaving no waste.”

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Do you think Forever 21 should be doing more? Or have you tried one of these suggested brands? Let us know in the comments below!


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Editor’s Note: Ratings correct at time of publication. Good On You did not receive compensation for mentioning the brands listed in this article.

Images via Forever 21, Delikate Rayne, Bon Label, Auria and Vaute.

Kendall Benton-Collins

Author Kendall Benton-Collins

Kendall has over a decade’s experience working in environmental conservation and communication. She’s the creator of Kindness by Design and a member of the Australia/New Zealand Working Group for Fashion Revolution.

More posts by Kendall Benton-Collins

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