01 Dec

How Ethical Is ZAFUL?

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Popular online retailer ZAFUL is known for thousands of trendy items at low prices, but is ZAFUL ethical or sustainable? This article is based on the ZAFUL rating published in October 2021.

Landing on ZAFUL’s homepage is like a virtual slap in the face. With bold text boasting “75% off… flash sale… down to AU$2.99… hot deals… buy 1 get 1 free” and everything in between, it’s a shopaholic’s dream come true. But underneath all those flashing numbers trying to entice you into buying a bunch of clothes you probably don’t need, something sinister is going on. Let’s take a closer look and ask: how ethical is ZAFUL?

A sea of red flags

Okay, it’s no secret people are iffy about ZAFUL. Some of the top searches when Googling the brand are enough to turn anybody off—” Are SHEIN and ZAFUL the same?”, “Is ZAFUL legit?”, “Is ZAFUL a scam?”. There are complaints about poor quality, dodgy shipping, and even people wondering if it’s safe to share your credit card information with the brand.

Manufactured in China but now with an office in the US, youth-oriented trend-driven ZAFUL ships worldwide so everyone can, ah, benefit? And with 5 million followers on Instagram, it’s clearly popular despite the widespread misgivings. So, back up—how does it rate on our Directory for people, the planet, and animals?

How sustainable is ZAFUL?

It’s pretty simple: ZAFUL doesn’t provide enough information about its products for us to be able to award it any points whatsoever. This lack of transparency is the biggest red flag of all because there is no way for us or you to know what is going on behind the scenes of this ultra-fast fashion brand.

However, it is safe to assume that the garment workers pumping out thousands of products with prices as low as $1 for a necklace and $4 for a tank top aren’t likely paid a living wage. Although the brand’s manufacturing page says it is “serious about making sure every single person in the supply chain is safe at work, respected, and earns a living wage,” we would need to see published proof since people’s welfare isn’t a benefit-of-the-doubt kind of situation.

Under a short paragraph titled “Green Planet”, ZAFUL claims it is aiming to reduce the environmental footprint of the clothing industry. But the only specific it actually mentions is “using water-based screen printing inks”. And since chances are most purchases end up in landfill after the shortest love-hate relationship there ever was, ZAFUL has a long way to go before it can be called sustainable.

It should come as no surprise, then, that ZAFUL receives our lowest score of “We Avoid”, placing it right down there with the fast fashion brands we avoid at all costs. Keeping poor company with names like Missguided, Fashion Nova, and Boohoo is bad news for ZAFUL.

At the end of the day, you have a right to know how the products you buy affect the issues you care about, so our advice here is pretty simple—steer clear. You can do better.

Note that Good On You ratings consider 100s of issues, and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information, see our How We Rate page and our FAQs.

See the rating.

Good swaps

Here are some ethical and sustainable alternatives to ZAFUL that prioritise workers, the environment, and animals in their production. Trust us; the ridiculously low price tag is the only thing you’ll be missing, and you’ll get far more value out of the pieces in the long run anyway.

nat’v basics

Rated: Good

nat'v basics is an Australian eco-friendly underwear label designed for the everyday woman. Made from recycled and sustainable materials, nat'v basics pieces are designed to be the most comfortable basics you’ll ever wear. No frills or trims or awkward bits—so you can put them on and forget you’re wearing them! Find most items in sizes 8 to 16.

See the rating.

Shop nat'v basics.


Rated: Good
image of person in shirt, cardigan and trousers by Unrecorded

Unrecorded is an independent clothing brand from the Netherlands that represents a new wave of unisex brands that are rebelling against the nature of fast fashion. Unrecorded is passionate about style, and produces apparel using more eco-friendly materials.

Its range includes items that are all year round essentials suitable for any wardrobe, available in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Unrecorded.

Elle Evans

Rated: Good

Founded in 2013, Elle Evans Swimwear creates beautiful, more sustainable swimwear and activewear for people who care about fashion and the future. The brand uses post-consumer waste fabrics and traces all of its supply chain.

The range is stocked in sizes XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Elle Evans.

Vitamin A

Rated: Good
woman smiling on sand wearing sustainable swimwear by Vitamin A

Made locally in California, Vitamin A’s collections of swimwear and loungewear use a high proportion of more eco-friendly materials, including recycled nylon. The brand also uses a waterless process to print its designs with, reducing its chemical and water usage.

Find the pieces in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Vitamin A.

Shop Vitamin A @ Curate.


Rated: Good
woman wearing sustainably made sleepwear by ethical brand Underprotection

Underprotection is a Danish brand combining ethics and aesthetics, creating underwear, loungewear, and swimwear from lower-impact materials like recycled polyester and organic cotton. All of its packaging, paper, and polybags are either recycled or biodegradable, and it only works with certified factories as it believes “fair working conditions and fair wages are human rights”. Underprotection exists to celebrate women of all kinds, and its goal is to make them feel as beautiful and comfortable as possible.

You can find the full range in XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Underprotection.

Shop Underprotection @ Curate.

Shop Underprotection @ LVR Sustainable.


Rated: Good
two images of people in tops, shirts and trousers


People in New Arrival tops and shirts by Afends.


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Born in Byron Bay, Afends is a responsible brand leading the way in hemp fashion. Drawing inspiration from the environment, streetwear, and surf culture, Afends’ mission is to create more sustainable clothing through innovation, action, and positive change. As true hemp advocates, they purchased 100 acres of farmland called Sleepy Hollow to grow their own hemp crops and ignite the hemp revolution.

Find most of the range in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Afends.

Editor's note

Feature image via ZAFUL, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. Use our Directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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