One of the big hits on the high street today is Uniqlo. A Japanese clothing brand that makes affordable clothing in attractive styles for almost everyone.
But is this ethical and sustainable fashion? Or is the supply chain (as with many fashion brands) riddled with crimes against the environment?
We went to find out, what exactly, the environmental impact of Uniqlo and its fashion industry supply chain has and it wasn't pretty. Here's what you need to know.
What Does Uniqlo Say About Sustainable Fashion And Their Supply Chain?
A quick glance at the Uniqlo website seems positive enough, the company says, “For more than 20 years, Uniqlo has been on a path to sustainability. As a global company creating responsible clothing, we are committed to a healthy planet, society, and people.”
And they go on to acknowledge the issues facing the planet and have even roped in children's favorite Doraemon to add some green credibility to their brand.
But does this really make Uniqlo ethical and place them among the sustainable brands of the fashion world? No, it doesn't, sadly.
The Truth: Uniqlo Uses A Fast Fashion Business Model
The fashion industry is certainly not above greenwashing and there's absolutely no doubt in our minds that Uniqlo is a fast fashion brand with very little concern for the planet.
Using a few recycled materials or sustainable materials such as recycled PET bottles won't change this.
So, why is Uniqlo fast fashion?
Cheap Throwaway Clothes
Fast Fashion Sin Number 1
The number one sign of fast fashion brands is that they are set up to create clothes that are cheap and disposable. It doesn't matter if you use eco-friendly materials if you make products that are destined to end up in a landfill.
Everyday clothing doesn't have to cost a fortune, but it does need to be made by an ethical brand that considers its total life span rather than just the price on the shelf.
If you want some examples of sustainable alternatives to Uniqlo, you might want to check out these slow fashion brands.
Polluting Processes and Fabrics
Fast Fashion Sin Number 2
As you might expect ethical and sustainable products tend to be made from things like organic cotton which is farmed to reduce its impact on the planet.
Sadly, these fabrics are too expensive for the fast fashion industry and while you won't find many animal products on the shelves of Uniqlo (except for shoes and belts) most of their clothing is made from fabric that pollutes such as nylon, polyester, and elastane.
Terrible Working Conditions
Fast Fashion Sin Number 3
Good ethical brands, will protect suppliers and offer a living wage to anyone in the supply chain.
Uniqlo does not do this. They claim they want to promote workers' well-being but once again, they don't live up to that claim.
They refuse to show any kind of transparency regarding their workforce, in fact, and have been caught using child labor in the past – and are currently suspected of using “forced labor” – that is, essentially, modern-day slavery.
Thus, the negative impact of fast fashion on people is as bad as the fast fashion impact on Mother Earth.
Uniqlo Has No Love Of Animal Welfare
Fast Fashion Sin Number 4
Sure, you won't find huge amounts of animal-based products on their shelves but you can find wool and goose down (in bedding and jacket stuffing).
Uniqlo offers no assurance that these materials are ethically sourced or cruelty-free and the odds are pretty good that they are not. Companies engaged in ethical sourcing are only too happy to tell you about it.
That means that overall – Uniqlo should soon end up on our list of the fast fashion brands to avoid.
This is a great example of a company that makes all the right noises to lull concerned consumers into a false sense of security but which, in reality, makes almost no effort to ensure that their brand works towards providing more sustainable or ethical fashion choices.
And sadly, this makes Uniqlo the largest fast-fashion brand in the world – ahead of the other two corporate monsters – H&M and Zara.
We strongly recommend that if you can find alternatives to Uniqlo, you use them.
Final Thoughts On Uniqlo As A Fast Fashion Brand
Uniqlo is one of the grossest examples of greenwashing that we've had the misfortune to encounter.
They make all the right noises while doing none of the right actions. If you want to lead a sustainable lifestyle at an affordable price, you will need to look elsewhere for a company that really cares about the environment.