Is American Eagle a Fast Fashion Company? The Truth About Your Favorite Jeans

It may not be as bad as Forever 21, but it’s still a fast fashion brand.

Eva Hagan - Author

Mar. 26 2024, Published 2:46 p.m. ET

A photo of an American Eagle Outfitters storefront in a mall.
Source: Getty Images

When you look at American Eagle, you might not guess that it’s a fast fashion brand. Known for its jeans, the clothing brand was founded in 1977 and has since become a core ingredient in the teen shopping mall experience.

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However, its sustainability practices are substandard, and by producing hundreds of new styles each season, the brand is considered fast fashion. So, before you shop, here’s what else you should know about American Eagle.

A man shops for jeans within the racks at an American Eagle store.
Source: Getty Images
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Is American Eagle fast fashion?

Although American Eagle is not the most wasteful brand out there, it is fast fashion. American Eagle doesn't sell clothes as cheaply as other fast fashion brands. However, it does sell hundreds of clothing pieces on its site at a time and constantly cycles items in and out to keep up with trends, per Ecothes.

According to Good On You, American Eagle has taken little action towards sustainability. Although the brand has set targets for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, it's hard to see any progress. According to American Eagle Outfitters Inc., it would like to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, then 60 percent by 2040, and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

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Although these targets sound positive, looking at the annual greenhouse gas inventory results from 2018-2022, there's little improvement. In 2022, American Eagle's scope one and two emissions reached 57,819 metric tons of carbon dioxide, an increase from the previous two years. Moreover, the brand's scope three emissions increased from 3,143,763 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2018 to 3,510,658 metric tons in 2022.

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While the brand advertises its target of 100 percent sustainably sourced cotton by 2023, in 2022 only 65 percent of its cotton was sustainably sourced, an increase of only six percent from the previous year. However, American Eagle did use 27 percent recycled polyester in 2022, with the ultimate goal of using 50 percent recycled polyester overall, per American Eagle. However, according to Ecothes, any polyester is bad for the environment and will take hundreds of years to break down.

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Is American Eagle a good brand?

American Eagle still uses many unsustainable and unethical business practices and is, therefore, not a good brand. According to Good On You, American Eagle lacks transparency on the labor conditions in its supply chain, which raises concerns about whether workers are being adequately paid and working in safe conditions.

According to Global Labor Justice, there is evidence of poor labor standards within American Eagle’s supply chain. Workers at Richa Garment, one of the brand’s Indian manufacturers, formed a union over insufficient pay and poor working conditions.

Some union members were later fired despite acting within their rights to form a union. American Eagle did nothing for the employees, even though it had previously told Global Labor Justice it would ensure Richa acted by labor laws.

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