Is American Eagle Fast Fashion? Let’s Find Out!

by jacky chou
Updated on

Whether you are a fashion savant or not, the word fast fashion must have crossed your radar at one point or another. However, although the word has been getting traction, it can be hard to identify if some brands fall under this category or not. This is why today we’re going to answer the question, “Is American Eagle fast fashion?” 

If you’re looking for the short answer, it’s no. American Eagle is not a fast fashion brand. However, it does exude some characteristics of fast fashion brands, which is why we can understand any confusion you may have. So, if you’d like to stick around and find out how we came to this conclusion, we’re more than happy to have you with us. 

Let’s get started.

What Is Fast Fashion?

What Is Fast Fashion?

Before we decide whether or not American Eagle is a fast fashion brand, we must first understand what fast fashion is. 

Fast fashion is a business model used by some fashion brands where they prioritize speed and low-cost production over quality and sustainability. This is one of the major reasons why you hear fast fashion brands on the hook for their negative impact on the environment, bad labor practices, and their unsustainable nature. 

To put it another way, fast fashion is the practice of producing cheap clothing at a rapid rate to meet the high consumer demand created by rapidly changing fashion trends. 

What Is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion brands use unsustainable materials, provide poor working conditions for the workers, rely on low-wage labor, and strive to keep their expenses low in order to maintain their inexpensive rates to consumers. 

These fashion brands customize their marketing strategy to encourage consumers to buy more clothes to replace their recently bought ones in order to keep up with the fashion trends. 

Now that you have a good idea of what fast fashion is all about, let’s look at these determining factors in more detail to determine if the American Eagle brand meets these criteria right after we look at a brief history of the brand. 

Brief History of American Eagle 

Brief History of American Eagle 

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American Eagle is an American clothing, accessories, and lifestyle retailer that was founded in 1977 in Michigan. Since then, the fashion company has established over 1,000 stores globally and is renowned for its trendy and casual clothing targeted at young adults. 

The American Eagle stores stock clothing, accessories, and other personal care items for both women and men. If you love shopping online and have trouble getting small-size options, check out our guide where we answer the question, ‘Does American Eagle Run Small?’ to guide you the next time you shop at American Eagle.

Is American Eagle Fast Fashion?

Is American Eagle Fast Fashion?

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Here are some determining characteristics of fast fashion brands. We’ll compare them side by side with the American Eagle brand to determine if the clothing brand resembles other fast fashion brands on the market.

a) Business Model 

American Eagle Business Model

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We’ve seen that the fast fashion business model prioritizes low-cost production in order to churn out clothing at low prices. They also encourage consumers to update their wardrobes constantly to meet changing fashion trends. This ensures that consumers will keep buying the clothing that the brands are producing. So, let’s see if American Eagle fits into this category. 

American Eagle’s business model involves producing trendy clothing and accessories that appeal to young adults who are fashion-conscious. In addition, the fashion brand produces its clothes using a seasonal model that releases new collections of clothing every season. 

This method aligns with the fast fashion model. However, the major difference between American Eagle and other fast fashion brands is that this brand doesn’t follow the low-cost production method. In fact, you’ll find that American Eagle clothing and accessories prices are higher than other brands like H&M or Forever 21. 

Company's business model

Also, American Eagle uses good quality materials to make its products and pays its workers and employers higher wages than those seen in the fast fashion market. 

Therefore, in the aspect of the low-cost production business model, American Eagle is not a fast fashion brand. 

Let’s move on to sustainability. 

b) Sustainability 

American Eagle Outfitters sustainability model

Fast fashion brands don’t care about their impact on the environment. In fact, they could care less if, 20 generations from now, people will still be dealing with waste from the materials they’re using to make their clothing now.

American Eagle has made efforts to improve their impact on the environment and improve their sustainability practices. For example, in 2019, the clothing brand released its first sustainability report that outlined the brand’s effort to reduce water consumption, reduce greenhouse emissions, and use sustainable materials. 

advocating for more sustainable raw materials

American Eagle also adopted a Code of Conduct for its suppliers regarding human rights, labor practices, and environmental sustainability. The company has also made a commitment to only use suppliers who source their materials through methods that meet their environmental and ethical standards. 

In addition to the Code of Conduct, American Eagle introduced sustainable materials into its production. Some of the materials include recycled cotton, organic cotton, BCI cotton, and recycled polyester. In fact, the brand made a target to source all of its cotton from sustainable sources by 2023. We’re yet to see how this will go. 

Nonetheless, despite these efforts to be more sustainable, American Eagle still has a long way to go. For example, the company still uses large amounts of plastic synthetic material and polyester that will be around for centuries to come. This is hardly in line with sustainable fashion or sustainability in general. 

American Eagle clothing

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Another reason American Eagle fails in regard to sustainability is its marketing strategy that encourages consumers to change their wardrobes frequently to keep up with the changing trends. This means that their customers are constantly throwing out clothes to make space for new ones that are in season. 

These “out-of-fashion” clothes then find themselves in the ground or ocean, where they will continue polluting the planet for centuries. 

In terms of the Code of Conduct put in place for suppliers, American Eagle could still do more by ensuring that its suppliers are providing safe working conditions for their workers and paying them fair wages. 

Therefore, in regard to sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility, the clothing brand still has room for improvement. 

Alternatives to Fast Fashion

Alternatives to Fast Fashion

Although we’ve established that this American fashion retailer is not a typical fast fashion brand, American Eagle still contributes to harming the environment and applies unsustainable methods of production. Therefore, if you want to make a small difference and go with options that are opposite to what fast fashion is about while still getting almost similar results, here are a few alternatives. 

1. Buy from Ethical and Sustainable Fashion Brands

Buying clothing and accessories from Ethical and Sustainable Fashion Brands

Luckily for us and our planet, there are actually brands and companies out there that believe in sustainable fashion. These brands pay fair wages to their workers, offer safe and comfortable working environments, use sustainable materials, and care for the environment. 

Another thing that makes these brands opposite from fast fashion brands is that they produce high-quality, timeless pieces that you can wear for as long as you want. This means that you won’t feel the need to dispose of your clothing when the next fashion season rolls by while still remaining fashionably in style. 

Some good examples of these sustainable alternatives include Patagonia, Reformation, and Everlane. The latter is renowned for producing timeless pieces for both men and women while adhering to ethical labor practices and using high-quality materials. 

If your priority is always to get high-quality clothing, check out our guide on brands for high-quality workwear for more pieces for your wardrobe.

2. Buy Secondhand Clothing 

Buy Secondhand Clothing as an alternative to Fast Fashion

The other alternative to fast fashion is to shop at thrift stores, consignment shops, and online marketplaces that offer high-quality secondhand clothes. Doing this will help reduce waste from fast fashion brands and reduce the demand for these clothes in the first place. 

Therefore, if you can’t purchase from more sustainable brands, consider getting your clothes from secondhand online marketplaces such as ThredUp and Poshmark and other online thrift stores like GoodWill

Doing so can help slow down the fast fashion supply chain process and make a positive impact on the environment. Another reason buying secondhand clothing is a good alternative to fast fashion is that you’ll be spending the same amount of money on clothing, but you’ll be getting higher-quality pieces that you won’t need to replace after a few months.

Final Thoughts

Is American Eagle Fast Fashion?

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American Eagle is not a traditional fast fashion brand, but it does contribute to the unsustainable fashion train. This is through its use of unsustainable materials and its strategy of producing trendy clothing and accessories that encourage consumers to change their wardrobes frequently to keep up with the latest trends. 

Nonetheless, we’ve acknowledged the brand’s efforts to improve its impact in the world through its Code of Conduct for suppliers and the move to use more sustainable materials such as organic cotton. 

You could also choose to go for fast fashion alternatives, such as buying secondhand clothing and only purchasing your items from sustainable brands. 

What are your thoughts on our conclusion? Do you think we’re right to say that American Eagle is not a fast fashion brand, or did we miss something? Let us know your thoughts. We love hearing from you.

If you’re curious about another brand that may or may not be under the fast fashion category, check out our article: Is Aerie Fast Fashion? next.

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jacky chou


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