Is Carhartt Fast Fashion? Is it Ethical and Sustainable?

by jacky chou
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Carhartt is a well-known fashion brand that makes workwear and outdoor gear popular among outdoor sports lovers like hikers and railroad workers. You can always get durable boots for outdoor recreation like hiking and hunting to keep you safe. If you're one of these people looking for an outdoor clothing brand and have come across this, you may ask, is Carhartt fast fashion, and does it manufacture clothes ethically?

No, Carhartt is not a fast fashion clothing brand. Fast fashion brands produce less expensive clothes which don't last long. These brands also produce new designs more often than other sustainable brands. In this article, we shall see why Carhartt is not classified as a fast fashion brand and what it does to remain ethical and sustainable.

A Brief History of Carhartt

Carhartt was founded by businessman Hamilton Carhartt in Detroit, Michigan, in 1889. It is a family-owned company that creates outdoor gear for children, men, and women. It also makes shoes, eyewear, working clothes, and accessories.

Hamilton died in 1937, after which his son took over the company, and his leadership led to the opening of new operations in rural Kentucky. In 1975, the company introduced a heavy-duty hooded jacket known as the Active Jac, which has remained one of the top-selling attires.

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Carhartt started becoming popular, and as hip-hop artists started wearing it, interest expanded, and more people started wearing it. With its popularity increasing in the 1980s, Carhartt created Carhartt Work in Progress (Carhartt WIP), targeting consumers who value design and refined details.

Hamilton's great-grandson, Mark Valade, became the company's president in 1998. The company launched several retail stores, including a line of flame-resistant garments and a full women's line of products.

Linda Hubbard became the first non-family member to be the president of Carhartt in 2013. The company operates in Mexico, the US, and Europe.

The Inditex Group, the biggest fashion group globally, owns Carhartt. This fashion group owns other brands like Massimo, Oysho, and Bershka. Carhartt is the biggest company under the Inditex group and has more than 5500 workers in the factories, stores, brands, logistics, and subsidiaries.

Is Carhartt Fast Fashion?

Carhartt is not a fast fashion brand. Its characteristics are not similar to those of fast fashion brands.

Why Carhartt Does Not Qualify as a Fast Fashion Brand

a) Relatively Expensive

The most distinguishing factor of fast fashion is that supplies are cheap. However, Carhartt products are higher than those produced by fast fashion brands.

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A good example of this theory is that a Carhartt jacket costs between $65 and $100, yet the same jacket costs approximately $50 when sold by fast fashion brands. The price difference is quite high and, with other factors added, might disqualify Carhartt as a fast fashion.

b) Durable Products

Carhartt apparel comprises high-quality materials that are durable and can withstand daily use. Although their streetwear may not be as durable and long-lasting as their work wear, it is unquestionably superior to most brands. Sports lovers, especially skateboarders, who adore jeans that can withstand numerous falls without tearing or ripping, are big supporters of the Carhartt streetwear brand.

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Despite their high price, people still buy Carhartt clothing due to their durability. Unlike fast fashion clothes that are meant to be worn a few times before disposing of them, Carhartt clothing gas is durable and does not need replacement after a few wears.

c) Materials

Although cotton is a natural, biodegradable fiber, cotton cultivation has significant environmental and social effects. For instance, producing cotton frequently requires heavy use of harmful pesticides, causing many smallholder farmers to spend a large part of their annual income on agricultural chemicals.

For this reason, the company tries to minimize the potential negative impacts of cotton production. It does this by working on two fonts;

i) Organic Cotton

Carhartt started to integrate organically grown cotton into its collection. By avoiding toxic pesticides, the cultivation of organic cotton improves the surroundings and health of farmers and soil fertility and quality.

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The use of this organic cotton is seen in the production of all Dearborn Canvas products. They are produced in an environmentally sound and energy-efficient manner.

ii) Better Cotton Initiative

Better Cotton Initiative is a non-profit organization that aims to set new standards for cotton farming to improve production. Carhartt joined the initiative in May 2017. BCI and its partners provide training on sustainable agricultural practices to over 2 million farmers, making cotton growing more sustainable.

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In the manufacture of its products, Carhartt uses;

Cotton Duck

Heavy-duty cotton duck is one of Carhartt's finest fabrics. It is a tightly woven, 100 percent cotton fabric treated to repel water and withstand wind.

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Carhartt provides various denim products, from pants to jackets constructed from tough cotton denim. The brand's denim items are made to be comfortable and mobile in demanding working environments.


It is a tightly woven, strong fabric frequently used for tool bags, backpacks, jackets, and jeans.

Is Carhartt Ethical?

Carhartt has been manufacturing high-quality outdoor garments since 1889. However, with the growing fashion demands, its ethics have been questionable. The company needs to assess a few issues concerning the ethics of its operations.

a) Working Conditions

Despite Carhartt's claims to the contrary, there have been allegations of poor working conditions at certain factories where their clothing is made. Ensuring that Carhartt's supply-chain employees are paid fairly and treated with respect is crucial.

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b) Animal Welfare

Several of Carhartt's products feature leather. It is crucial to guarantee that the leather used in Carhartt's goods comes from suppliers who maintain moral standards and refrain from participating in cruelty against animals.

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Carhartt's Sustainability Goals and Practices

Carhartt has been obligated to help reduce environmental impact through various initiatives. Keep reading to learn about its sustainability practices.

a) Environmental Impact

Carhartt has put some measures to reduce the negative effects of its production methods on the environment, like greenhouse gas emissions. Some of these measures are minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, minimizing waste, and conserving water.

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The business has invested in energy-efficient machinery and implemented policies to lower energy usage in its facilities. Carhartt also aims to employ environmentally responsible materials, such as recycled fabrics and sustainable substitutes for traditional materials.

Carhartt is trying to achieve environmental protection by establishing a reputation in the apparel sector as a socially and environmentally conscious business through these activities.

b) Sustainability Initiatives

Carhartt is committed to minimizing its environmental impact and building a sustainable future. The business has established collaborations and sustainability programs to fulfill its social and environmental obligations.

Carhartt is also dedicated to minimizing waste and saving resources. It has implemented several steps to do this, such as a program for recycling paper and plastic.

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The company has generally been able to develop a more sustainable business model and promote environmental responsibility through these initiatives. Carhartt is contributing to the betterment of the future by collaborating with others and implementing sustainable practices.

Carhartt also minimizes textile waste by participating in Carhartt Reworked, which reworks slightly imperfect gear previously worn. If the gear isn't done working and it lands in the hands of someone who can put it to good use, it is reworked as follows;

i) Consumer Trade-Ins

Carhartt products that fit the criteria can be traded for the Reworked program. All products accepted must fulfill guidelines for condition, have been a style offered by Carhartt within the last ten years, and have an original MSRP of $50 or higher.

ii) Mail-In Trade-Ins

This program will start in late 2023. It will accept mail-in trade-ins of the selected Carhartt products meeting the conditions and eligibility requirements. Buyers who would rather not bring their worn items to the store can begin their trade-in online on the Reworked website and mail it in.

Then, once the gears have been inspected and accepted, Carhartt will send a gift card. This initiative helps reduce landfills and eliminate hazardous chemicals like carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions that may result from pollution.

iii) Returns/ Imperfect Inventory

Depending on the state of the clothing, it will either be cleaned, repaired, examined, made readily available for resell, or appropriately recycled.

c) Animal Welfare

Carhartt treats animals ethically as part of its social and environmental responsibility. Although it uses animal products to make some items, the company ensures that no animals are harmed or distressed. It also does not use angora or exotic animal skin and is committed to doing its business in a fair and ethical manner.

i) Leather

The company only uses leather from farm animals or livestock for meat production. The leather is from sheep, goats, buffalos, pigs or cows.

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ii) Down and Feather

Carhartt uses down and feather, accounting for less than five products annually. This is because Carhartt finds alternative forms of insulation. However, when down has to be used, the company ensures that the down and feather used are from the Responsible Down Standard (RDS).

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This certification means they are by-products of the meat industry, not specifically bred for clothes production, and the animals are treated ethically.

iii) Wool

Carhartt is considerate of our animal friends and does not accept wool from mulesed sheep. This painful practice removes strips of wool-bearing skin from the sheep's bottom.

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However, this is an area that the company needs to improve on. The goal is to ensure that all the wool used comes from Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) certified farms, recycled sources, or substituted with a sustainable animal-free alternative.

Frequently Asked Questions About Carhartt

1. What type of fashion is Carhartt?

Carhartt is an American clothing company founded in 1889, and it is known to manufacture and retail heavy-duty working clothes like jackets, dungarees, coveralls, coats, overalls, jeans, vests, hunting, and fire-resistant apparel.

2. Is Cararrt a fashion brand now?

Carharrt is an outdoor brand that has been worn as streetwear since the late 1980s when the Slimer Work in Progress line launched. Only since then has it been recognized as a fashion brand. However, consumers love the brand despite what it is manufacturing because of its high quality and durable clothing.

3. Is Carharrt considered a good brand?

Carharrt is considered a good brand as it holds its value in the resale market due to its quality, functionality, and durability. Buyers can always resell the brand's used pieces when they get tired of wearing them.

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jacky chou


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