What is it about the family friendly, fast fashion brand that makes people go crazy? I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this to you as an ethical fashion advocate, but I was OBSESSED with Old Navy until about 2 years ago. It all started when I was in middle school and my best friend started wearing their clothes. I was still too small to fit into women’s clothes – and I was way too cool to wear the kids’ line – so I pined away for their stuff until I grew a little larger later in high school.
I came of age in the GAP age, but my family couldn’t afford GAP. Old Navy was an affordable alternative, and I was grateful. Even when I switched to ethical clothing, I was under the impression that Old Navy and GAP products were made with high labor standards due to their Corporate Social Responsibility statement, which I later learned was merely aspirational.
Is Old Navy ethical?
In fact, GAP Inc. (the parent company for GAP, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta) has committed some of the worst and most public labor violations, including being linked to Rana Plaza, which collapsed, killing 1,129 people in 2013. They’ve also gotten in trouble for child labor. They’re about as bad as they come.
So, reluctantly, I decided to make a clean break with Old Navy a couple years ago. It’s been a great decision for a number of ethical reasons, of course, but it also helped me break free from a single style and experiment a bit more.
There were also a few ethical brands that aided me in my transition. They’re necessarily more expensive than conventional retailers because they use eco-friendly materials and pay fair wages, but I think you’ll find that they hold up longer than anything you can buy at Old Navy.
When considering the style profile of Old Navy, I came away with three main descriptors: 1. family friendly, 2. trend-driven, 3. inexpensive. I tried to select brands that loosely fit the demographic of Old Navy, but the fact of the matter is that ethical fashion can’t compete with Old Navy’s price points. That’s why I recommend shopping secondhand for kids’ clothing and more trend-driven women’s clothing.
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7 Ethical Brands That Are Better Than Old Navy
1. PACT Apparel
Organic cotton, fair trade basics. Shop undies, socks, tights, and flattering clothing made with quality materials. I recommend their cotton tights, a comfortable and thick alternative to standard tights.
Contemporary, minimalist fashion in sustainable, luxurious fabrics like silk and merino wool. I particularly like the waffle knit sweaters.
Everyday clothing with a decisive point of view made with radical transparency and better-than-average wages. I own several of their tees and can attest that they will hold up for years and years.
Trend-driven clothing made with eco-friendly and vegan materials, and/or produced in the USA.
5. Krochet Kids
Fashion forward cotton tees, jumpsuits, dresses, and knitwear.
A diverse line of classic and printed clothing, socks, and loungewear for women and men, made ethically with eco-friendly practices.
Drapey, modern silhouettes made with eco-friendly fabrics.
Contemporary, fashion-forward pieces with lots of color.
9. Known Supply
Tees and knit cotton pieces for women and men with customizable options
Next time you’re in the mood for an Old Navy haul, consider checking out the above companies instead. I promise it will get easier with practice. I’ve been Old Navy-sober for two years now!
What fast fashion brands would you like to find ethical alternatives for? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.