Whenever I wear a pair of Zara jeans, I am constantly asked, “where did you get your jeans?” Zara has affordable cotton jeans that look and feel amazing. As a taller individual, I struggle to find jeans that are long enough for my legs, and Zara’s Hi-Rise Full Length Ripped Jeans solve that problem. This specific pair of jeans went viral on TikTok and soon after, everyone was raving about Zara jeans. As an owner of these jeans, I wanted to find out for myself if they are sustainable. Zara is still a fast fashion brand, regardless of their increased concern for sustainability. Their initiatives online and current projects do place them a step up from most other fast fashion brands that do not make any effort to be sustainable, however there is a lot of gray area and uncertainty in their goals they have made for themselves. Overall, Zara could be doing more to better their practices, but they are moving in the right direction.
Many of Zara’s jeans are made from 100% cotton, making them thicker, more durable, and with little to no stretch. In recent years, the surge in desire for vintage denim, such as vintage Levi 501s, has increased the desire for jeans that replicate the vintage feel. From a consumer standpoint, Zara delivers durable and thick cotton jeans that have inclusive inseam lengths for taller individuals, fit comfortably, and don’t empty our wallets. The Hi-Rise Full Length Zara Jean, famous after going viral on the social media platform TikTok, does exactly that. However, the lack of detailed information presented to the buyer regarding production and material sourcing takes away from their “high quality” feel. The only piece of information given to buyers is that they are made from “100% cotton.” Digging into their website, Zara seems to be moving towards a more sustainable front, despite being known as a "fast fashion" brand. I found that they have made many sustainability goals regarding production, ethical materials, and renewable energy, and they claim to be moving towards a more circular economy. Specific to their cotton, Zara has made the goal to have "100% more sustainable cotton" by 2025. That being said, they provide no information as to how they are moving towards this goal. As for their cotton, Zara does state that they only use ecologically grown cotton that follow certified organic standards. What this means for their product is that their cotton has no GMOs and uses natural fertilizers, which does reduce the product’s environmental impact when compared to more fast fashion brands. Zara’s more recent initiative "Join Life" provides environmental and social standards for their clothing based upon the standards of the Higg Index, a set of environmental standards developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. For a product to be labeled as a part of Join Life, the product’s energy and material usage must satisfy minimum requirements as determined by Zara’s parent corporation, Inditex. Products that are a part of Join Life have a tag that reads "At least 50% of ecologically grown cotton." Unfortunately, the Hi-Rise Full Length Jeans are not a part of Join Life. And what about the other 50% for jeans that are a part of Join Life? I am giving these jeans 1 planet for this category because while they do use organic materials, Zara could be doing more to reduce their environmental impact and increase their transparency.
Zara’s manufacturing of their products occurs heavily in Spain, Turkey, and China. As a European company, Zara manufactures more locally than most companies that quickly divert to China, however out of all the countries that have Zara has factories in, China does have the highest number. Searching through their website, I found their statements on their supply chain, manufacturing, and suppliers to be extremely vague. Their website seems to be greenwashing, as they state several ways that they plan on moving towards more sustainable production methods, but they are not clear as to a timeline or any progress they’ve made. Additionally, Turkey and Spain, two of Zara’s top countries for manufacturing, are both high risk countries for labor abuse. While this does not immediately prove ignorance in their manufacturing practices, Zara has come under fire in past years for child labor scandals and not paying their workers. In Europe and the Middle East, shoppers have even come across tags and notes hidden in their products that read, “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.” While their current production standards seem to have improved a little, I do not find reason to believe that Zara has many sustainable methods or ethical labor standards that are actually enforced. That being said, Zara has increased their recycling and at least shown evidence of consideration towards sustainability.
Zara is one of the many companies owned by Inditex, a multibillion dollar Spanish corporation known for their fast fashion brands. Zara’s brand model is to produce as many collections as possible so that consumers shop, throw away, and shop again. Due to their more local suppliers and manufacturers, they are able to speed up their production and release process, contributing to their ability to produce multiple collections per season, as opposed to simply one. This fast paced method is highly consumeristic because buyers are constantly seeing new products and are faced with the most current fashion trends. While their fast fashion model doesn’t have sustainable outcomes, Zara has started several initiatives for the betterment of their practices. Their efforts to source from recycled material for both their packaging and products are improving. All of the bags and boxes they use to package their products are made from recycled material, and they do use recycled polyester, wool, cotton, down, leather, and glass in their products. They also started a Clothing Collection program that allows consumers to donate old or unworn clothes to be up-cycled, sold, or broken down into raw material for the benefit of selected non-profit organizations. Zara has stated clearly on their website that they do not benefit financially from this program. Zara’s initiatives greatly contrast their fast fashion model, which leads me to believe it may be a greenwashing tactic to turn the consumer’s eye the other way.