Is River Island a Fast Fashion Brand?

Screenshot of River Island's website

Yes, River Island is a fast fashion brand.

River Island is a popular high street fashion brand and fast fashion retailer. It was founded by white British businessman Bernard Lewis (worth £2 billion) in 1948 and today it is owned by the Lewis family.

River Island makes around £850 million revenue each year across its 350 stores across the UK, Ireland, Asia, the Middle East and Europe, as well as its six dedicated online sites. On those websites, River Island also offers payment using Klarna, a controversial buy-now-pay-later scheme that encourages higher value purchases and getting customers into debt.

River Island has a snazzy Ethical Policy booklet available on its site, which says all the right things in broad terms, but does not give enough detail to really tell whether they are treating people ethically. As an example:

“Child labour shall not be used”

This sounds great in practice, but what does River Island count as child labour? Many other fast fashion brands say this, and go on to state a minimum working age of 14 or 15 years old. In my eyes, this is still child labour. More specificity is needed.

In terms of sustainability, River Island has just one paragraph dedicated to Environment on its website, which includes the line “River Island also recycles and uses biodegradable materials whenever possible.” Does whenever possible mean whenever its the cheapest option? Because I see so many more opportunities for recycling and investing in biodegradable materials across their site.

And even stranger still, when it comes to Recycling, River Island only focuses on the recycling of electrical items. What about your clothes?! What about your principle product?!

Avoid avoid avoid.

Transparency Rating: 22/100
Sustainability Rating: 2/5


This snippet is part of a larger guide to UK fast fashion brands, which goes into more detail about the issues with fast fashion, why it will never be sustainable, and how to make your wardrobe more sustainable.

Data for this review is taken from the brand’s website, corporate website, and Wikipedia. The Transparency Rating is from Fashion Transparency Index 2020. The Sustainability Rating is from Good On You.

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