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 British 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 £850 million in revenue each year, generating this from across its 350 stores in the UK, Ireland, Asia, the Middle East and Europe, as well as its six dedicated online sites.

River Island is a fast fashion brand due to the speed of production and scale of clothes that it sells.

Fashion Revolution Transparency Rating: 22/100
Ethical Consumer Score: 13.5/15
Good On You Sustainability Rating: 1/5

Additional Reasons Why River Island Is A Fast Fashion Brand

  • Between 2020 and 2021, River Island updated its sustainability strategy from a simple Ethical Policy booklet (now taken down) to a 40-page Sustainability Strategy. Despite this update, it still does not indicate the minimum age of its workers, simply stating “Child labour shall not be used”. It should at least state an age – most brands state a minimum working age of 14 or 15, which I still find a terrible practice.
  • One of its Key Targets is to reach ‘Net-Zero carbon Emissions by the end of 2040’. This is 10 years after the UN’s recommended timeframe of 2030.
  • River Island touts its connection with Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) as sustainable credentials, when both have issues.
  • On its websites, River Island offers customers the use of Klarna, a controversial buy-now-pay-later scheme that encourages higher value purchases and getting customers into debt.
  • River Island considers its partnership with disabled children’s charity NewLife a ‘recycling program’, when in reality it is clothes donations at best.
  • In 2022, River Island was found to have multiple links to JBS, a Brazilian firm responsible for much of the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest through cattle rearing and leather production.

Sustainable Alternatives To River Island

If you’re looking to stop shopping at River Island, I recommend checking out the affordable brands listed in my guide to 150+ sustainable fashion brands or bookmarking some of my favourite second-hand fashion sites.

This post 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, Wikipedia, and sites linked throughout. The Transparency Rating is from Fashion Transparency Index 2021. All information is assumed correct at date of publication.


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