Wear Next.

Is Free People Ethical and Sustainable?

We give you the lowdown on UO's sister brand.

Last Updated on September 18, 2021

Free People has a carefree, boho vibe that makes you feel like you’re wearing something made by artisans. But is it an ethical and sustainable brand?

Free People started as a small store that carried plants, records and a few clothing pieces in 1970. A year later, its name was changed to Urban Outfitters (which would eventually become its sister brand’s name under the URBN umbrella). 

In 1984, the brand name Free People was revived as its parent company’s wholesale label. Since then, it has amassed a cult following for its bohemian-inspired clothing. 

But will you feel as good and carefree as its models appear when you buy from the brand after learning about its practices? Let’s find out.

READ MORE: Is Boden ethical and sustainable?

Is Free People sustainable?

Free People has quite a few projects and strategies to help care for Mother Nature listed on its ‘Mother Nature’ page

The brand has a curation of items from sustainable brand partners under its Care FP line. The products, the brand said, are ‘small-batch made by 501(c)3 nonprofits who support artisanal and small businesses, both overseas and in our own backyard.’

In terms of offerings, Free People has a range of products that it says are ‘designed with at least 50% of an eco-conscious fiber.’ Among the eco-friendly fabrics it claims to use are Econyl, organic cotton, and linen.

Free People’s parent company also says that the brand saved 514,000 bags from hitting landfills in 2019, thanks to its Skip a Bag Program.

In September 2021, the brand partnered with Boxed Water, along with other brands, to ‘walk-the-walk’ for coastal clean-up month in the US. The campaign includes the clean-up of two beaches in California and one in New York, as well as individual clean-ups for the participating brands’ employees.

As part of the campaign, Free People is also giving away a $500 gift card through a planet-conscious giveaway.

Despite all these, Free People remains reliant on a fast-fashion model of production, according to Good On You. Fast-fashion will always run the risk of overproduction and excessive waste of resources, making it unsustainable in the long run.

READ MORE: Is Brock Collection x H&M sustainable?

Is Free People ethical?

You may have heard of the many controversies Free People was embroiled in some five years ago where they were accused several times of cultural appropriation. 

The brand was called out several times for trivialising and making costumes appropriating Native American culture. Prior to that, it was in hot water for releasing a dreadlock tutorial.

Free People was also accused of stealing an independent artist’s design.

As well as these controversies, its parent company, URBN, scored only 11-20% in the Fashion Transparency Index

So while it has a published list of suppliers and an ethical policy that’s in accordance with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act — which requires it to not use child labour and practice discrimination — there’s no report or evidence that it is following this and that it provides its employees with living wages.

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Free People’s Animal Welfare Policy

Free People became angora-free in 2016, but it still uses wool, leather, and exotic animal hair in some of its products. 

Since it’s not transparent about its supply chain, it will be difficult to know whether or not there are safety issues encountered in procuring and using these animal-derived materials.

The brand also doesn’t have a published animal welfare policy.

Wear Next Opinion

Wear Next believes it’s important to highlight the negative and unjust practises taking place in the fashion industry. We believe ethics and sustainability are an important talking point to bring about change and we encourage you to contact fashion brands to demand this.

However we understand that sustainable fashion isn’t accessible for every body due to various factors, such as budget and the ability to find confidence-boosting clothes that fit. We will continue to offer you fashion inspiration and guidance to suit every body and budget, while also highlighting the unjust systems at play in the fashion industry.

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