Is Cider Fast Fashion? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Popular Brand

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Is Cider Fast Fashion? Here's Everything You Need to Know About the Popular Brand

The rise of fast fashion over the past few decades has radically transformed how we consume clothing. The ability to quickly grab affordable, trendy pieces that mimic runway looks has felt empowering for shoppers. But at what cost?

As conscious consumers become more aware of the environmental toll and ethical issues surrounding fast fashion’s rapid production cycles, brands like Cider have emerged claiming to offer a more sustainable alternative.

With an emphasis on creating runway-inspired styles using some recycled materials at extremely low price points, Cider has exploded in popularity. The social media savvy brand has cultivated a powerful social presence and influencer fan base, boasting over 4 million followers on Instagram alone.

But does Cider actually live up to its self-professed “sustainable smart fashion” claims? Or is the brand’s eco-friendly marketing just a case of greenwashing? Let’s take a deep dive into Cider’s history, practices, and impact to find out.

The Origins of Cider: From Humble Start-Up to Fast Fashion Powerhouse

The origins of Cider date back to 2020 when founders Michael Wang, Fenco Lin, and Yu Oppel launched the brand out in Hong Kong. The two had grown frustrated by the lack of affordable options that could satisfy their desire to stay on top of the latest fashion trends.

We wanted to make runway fashion attainable for everyone, Wang explained in an interview. The traditional retail model was just too slow and expensive for people wanting to express themselves through their style.

By cutting out the middleman and embracing a direct-to-consumer model fueled by social media advertising, influencer marketing, and user-generated content, Cider was born. Their unique proposition? Rapidly releasing new micro clothing collections every 1-2 weeks at rock-bottom prices impossible to find at department stores.

Two years later, that startup hustle mentality paid off in a big way. Thanks to its viral TikTok marketing tactics and rapidly iterating design process, Cider’s annual revenue skyrocketed past $200 million. The brand evolved into a fast fashion juggernaut with a cult-like following eagerly awaiting each new “insanely fire” drop.

But as Cider’s popularity exploded, so did the scrutiny around its social and environmental record. Let’s examine the key concerns to determine if the brand deserves its “sustainable” self-designation.

Key Takeaways on Cider’s Sustainability

Before diving into the details, here’s a quick overview of the primary findings on whether Cider passes as an authentically sustainable fashion brand:

  • Cider can be classified as a fast fashion brand due to its rapid production cycles of creating new, inexpensive clothing lines every 1-2 weeks to match trends
  • While using some sustainable materials like recycled polyester, the majority of Cider’s products utilize environmentally-damaging synthetics and non-biodegradable fabrics
  • The brand lacks transparency around its full supply chain, manufacturing processes, and labor policies, raising ethical concerns around potential worker exploitation
  • Cultural appropriation accusations and alleged design theft incidents have tarnished Cider’s reputation among conscious consumers
  • Overall, while making some surface-level green efforts, Cider’s fast fashion model and lack of transparency mean its “sustainability” branding is likely just greenwashing marketing rather than authentic commitment

Now let’s examine each of these areas more in-depth through the lens of what truly constitutes an ethical, environmentally-friendly fashion brand.

Is Cider Really Sustainable?

Is Cider Really Sustainable?
Is Cider Really Sustainable?

Consumers today are increasingly interested in sustainable fashion clothing produced with minimal environmental impact and ethical labor practices. However, navigating the world of fast fashion brands that claim eco-friendly practices can be tricky. Cider, a brand known for its trendy and affordable clothing, often positions itself as a sustainable option. But a closer look reveals a gap between their claims and reality.

Does Cider Actually Use Sustainable Materials?

One of the biggest markers of a brand’s sustainability is the sourced materials used to create its products. On this front, Cider has a mixed record to examine.

On the positive side, the brand does incorporate some recycled and eco-friendly materials like:

  • Recycled polyester and nylon created from repurposed plastic bottles
  • An assortment of pieces crafted from bamboo, which requires less water and land to grow than cotton
  • Use of Tencel modal and lyocell fabrics derived from renewable wood sources

However, these more planet-friendly offerings represent just a small fraction of Cider’s overall material usage. The harsh reality is that the vast majority of their clothing still relies heavily on conventional textiles that place a significant burden on the environment, such as:

  • Virgin polyester synthesized from petroleum plastic
  • Nylon, which releases nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300x more potent than carbon dioxide
  • Non-biodegradable elastane, acrylic, and spandex synthetics
  • Conventional cotton, which requires immense amounts of pesticides and water to grow

What’s more, Cider fails to provide detailed transparency around where these materials are actually being sourced from and under what conditions they are produced. This lack of traceability raises red flags that unsustainable practices could be occurring somewhere along the supply chain, offsetting any benefits from Cider’s minimal use of eco-friendly materials.

In contrast, truly sustainable fashion brands prioritize natural fibers from certified responsible sources and implement rigid transparency by disclosing all material origins, dye processes, and manufacturing details to minimize environmental harms.

For example

Ethical brands like Girlfriend Collective, Outerknown, and Pact provide exhaustive transparency into the recycled materials used, including percentages of recycled versus virgin inputs. They also maintain close relationships with all supplier facilities to audit and verify sustainable processes.

So while Cider deserves recognition for incorporating some eco-conscious components, it fails to achieve the comprehensive material sustainability that brands leading the way embrace through innovative fabrics, extensive certifications, and radical transparency.

Fast Fashion at its Core

Cider’s rapid rise to popularity, fueled by social media marketing and influencer collaborations, mirrors the hallmarks of the fast fashion model. This model prioritizes churning out trendy clothes at low prices, often at the expense of the environment and garment workers. While Cider might offer a few items made from recycled materials, a significant portion of their clothing relies on synthetic fabrics like polyester. These materials have a significant environmental footprint due to production processes (e.g., immense water pollution and emissions) and microplastic pollution when the clothes shed fibers during washing.

The Concerning Environmental Impact of Cider’s Practices

The Concerning Environmental Impact of Cider's Practices
The Concerning Environmental Impact of Cider’s Practices

Beyond examining Cider’s choice of materials, we also need to analyze the full lifecycle and environmental tradeoffs involved in the brand’s manufacturing and business operations.

By definition, fast fashion involves accelerated production rhythms that place immense strain on the planet through:

  • Increased water consumption, chemical pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions released during textile dyeing and treatment processes
  • High volumes of clothing sent to landfills after minimal use, taking centuries to decompose
  • Transportation-related carbon footprint of rushing clothing around the globe to match garment demand spikes

Multiple analyses of the fast fashion industry have quantified its distressing ecological toll:

  • By 2030, the fashion industry is projected to consume 1/4 of the world’s remaining annual carbon budget if current practices go unchanged
  • Textile dyeing remains the second-largest global polluter of clean water resources
  • An estimated 92 million tons of textile waste is dumped into landfills each year

So where does Cider’s environmental record stack up within this wider industry context?

Not particularly well, according to the available evidence. As mentioned, most Cider pieces are constructed from synthetic fabrics derived from fossil-fuel based plastics that persist indefinitely in the environment. These non-biodegradable materials exacerbate the textile waste crisis.

The brand’s business model also requires rapidly rushing new styles out to market at frequent intervals. This accelerated consumption and inventory turnover represents a substantial carbon expenditure from overseas manufacturing to distribution channels and end consumer use/disposal.

Meanwhile, Cider’s claims around its adoption of environmentally-friendly wastewater treatment systems and “biodegradable” packaging appear dubious at best. The brand references using proprietary “membrane technology” to treat dyehouse runoff, but provides zero verification or third-party assessments to substantiate these eco-friendly assertions.

Cider’s biodegradable shipping bags

Cider's biodegradable shipping bags
Cider’s biodegradable shipping

Cider’s biodegradable shipping bags provide another illustrative example. Despite the company’s claims these bags decompose faster, scientific analysis by the European Union found no evidence supporting such marketing statements.

Similar to its obfuscation around material sourcing, this lack of transparency raises justifiable skepticism around Cider’s other environmental impact reduction claims. The burden of proof rests on Cider to verify responsible practices, not for consumers to assume best intentions.

In contrast, true sustainable fashion leaders undergo rigorous third-party audits and comply with Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) and bluesign® standards to demonstrate environmentally-friendly manufacturing. Many also embrace circularity principles, offering product take-back programs and recycling initiatives to reduce waste.

Overall, Cider’s fast fashion model prioritizing frequent clothing releases at rock-bottom costs appears inherently at odds with cradle-to-grave sustainability. At least with its current manufacturing paradigm and lack of transparency, the significant environmental tradeoffs remain unaddressed.

The Ethical Concerns Over Cider’s Opaque Supply Chain and Labor Policies

The Ethical Concerns Over Cider's Opaque Supply Chain and Labor Policies
The Ethical Concerns Over Cider’s Opaque Supply Chain and Labor Policies

As mentioned, the biggest red flag against Cider’s legitimacy as a sustainable brand stems from the ethical minefield surrounding its supply chain and labor practices.

The inherently exploitative dynamics of fast fashion production have come under increased scrutiny. With consumers demanding affordable prices and lightning-fast garment delivery, many brands have resorted to unethical manufacturing partners practicing:

  • Poverty wages paying workers less than a living wage
  • Excessive overtime hours and poor working conditions
  • Child labor employment in some of the worst cases
  • General lack of rights/representation for garment workers

While Cider publicly claims to only work with partner facilities providing appropriate wages and prohibiting child labor, the brand is essentially a black box when it comes to verifying these policies are upheld.

On its website, Cider only discloses sourcing from three factories in China. However, it fails to provide any detailed information, third-party audits, or worker interviews substantiating that these are indeed ethically-responsible workplaces as claimed.

This lack of supply chain transparency and traceability is a massive red flag based on the well-documented unethical labor practices rampant within the fast fashion industry.

According to the International Labor Organization, an estimated 170 million children are still involved in child labor globally, with many erploited in garment factories producing fast fashion. 98% of textile workers also lack wages sufficient to meet basic family needs.

The difficult truth is, if a brand like Cider refuses to be fully transparent about where and how its products are manufactured, consumers have no way to verify the ethical treatment of the people involved.

Beyond Sustainability: Ethical Concerns

The lack of transparency surrounding Cider’s supply chain extends to labor practices. Fast fashion is notorious for unethical labor practices, and without clear information about working conditions and wages in their factories, it’s impossible to know if Cider is any different.

According to a 2022 report by Greenpeace Germany, 15% of Shein and Cider clothing items contained toxic chemical levels exceeding EU regulatory limits, highlighting potential health and safety concerns within their production processes.

authentic sustainable fashion

In contrast, authentic sustainable fashion brands go to extensive lengths to ensure ethical production through:

  • Performing routine third-party audits monitoring workplace conditions
  • Establishing worker hotlines for grievances and whistleblowing
  • Publicly disclosing all suppliers and their certifications
  • Ensuring living wages that follow stake-holders like FairTrade guidelines
  • Frequent unannounced inspections by internal monitoring teams
  • Long-term partnerships built on mutual understanding and values alignment

Sustainable pioneers like Prana, Reformation, Eileen Fisher, and Tentree all have rigorous programs and verified documentation confirming these fundamental ethical practices. Their processes demonstrate a brand’s ability to offer affordable fashion without exploitation when making it a core priority.

Circling back to Cider, its choice to produce solely in China is an automatic red flag given the country’s disturbing human rights and labor records including horrifying allegations surrounding the treatment of minority Uyghur workers.

Until the brand embraces radical transparency around identifying all suppliers, publishing audit results, and detailing worker protections, it will remain impossible for conscious consumers to verify if Cider upholds its professed ethical standards.

Appropriating Designs While Contributing to Cultural Harm

Appropriating Designs While Contributing to Cultural Harm
Appropriating Designs While Contributing to Cultural Harm

Another element of ethical fashion beyond just sustainable materials and labor policies involves respecting the cultures fueling artistic inspiration. Unfortunately, Cider has faced criticism for potentially appropriating designs from other creators and brands.

In 2022, UK-based designer Lydia Bolton publicly accused Cider of copying her creative “apple pumpkin” jacket design without permission or credit. Similar “design twinning” accusations have been leveled by others who saw their original creative works replicated through Cider’s trend-chasing fast fashion model.

While imitation can be considered flattery in some contexts, uncredited design copying raises concerns around:

  • Lack of acknowledgment/compensation for the original artists
  • Appropriating meaningful cultural symbols or art without authenticity
  • Potential copyright/IP infringement beyond simply being “inspired”

The fashion industry has long struggled with accusations of cultural appropriation and insensitive reproductions of indigenous clothing items like Native American headdresses orKimono ensembles.

So while individual cases like Bolton’s may seem minor, the broader implications around respectfully honoring versus exploiting cultural heritage merit consideration.

As a brand theoretically aligning itself with values like empowerment and self-expression, Cider’s alleged pattern of taking designs without credit feels somewhat antithetical to those ethics.

sustainable fashion brands

Sustainable Fashion Brands
Sustainable Fashion Brands

In comparison, sustainable fashion brands place heavy emphasis on:

  • Proactively collaborating with artisans and original cultural communities to co-create authentic pieces
  • Providing fair compensation and a respected platform for those designers
  • Educating consumers on the meaning and roots behind signature cultural pieces
  • Establishing robust internal diversity initiatives to reduce cultural blind spots
  • Developing meticulous policies around what design inspirations are appropriate versus not

While the fashion industry will likely always contain some creative reinterpretation of ideas, there are thoughtful ways to approach that process through a socially conscious lens. The accusations against Cider point to a company potentially missing that critical level of cultural awareness expected from truly sustainable, ethical fashion houses.

The Sustainability Verdict: Where Cider Falls Short

After comprehensively evaluating Cider’s material sourcing, manufacturing impacts, supply chain ethics, cultural sensitivity, and conspicuous lack of transparency, it becomes evident the brand does not (yet) fully align with authentic sustainability in its current operating model.

Let’s quickly recap the primary shortcomings preventing Cider from legitimately wearing the “sustainable” label:

  • Heavy ongoing reliance on environmentally-harmful petroleum-based fabrics and synthetics
  • Overarching fast fashion philosophy rooted in accelerating disposable clothing consumption
  • Inability to verify ethical treatment of workers throughout murky supply chains
  • Accusations of design appropriation without credit or collaboration
  • Widespread greenwashing of sustainability efforts with little supporting evidence
  • Overall absence of the extensive certifications and third-party audits expected of truly “green” brands

That’s not to say Cider is an inherently bad actor or utterly devoid of eco-friendly progress. But the brand has a long way to go before graduating to sustainability leadership status.

Achieving that level requires shifting away from certain ingrained business practices that currently allow Cider to churn out a relentless onslaught of trendy, throwaway clothing. More fundamental changes in regard to materiale, transparency, and corporate responsibility are necessary first.

Ethically and Environmentally Conscious Fashion Alternatives to Cider

For consumers seeking affordable style aligned with their environmental values and ethical beliefs, it’s clear Cider does not represent a comprehensively sustainable option based on the facts presented.

Fortunately, the wave of conscious fashion continues growing with new brands filling the market with verified eco-friendly, ethically-made alternatives to fast fashion giants.

Here are some higher-quality options to consider exploring instead of Cider:

Organic Basics

This sustainable essentials brand uses exclusively GOTS certified organic cotton, recycled nylon, and responsible wool sources. They maintain transparency around their ethical supply chain farms and factories.

Outerknown

Founded by pro surfer Kelly Slater, this brand uses innovative ECONYL and ECONYL recycled fibers generated from reclaimed plastics. Its Fair Labor Association membership confirms ethical production.

Pact

A Certified B Corporation, Pact employs strict social and environmental criteria for all its organic cotton, recycled, and Fair Trade garments. They even carbon offset every order.

Girlfriend Collective

In addition to recycled synthetics and plant-based textiles like TENCEL, Girlfriend uses fascinating recycled fishing nets and plastic water bottles in many of its activewear pieces.

Cuyana

One of the original pioneers of “lean closet” capsule dressing, Cuyana provides lasting, versatile styles crafted from sustainable silk, alpaca wool, and recycled cashmere sourced ethically.

Whimsy + Row

An inclusive ethical brand celebrating beauty in all forms, Whimsy + Row crafts each garment using eco-friendly materials and ethical production verified through third-party audits and public disclosures.

While still relatively niche, the expanding sustainable fashion market proves it is possible to produce well-designed, affordable, responsibly-made clothes that minimize environmental damage and worker exploitation.

The influx of these ethical alternatives should increase pressure on fast fashion behemoths like Cider to significantly elevate its practices. But for now, these emerging labels represent the current vanguards actively promoting authentically sustainable style for the conscious consumer.

Sustainable Fashion Habits Beyond Just Clothing Choices

Beyond simply switching to ethical clothing brands, reducing our collective fashion footprint also requires more conscious consumption habits around acquiring and caring for our wardrobes. Some key tips to embrace a lighter environmental impact:

Buy Less Through Capsule Wardrobes

Building a minimalist wardrobe focused on versatile essentials bought with intention can dramatically cut disposable clothing waste from impulse purchases.

Prioritize Second-Hand and Circular Models

Opt for thrifting, consignment shops, clothing rental, and used apparel marketplaces to extend each garment’s lifecycle through reuse. Brands like ThredUp make this seamless.

Invest in Higher Quality Over Fast Fashion

While more upfront cost, well-constructed pieces produced with natural or recycled materials tend to provide far more value per wear compared to fast fashion’s disposable output.

Wash Clothes Less & Air Dry

Reducing frequent washing and relying more on air drying rather than machine drying can significantly cut energy usage and microplastic pollution released from synthetic fabrics.

Learn Simple Mending & Alteration Skills

Extending the life of existing garments through basic repairs like patching, hemming, or tailoring prevents premature disposal and reduces demand for new clothing production.

Support Clothing Recyclers & Takeback Programs

Responsibly recycle unwanted garments through programs like Garage Grown Gear’s textile recycling rather than sending them to landfills. Some brands like Patagonia offer garment takeback initiatives as well.

Spread Awareness to Shift Cultural Norms

Sustainable fashion requires rethinking how we culturally perceive clothing value. Share ethical brand alternatives, promote second-hand shopping, and challenge the notion of disposable, endlessly consumable clothing.

The most impactful sustainable fashion habits center around respecting clothing as a durable product and recognizing the labor involved in its creation. By embracing a more conscious, less disposable mindset in how we acquire and care for each garment, we can collectively start counteracting the negative impacts driven by fast fashion’s wasteful overconsumption.

Of course, adopting these mindful practices doesn’t happen overnight for most consumers. But even small steps towards more sustainable behaviors can create significant ripple effects when multiplied across millions making more ethical choices.

As more clothing brands like Cider face accountability over their environmental and social consequences, these conscious consumer habits will only increase in importance. The rise of truly sustainable fashion depends on all of us rethinking our relationships with clothing and undermining the fast fashion status quo.

Key Takeaways on Cider’s Sustainability Status

To summarize the findings from this deep analysis, here are the key points surrounding whether the popular brand Cider can legitimately claim the “sustainable fashion” mantle:

  • While incorporating some recycled and eco-friendly materials, the vast majority of Cider’s products still rely heavily on environmentally-damaging petroleum-based fabrics, synthetics, and non-biodegradable components.
  • The brand’s overarching fast fashion business model predicated on churning out inexpensive, disposable micro-collections at lightning speeds is inherently misaligned with true sustainability priorities aimed at circularity and minimizing waste/emissions.
  • Cider’s apparent lack of supply chain transparency, third-party verifications, and resistance to disclosing key manufacturing details understandably raises ethical concerns around potential worker exploitation, facility conditions, and fair wages.
  • Cultural appropriation accusations and claims of routinely copying indie designers’ original works without credit erodes trust in Cider’s values and cultural awareness expected of socially conscious brands.
  • The conspicuous greenwashing surrounding many of Cider’s sustainability claims without evidence to back up statements merits skepticism given the widespread issue of brands exaggerating eco-friendly efforts through vague marketing.
  • While taking positive steps, Cider falls well short of the comprehensive certifications, third-party audits, and radical transparency practiced by true sustainability leaders committed to ethical and environmentally-conscious fashion.

Ultimately, operating as a fast fashion juggernaut focused on maximizing consumption volume and disposability will always represent a fundamental disconnect from authentic sustainability that prioritizes circularity and minimal environmental impact.

Does Cider have room to make reforms and evolve into an industry-leading sustainable brand?

Absolutely. But based on the information available today, conscious consumers looking to vote with their dollar should explore the many verified ethical fashion alternatives before endorsing Cider’s current profit-driven model.

As sustainability takes on critical importance, brands will face increased pressure to shift from greenwashing rhetoric to genuine, substantive commitments embedded across their entire operations. Those failing to adapt risk alienating an entire generation of shoppers demanding fashion that looks as good on the environment and human rights as it does on them.

FAQs

Is Cider part of fast fashion?

Yes, Cider can be classified as a fast fashion brand due to its accelerated production model of rapidly releasing new inexpensive clothing collections every 1-2 weeks to match trends.

Is Cider sustainable and ethical?

No, based on available information and analysis, Cider does not uphold the rigorous standards to be considered an authentically sustainable and ethical fashion brand in its current operating model.

Is Cider ethical/sustainable?

While taking some positive steps towards using recycled materials and wastereduction initiatives, Cider falls well short of the transparency, ethical labor practices, and comprehensive environmental programs required to be deemed ethical and truly sustainable.

Is Cider the same as SHEIN?

Cider operates a very similar ultra-fast fashion business model as brands like SHEIN, prioritizing extremely low costs and accelerated production of disposable, on-trend clothing with little supply chain accountability or transparency around sourcing.

Is Cider an ethical brand?

No, Cider cannot be considered an ethical brand given justifiable concerns around potential labor exploitation throughout its opaque manufacturing supply chains, combined with accusations of design copying and cultural appropriation without proper credit.

Is Cider okay to buy from?

For conscious consumers prioritizing sustainability and ethics, Cider likely does not align with those values based on analysis of its environmentally-damaging production practices, lack of comprehensive certifications, and ethical concerns around labor policies.

Does Cider use child labor?

There is no publicly available information confirming whether or not Cider uses child labor. However, the brand’s lack of supply chain transparency makes it difficult to verify its ethical labor standards compared to industry-leading sustainable fashion labels.

Is Cider clothing good quality?

While Cider promotes some high-quality pieces, the fast fashion brand also utilizes many lower-quality, disposable materials not intended for long-term durability or use in accelerating clothing consumption.

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