Is Cider Fast Fashion? Breakdown + 8 Ethical Alternatives
Cider is a quirky, colorful, and low-cost fashion brand based in China. Their goal is to make “stylish and high-quality clothes accessible to everyone.”
While they have a couple sustainability measures, they’re ultimately greenwashing. Here’s a deep dive into the brand, plus actually ethical alternatives to consider.
Note: This information is based on Cider’s sustainability page as of December 2022. Screenshots are taken from those pages.
Analysis of Cider’s Ethics and Sustainability
Cider’s main sustainability claim is that they create less waste than traditional fashion companies because they have a “smart fashion” model that only produces what customers want. They state:
“We are able to adjust production in real time by looking at direct feedback and data from our customers (pretty cool, right?!). This means we produce less waste than traditional retail fashion companies, allowing us to deliver fashion more quickly and with less waste.”
This reasoning is vague and confusing. How much less waste are they producing compared to traditional fashion companies? Don’t all fashion companies look at customer data to inform future production? How does this allow them to deliver fashion more quickly? Shouldn’t it actually lead to slower delivery times if production is being adjusted based on demand?
(Also, notice how the last sentence is redundant and seems like it was written by someone who doesn’t even understand the concept they’re trying to explain).
A better model would be made-to-order, where pieces are only made if they’re purchased. The downside is a longer wait time, but it would more clearly reduce waste than Cider’s current system.
Cider’s next sustainability claim is that they’ll switch to d₂w biodegradable bags by the end of 2022. “Biodegradable” is a common greenwashing term, however, as everything biodegrades eventually—even plastic. Just because something biodegrades doesn’t mean it will break down into organic matter or break down in a reasonable time frame.
The bags by this particular company (Oxo) were also examined by the EU Commission in 2018, and they found no evidence of their biodegradability claims. The EU Commission was actually asked by the EU Parliament to consider banning Oxo’s products and the term “biodegradable” in relation to their technology.
So, the “biodegradable” bags aren’t much of a sustainability measure at all. Better alternatives would be less packaging, recycled packaging, or compostable packaging (which would break down into organic matter).
Finally, Cider has a Recycled Cider Collection made of Global Recycled Standard (GRS) materials, including recycled cotton and polyester. The collection is really small at only 37 styles as of writing, compared to their thousands of pieces overall (I can’t even see how many styles they have in total because they have infinite scroll for their inventory instead of pages).
Beyond that, the majority of their Recycled Collection contains recycled polyester, which still sheds microplastics. Recycled bottles (also known as rPET) is also a controversial fabric since recycled polyester fabric can’t be infinitely recycled, unlike plastic bottles. At the very least, Cider could educate their customers on microplastic pollution and encourage them to use a Guppyfriend washing bag, though avoiding synthetics altogether is ideal (when possible).
Cider has a long way to go in terms of sustainability. Some other key areas of improvement include:
- Using more low-impact fabrics for all their clothing (examples include organic cotton, TENCEL, hemp, recycled fabrics)
- Introducing an in-house recycling program or other initiatives for clothing end of life
- Focusing more on timeless styles instead of microtrends that get discarded quickly
Cider doesn’t disclose any information about its factories. In terms of its workers, it simply says:
“We’ve built from the bottom up since day 1, fueled by young talent all over the world connected by our passion for making clothes you’ll love. Our diverse team works across 14 countries, 11 languages, and is majority women/women-identifying both for the company overall and leadership roles.”
Again, this is more vague pleasantries that sound nice, but don’t tell us much. How are Cider’s workers being treated? Are they paid a living wage? Are their working hours reasonable? Are their factories safe and regulated?
Cider features quotes from three people in their supply chain, but they don’t give us any concrete information about Cider as an employer; they’re again just vague pleasantries.
We need more information about who is making the clothing and how Cider is ensuring their welfare.
Cider doesn’t give back to any causes or have any social initiatives.
Cider caries US sizes 0-24 (XS – 4XL). This is a wider size range than most traditional retailers, but it’s still not as inclusive as it seems. A 4XL should actually be around a US 26-28, so their sizing runs small and the 4XL is more of a 3XL.
Their models don’t reflect their size range either, as I only see straight-sized models for their product pages. Their models are also mostly white.
They do a better job of featuring a diverse range of people on their socials, though this is user-generated content. Additionally, according to reviews on FYPM, only 1 out of 10 people were paid for their formal social collaborations with Cider, and the rest were only offered free clothing as “payment” (another sign that Cider isn’t ethical!).
Cider doesn’t have an animal welfare policy, though the vast majority of their clothing is animal product free because it’s mostly synthetics (which isn’t great for animals and the ecosystem either). They do use some wool in some pieces.
The Bottom Line
Cider is definitely a fast fashion brand. I’ve seen some posts reason that it’s probably better than SHEIN and Amazon, and while that is true in terms of scale, Cider’s sustainability measures are basically equally nonexistent (and do we really want SHEIN and Amazon to be the standards to which we’re comparing brands?).
Many of Cider’s pieces can also be found on SHEIN and Aliexpress, so you know these brands are selling very similar mass-produced items.
That said, I’m not here to shame anyone who still wants to shop from them (I’ve written quite a bit about why we shouldn’t shame people for buying fast fashion). Finding clothing you like at the right price range and in your size can be hard. I just encourage you to think about whether you’ll wear what you’re eyeing for years to come. I also hope you’ll consider the more ethical alternatives I list in this post!
Ethical Alternatives to Cider
This section contains affiliate links, meaning that I may earn a small commission on any purchases through those links, at no extra cost to you.
If you’re disappointed by Cider’s greenwashing and wondering where to shop instead, here are some ethical alternatives with a similar colorful, quirky aesthetic.
These will be more expensive than Cider (unless you shop secondhand), but keep in mind that slow fashion is all about buying less and only buying what you’ll wear for years, which should save you money in the long run.
See my guide to free and affordable alternatives to fast fashion to learn more about participating in slow fashion on a budget.
1. Used clothing
Since Cider stocks mainly trendy pieces, thrifting is a great option. In fact, because Cider’s pieces are often microtrends, you’ll probably find the specific piece you want on secondhand apps if you wait just a couple months.
Here are my favorite online thrifting platforms:
- Poshmark (get $10 off your first purchase with my referral link)
- Mercari (get $10 off your first purchase with my referral link)
- ThredUP (get 40% off your first purchase + free shipping with my referral link)
- Etsy (often small businesses, but beware of dropshippers)
2. Lucy & Yak
Size range: UK 4-32/US 0-28
Lucy & Yak is a UK brand best-known for its slouchy dungarees/overalls. They often collaborate with artists to create vibrant vibrant and quirky prints. The clothing is made from organic cotton by workers in India who are paid a living wage.
3. Dazey LA
Size range: XS-XXL
Dazey LA’s clothing is like a ray of sunshine with its abstract prints and bright colors. The clothing is made from organic and recycled materials and their workers are paid a living wage. Use code IMPERFECTIDEALIST for 10% off.
4. TAMGA Designs
Size range: XS-XXL
If you like florals, you’ll like TAMGA Designs’ colorful, flowy dresses. Their styles are made from innovative fabrics like TENCEL and ECOVERO and are sewn in a small factory in Bali where workers are paid a living wage.
Size range: UK 8-14/US 4-10
Mayamiko’s bold pieces are one-of-a-kind, as they’re made from locally-sourced fabric in Malawi by artisans who are paid a living wage. Use code LILYFANG10 for 10% off.
6. For Days
Size range: XS-XXL
One of the coolest things about For Days is that it’s circular. They make organic cotton streetwear and take back their used pieces to be recycled into new ones. You can also send old clothes from other brands to be recycled through their program.
7. Loud Bodies
Size range: XS-10XL
Loud Bodies features romantic, dramatic dresses made from natural materials. The pieces are sewn in a small atelier in Romania, and there’s custom sizing free of charge. The owner also gives away a few pieces each month to those who can’t afford it otherwise.
8. Whimsy + Row
Size range: XS-XL
Whismy + Row takes the cottagecore aesthetic and modernizes it. Their romantic clothing is made with natural materials in small batches by workers who are paid fair wages. Use code WANDR10 for 10% off.
See my sustainable brand directory for more recs and learn how I evaluate the ethics and sustainability of fashion brands so you can spot greenwashing yourself.