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Fast Fashion Tested: Which Jeans Are the Most Sustainable?


Collage of Moincoins employees testing fast fashion jeans for sustainability

Sustainable denim at a reasonable price is hard to find, but the winning product of our research is one of them. We tested four sustainable jeans from Pull&Bear, H&M, Guess and Zara to see if they’re worth buying. This is how they scored!

The sample products are tested and evaluated to the best of our knowledge and belief. None of the brands sponsored this article. Nevertheless, we think that the products listed in this article can be useful for our readers.

Who doesn’t love denim jeans? The iconic symbol of American fashion has become an essential piece of our wardrobes. But how does this fabric impact the environment? It takes approximately 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair of jeans- that sad fact is part of the answer to this question. 

We picked for a test four pairs of jeans from those of the biggest fast fashion brands. All jeans are labeled as “sustainable” and are supposedly made of more eco-friendly materials. Read on to find out how they performed in terms of sustainability, textile certifications, description transparency, durability and quality.

Jump to the test results for: Pull&Bear | H&M | Zara | Guess

Watch the video to have an even better overview of the jeans we tested and how they performed.

Top Eco-Friendly Jeans Comparison

We summarized the most important information and test results for our sample jeans in this review table.

 
TOP
Pull&Bear Basic Mom Jeans

PULL&BEAR

H&M Wide High Jeans

H&M

Zara High Rise Slim Flared Jeans

ZARA

Guess Eco Straight Leg Jeans

GUESS

Product Name

Basic Mom Jeans

Wide High Jeans

High Rise Slim Flared Jeans

Eco Straight Leg Jeans

Overall score

4.0/5

3.4/5

3.2/5

2.8/5

Price

$35.90

$49.99

$45.90

$89.00

Collection

Join Life

Conscious Choice

Join Life

Guess Eco

Fabric

100% cotton (at least 50% organic cotton)

100% recycled cotton

98% cotton (at least 15% recycled cotton)
2% spandex

recycled cotton
1% spandex

Textile Certificates

-

-

GRS & RCS

-

Materials

Certifications

Product info

Durability

Quality

 

5/5

 

0/5

 

5/5

 

5/5

 

5/5

 

5/5

 

0/5

 

5/5

 

4/5

 

3/5

 

2/5

 

3/5

 

3/5

 

4/5

 

4/5

 

1/5

 

3/5

 

1/5

 

5/5

 

4/5

Pros

  • plus

    color didn’t wash off

  • plus

    thick and good material quality

  • plus

    kept its shape and measurements

  • plus

    very reasonable price

  • plus

    firm and durable

  • plus

    100% sustainable composition

  • plus

    vegan

  • plus

    elastic material

  • plus

    elegant vintage cuts

  • plus

    vegan

  • plus

    material remained smooth and intact

  • plus

    good quality with straight stitches

  • plus

    deep, practical pockets

Cons

  • plus

    not stretchy

  • plus

    stiff material, especially in the waistband area

  • plus

    heavy

  • plus

    zipper broke

  • plus

    waistband area started to stretch out

  • plus

    not very sustainable composition

  • plus

    not stretchy

  • plus

    vague information about materials and certifications

Visit site

P&B icon H&M icon ZARA icon GUESS icon

#1 Pull&Bear Basic Mom Jeans

TOP
Pull&Bear Basic Mom Jeans
priceLabel
$35.90
PULL&BEAR icon

Overall score 4.0/5

Materials

5/5

 

Certifications

0/5

 

Product information

5/5

 

Durability

5/5

 

Quality

5/5

 

This product was purchased in October 2021 and is not available anymore. Explore the Pull&Bear Join Life collection to find similar products.

Collection | Join Life

Fabric | 100% cotton, with at least 50% organic cotton

Textile Certifications | no certifications

Origin | Cambodia

Packaging | paper bag, no additional plastic wrapping

Color | light faded denim

Size | 6

  • plus

    color didn’t wash off

  • plus

    thick and good material quality

  • plus

    kept its initial shape and measurements

  • plus

    very reasonable price

  • minus

    not stretchy

These basic mom jeans won in our testing as affordable and sustainable denim. Its fabric blend consists of at least 50% ecologically grown cotton, which makes this piece a part of Pull&Bear’s eco collection. We found the product description very transparent, having plenty of information about the item’s sustainability, origin and production process. These mom jeans performed great in our testing in terms of durability and quality. Their loose and buggy fit flatters all body shapes and is an ideal casual piece to wear every day. 

However, there are two dark spots. First of all, the garment did not carry any reliable third-party certifications to support the claim for organic cotton. Secondly, we reached out to customer service asking if the product, or more specifically the patch on the backside, is vegan. The reply we received was as follows: “We confirm we do have items that are vegan and are shown on the Pull&Bear website”. This was a vague and very indirect answer that left us with more questions than answers.

" "Good old denim" - that’s the thought I had after testing these jeans. The material is thick and firm so the jeans are durable and can survive a couple of crash tests for sure. Mine got through a few dog playtimes without a single scratch or hole and that's definitely a plus. They also didn't shrink much after a couple of laundries, so I would not go with Pull&Bear's recommendation to buy a bigger size. It's not so easy to find somehow eco-friendly jeans at reasonable prices nowadays, therefore, these certainly deserve a chance. However, I wish there were some material certifications available. Otherwise, I can't score Pull&Bear jeans with a single point for this criteria." - Oleksandra, Moincoins Project Manager

#2 H&M Wide High Jeans

H&M Wide High Jeans
priceLabel
$49.99
H&M icon

Overall score 3.4/5

Materials

5/5

 

Certifications

0/5

 

Product information

5/5

 

Durability

4/5

 

Quality

3/5

 

This product was purchased in October 2021 and is not available anymore. Explore the H&M Conscious Choice collection to find similar products.

Collection | H&M Conscious Choice

Fabric | 100% recycled cotton

Textile Certifications | no certifications

Origin | Pakistan

Packaging | paper bag, recyclable plastic wrapping

Color | regular denim blue

Size | 7.5

  • plus

    firm and durable

  • plus

    100% sustainable composition

  • plus

    vegan

  • minus

    stiff material, especially in the waistband area

  • minus

    heavy

  • minus

    zipper broke

These jeans from the H&M Conscious collection, made of 100% recycled cotton, are definitely a good choice for sustainable denim. They have a slightly looser fit, a high waist and straight, wide legs. We also reached out to the brand asking whether this garment is vegan. We were very satisfied by their prompt, transparent and direct answer stating that this product is 100% vegan and does not contain any animal ingredients. 

However, this denim didn’t receive excellent feedback in terms of quality. Even though the material looks very firm and durable, it’s also very heavy and stiff, which makes it uncomfortable to wear, especially in the waistband area or while seated.

"I would assume that such a loose fit and wide leg jeans would be the ultimate comfy piece to wear. To be honest, I find it hard to wear on a daily basis. The material is stiff and heavy, the high waistband is not very elastic which makes you feel weird while seated and the zipper in the front broke after the third wash. On the other hand, I'm very happy because these jeans are made of 100% recycled cotton, are vegan and the brand provided extended information on the website. I would give extra points to the H&M customer service if I could - they answered in a very prompt, polite and detailed way giving me additional information about their next steps towards more sustainable collections." - Rena, Moincoins Content & Media Manager

#3 Zara High Rise Slim Flared Jeans

Zara High Rise Slim Flared Jeans
priceLabel
$45.90
ZARA icon

Overall score 3.2/5

Materials

2/5

 

Certifications

3/5

 

Product information

3/5

 

Durability

4/5

 

Quality

4/5

 

This product was purchased in October 2021 and is not available anymore. Explore the Zara Join Life collection to find similar products.

Collection | Join Life

Fabric | 98% cotton (at least 15% recycled cotton), 2% spandex

Textile Certifications | Global Recycled Standard (GRS) and Recycled Content Standard (RCS)

Origin | Turkey

Packaging | paper bag, no additional plastic wrapping

Color | regular denim blue

Size | 7.5

  • plus

    elastic material

  • plus

    elegant vintage cuts

  • plus

    vegan

  • minus

    waistband area started to stretch out

  • minus

    not very sustainable composition

Our feedback for the Zara jeans starts from the material composition, which we found quite disappointing. This denim is made of 98% cotton, of which around 15% is recycled. We believe that such a low percentage of sustainable fabric should not be promoted as an eco collection. On the positive side, the brand uses only certified recycled cotton working with organizations that perform monitoring from origin through to the final production. Therefore this jeans fabric carries Global Recycled Standard (GRS) and Recycled Content Standard (RCS) certifications. Additionally, the product is vegan and it also performed well in terms of durability. We have high hopes for these jeans to last longer. However, there are doubts about the future of the waistband line that stretched out after wearing the piece multiple times.

"My wardrobe got a more vintage touch with these jeans! It's high rise slim jeans which are embracing my body really well. They don’t have any animal-derived ingredients and the production required less water, which is great to know. Yet max. 15% of recycled cotton is pretty low and it's also disappointing that there is no detailed information about the exact amount of the fiber mixture. I'm also not very happy about the sizing - too long and too wide on the waist for me but still very elastic. The vintage cuts in the pant leg give the illusion that the lower part of my body is longer - love that!" - Rena, Moincoins Content & Media Manager

#4 Guess Eco Straight Leg Jeans

Guess Eco Straight Leg Jeans
priceLabel
$89.00
GUESS icon

Overall score 2.8/5

Materials

1/5

 

Certifications

3/5

 

Product information

1/5

 

Durability

5/5

 

Quality

4/5

 

This product was purchased in October 2021 and is not available anymore. Explore the Guess Eco collection to find similar products.

Collection | Guess Eco

Fabric | recycled cotton, 1% spandex

Textile Certifications | no certifications

Origin | Pakistan

Packaging | paper box and additional plastic wrapping

Color | regular denim blue

Size | 6

  • plus

    the material remained smooth and intact after several laundries

  • plus

    good quality with straight stitches in all areas

  • plus

    deep, practical pockets in the front

  • minus

    not stretchy

  • minus

    vague information about materials and certifications

The worst-performing denim in this category is the Guess straight-leg jeans. We highly doubt whether these jeans deserve to be part of the eco collection. The only information about sustainability is a statement on the website, saying “this item contains recycled cotton fibers”. No matter if this is valid or not, we believe it’s fair to give only one point due to the misleading and vague information being delivered. The same approach is applied to the certificate this product carries. The Jeanologia label that is attached to the product, claiming that the garment has “medium impact” is not further explained by the provider or the brand itself. However, the item got very good feedback since it succeeded in our testing by keeping its initial shape and overall quality. Is this enough though? In our opinion, not for an eco collection!

"I always have to gather some willpower before I put on this pair of jeans. Why? Because they're straight and I've been wearing slim-fit jeans for most of my life. I'm not very happy about the sizing - the 28 on the waist seems a bit tight (and it's not my corona-belly) and the 32 length seems long (would be perfect for high-heels though). The pants feel slightly uncomfortable in the crotch area, but make my butt look really nice. The sustainability of the jeans is questionable." - Alicja, Moincoins CEO

Methodology

How Did We Pick the Brands and Items?

Before picking sample jeans, we conducted major research for several fast fashion brands. Our final picks were Pull&Bear, H&M, Guess and Zara. These brands are among the biggest and bestselling fast fashion retailers, counting thousands of online purchases and stores. Another interesting point is that two out of four brands (Zara and Pull&Bear) are part of the Inditex Group, which is the largest fast fashion company in the world, operating over seven thousand stores in 93 markets worldwide. It was essential to include this group in our research as the majority of shoppers are familiar with these brands and have bought their products.

To select the final items we used websites’ navigation and available filters. The main criterion we were driven by was that all the jeans must belong to sustainable collections. We analyzed those eco collections together with the products and picked four pairs of jeans that in our opinion represent the basic must-have denim in every woman's wardrobe. 

How Did We Test?

In order to provide a comprehensive, valuable and authentic review, we tested each product extensively. The products were ordered in October 2021 and were delivered to us after a couple of days. The testing period started at the beginning of November 2021 by assigning the items to the testers according to their relevant sizes. We measured each product, took pictures, and made notes. The entire testing process lasted over three months, including the evaluation and scoring period. During this time, our testers were responsible for wearing the jeans as many times as possible, washing and ironing them a minimum of five times and treating them as their own. 

Additionally, we exposed every item to different conditions, including sunnier and colder places, to give you a wider spectrum of their long-term durability and quality and ensure more precise results. We avoided making predictions and we tried to thoroughly understand how each garment responds over the course of time in terms of shrinking, wearing, washing out, losing shape, fading color and more.

It’s also important to highlight that we followed all suggested handling instructions. All jeans were washed in a cold program with no tumble drying or bleaching and they were ironed according to the instructions on the label. 

We also evaluated the overall online shop presentation of each product. We paid particular attention to how precisely the sustainability of the jeans is described and how extensive the information about the production process is. We cross-checked the web information when receiving the garments to see if any of the brands attempted greenwashing. Last but not least, we checked whether each item carries any textile certificates.

All products were tested within our international company. We are five eco-conscious women, living in Europe and the U.S. sharing a similar mindset about sustainable living. In case you want to learn more about our testers you can check out our about us page

How Did We Rate?

Materials

The environmental issues linked to denim production are an area of concern. It all begins with the material that denim is made of - cotton. Conventionally grown cotton is very harmful to the environment because of its high water consumption and use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. All sample jeans are made of a blend of cotton and recycled or organic cotton fibers, which places them in the eco-friendly collections of the brands. In some cases, spandex was also used since it ensures proper stretch and a better fit. 

The best option in terms of the materials’ sustainability is the jeans of H&M, which is made of a 100% recycled composition. However, we decided to score equally high points on the Pull&Bear jeans as at least 50% of their fabric blend is organic cotton. This type of cotton ensures high sustainability commitment by implementing water-saving farming techniques or eliminating harmful chemicals. 

The vintage-style denim of Zara got only two points because we believe that 15% recycled cotton is pretty low to bear a sustainability label. We were also very disappointed by the Guess jeans and the way the brand delivers information about the textile composition to its customers. We initially ordered this garment because its description stated that the fabric contains recycled cotton fibers. Apparently, this was wrongly promoted because when the product arrived the inner label didn't mention anything about recycled fibers.

Read the full guide on sustainable and non-sustainable fabrics to make better choices for your wardrobe.

Textile Certifications

Textile certifications aim to make the whole manufacturing process in the fashion industry more eco-friendly and less harmful for people, animals and the environment. They set up standards of a certain quality that nowadays bear an added quality value for customers.

Unfortunately not every product carries textile certifications as well as not in every case when it does, the information is presented in a transparent way. The Zara jeans carry a note that it only uses certified recycled cotton collaborating with the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) and the Recycled Content Standard (RCS) for this purpose. Yet we would expect the brand to write specifically which certification is applied to this particular pair of jeans. 

The Guess jeans come with a Jenealogia label, categorizing the garment as “medium impact”. However, neither the Guess nor the Jeanologia websites explain what this exactly means, making it impossible to understand what kind of sustainability proof this is. On the other hand, both H&M and Pull&Bear products lack any certifications.

Product Information

During our testing process, we evaluated the information provided on the official websites of each brand and the product labels. The Zara website stated some information about recycling, reduction of water consumption and reduction of energy, however, the brand could have been more specific (and that’s why it scored only three points). 

Guess got only one point since we found all information misleading and blurry. We hope that Guess will either stop including products that carry such weak information in its eco collection or improve the way it delivers and justifies this collection. 

In some cases, we had to reach out to customer service with further questions. Both Pull&Bear and H&M delivered detailed information about the sustainability of the garments, including place of origin, water reduction, other green practices etc. However, we have to admit that we liked H&M more due to its very friendly approach and direct answer.

Durability 

As a clothing item, denim is always sturdy, durable and can be effortlessly worn in rough conditions. All garments of our testing sample scored either four or five points for durability since not many changes were noticed after regular washing, drying and ironing. 

Pull&Bear and Guess each got five points because in both cases the length didn't change and the material remained smooth and intact after testing. We deducted one point from the H&M jeans because the zipper broke after the third wash and the overall feeling of the jeans was very gritty, making it uncomfortable for everyday use. We also deducted one point from the Zara jeans because they stretched out after multiple wears. In general, we were very satisfied with the overall durability of the pieces of denim we ordered. Most of them won’t need any repairings or replacements any time soon, which is very important for sustainability.

Quality

The Pull&Bear jeans were rated as the top denim choice. They are good-quality, loose-fitting jeans that kept their standing shape during tests. Zara got four points, despite being a very flattering slim, vintage and elastic pair of jeans. Unfortunately, it stretched out at the waistband area after multiple wears, so we didn’t give full points here. 

Guess also performed well, since it kept its smooth feel and straight stitches in all areas. We particularly liked the deep pockets in the front, which are hard to come across in women's jeans. But we had to deduct one point for its uncomfortable fit in the crotch area. H&M landed in the very last position because our tester found it very uncomfortable denim to wear every day. This pair of jeans is very stiff, heavy and the high waistband area is not very elastic which makes you feel inconvenient while seated. It’s a pity we scored low points in this case because we were very satisfied with the eco-friendly material composition. Maybe that’s a good start to improving the quality of the garment, too.

Our Key Test Findings

The winning product was determined by calculating the scores from five different testing criteria. We are really happy to see that the winning jeans from Pull&Bear not only include a high percentage of organic cotton fibers but are also the least expensive option from our sample. It also seems that all items are vegan, however, it’s still questionable if Pull&Bear jeans are vegan due to the unclear customer service answer. 

All items performed well in terms of durability and quality, yet we could have easily predicted the results to be so because jeans are hard to wear out in such a short period of time. Our last comment is that there's definitely room for improvement especially when it comes to textile certifications. We are concerned that only two garments of four carried some certificates. And despite that, the presentation of those was vague and intransparent. We believe it would be really valuable for all customers to have access to the in-depth information that ensures high standards and justifies the place of these items in the eco collections.

Wait! Here is more

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Sustainable Denim?

Denim is considered to be sustainable only when it is made out of organic or recycled cotton. Organic denim means that the production process requires less water and that garment production eliminates the use of pesticides and fertilizers. In the case of recycled denim, it’s typically made of previously used cotton fabric blended with a bit of raw material to ensure higher material quality. Look out for jeans colored with vegetable dyes that are chemical-free and therefore more eco-friendly.

Is Denim Vegan?

In general, denim fabric doesn’t contain animal ingredients since it’s made of cotton. Growing and processing cotton doesn’t involve harming or killing animals. However, it might be possible that your denim comes with genuine leather patches on the waistline.

Sources 

  1. H&M
  2. Guess 
  3. Pull&Bear 
  4. Zara