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Fast Fashion Tested - Which Sweater Is the Most Sustainable?


Collage of Moincoins employees testing fast fashion sweaters for sustainability

An affordable women's sweater that doesn’t harm the environment, myth or reality? We tested four eco-friendly pullovers from Pull&Bear, H&M, Guess, and Zara and found two winners. Check them out yourself!

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 said that choosing more sustainable materials for your clothes means quitting the luxury of warm, cozy and fluffy knitwear. We took a detailed look at the eco collections of four big fast fashion brands and picked some products to test and see if they were worth buying. We evaluated each item for materials sustainability, textile certifications, transparency of product description, durability and quality. And in this blog post we want to share our findings with you.

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

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

Top Eco-Friendly Sweaters Comparison

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

 
TOP
Guess Eco Logo Hooded Sweatshirt

GUESS

H&M Knit Sweater

H&M

Pull&Bear Animal Print Jacquard Cardigan

PULL&BEAR

Zara Soft Knit Sweater

ZARA

Product Name

Eco Logo Hooded Sweatshirt

Knit Sweater

Animal Print Jacquard Cardigan

Soft Knit Sweater

Overall score

3.6/5

3.6/5

3.4/5

2.4/5

Price

$79.00

$24.99

$49.90

$45.90

Collection

Guess Eco

Conscious Choice

Join Life

Join Life

Fabric

75% viscose
16% polyamide
9% spandex

52% recycled polyester
41% acrylic
4% wool
3% elastane

58% polyester (at least 25% recycled polyester)
26% acryl
14% nylon
2% spandex

56% acrylic
36% recycled polyester
4% wool
4% elastane

Textile Certificates

Lenzing Ecovero

-

-

OCS & GOTS

Materials

Certifications

Product info

Durability

Quality

 

4/5

 

4/5

 

3/5

 

3/5

 

4/5

 

3/5

 

0/5

 

5/5

 

5/5

 

5/5

 

2/5

 

0/5

 

5/5

 

5/5

 

5/5

 

2/5

 

0/5

 

4/5

 

3/5

 

3/5

Pros

  • plus

    the material smooths out by itself when you wear it

  • plus

    keeps you warm in winter

  • plus

    lightweight

  • plus

    breathable

  • plus

    doesn’t irritate the skin

  • plus

    kept its shape after laundry

  • plus

    doesn’t need ironing

  • plus

    thick and soft material

  • plus

    stretchy - gets back in shape after laundry

  • plus

    doesn’t irritate the skin

  • plus

    kept its shape and fit

  • plus

    doesn’t pill easily

Cons

  • plus

    hard to iron

  • plus

    the color started to fade

  • plus

    loose fibers sticking out on the inside

  • plus

    non-vegan

  • plus

    gets easily statically charged

  • plus

    low percentage of sustainable fibers

  • plus

    non-vegan

  • plus

    easily catches fibers from other garments

  • plus

    the color faded

  • plus

    some of the pink fibers washed out

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GUESS icon H&M icon P&B icon SHOP NOW icon

#1 Guess Eco Logo Hooded Sweatshirt

TOP
Guess Eco Logo Hooded Sweatshirt
priceLabel
$79.00
GUESS icon

Overall score 3.6/5

Materials

4/5

 

Certifications

4/5

 

Product information

3/5

 

Durability

3/5

 

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 | 75% viscose, 16% polyamide, 9% spandex

Textile Certifications | Lenzing Ecovero

Origin | China

Packaging | paper box and additional plastic wrapping

Color | purple dragonfruit

Size | S-small

  • plus

    the material gets easily wrinkled, but it smooths out by itself when you wear it

  • plus

    keeps you warm in winter

  • plus

    lightweight

  • minus

    hard to iron

  • minus

    the blush pink color started to fade

  • minus

    some loose fibers sticking out on the inside

We have to admit that this pullover exceeded our initial expectations. Among the total of four sweaters tested, the one from Guess landed on position #1, together with the following product from H&M. Receiving the sum average of 3.6 out of 5 points, the pink sweater from the Guess Eco Collection is a smart choice for the winter season. It’s made of 75% viscose, which doesn’t give the heavy and suffocating feeling of other materials like polyester. What’s also very important is that the Ecovero Lenzing is certified and the product carries an additional tag with a detailed explanation of what Lenzing EcoVero is and why it is a better choice for the environment. However, the description on the website could be more transparent: it doesn't say precisely that only 75% of the fabric is sustainable.

"I was very skeptical about this hoodie at the beginning, because of the wetsuit-like, foamy material that it's made of. It seemed so unnatural that I couldn't believe it was anyhow sustainable. Oh boy, I was wrong. I really love this piece! The cropped length is perfect for smaller people like myself. I really like the cords attached to the hoodie and yes, I put those into my mouth and chew on them a bit. Guilty! Handling this piece is a bit more complicated than your regular hoodie. It gets wrinkled when it lies in the closet folded, so I would recommend hanging it." - Alicja, Moincoins CEO

#2 H&M Knit Sweater

H&M Knit Sweater
priceLabel
$24.99
H&M icon

Overall score 3.6/5

Materials

3/5

 

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 H&M Conscious Choice collection to find similar products.

Collection | H&M Conscious Choice

Fabric | 52% recycled polyester, 41% acrylic 4% wool, 3% elastane

Textile Certifications | no certifications

Origin | Cambodia

Packaging | paper bag, recyclable plastic wrapping

Color | sage green

Size | S-small

  • plus

    breathable

  • plus

    doesn’t irritate the skin

  • plus

    kept its shape after laundry

  • plus

    doesn’t need ironing

  • minus

    non-vegan (contains wool)

An extremely soft knit sweater with a loose fit, round neckline and long sleeves that is undoubtedly another great choice for keeping you warm during winter. This product scored also 3.6 out of 5 points and consists of 52% recycled polyester. We decided to score only 3 points for materials because 52% of sustainable material is too low for an eco collection and there’s also 4% wool content, which makes the garment non-vegan. However, we appreciate that the brand seeks for sustainable alternatives to replace conventional elastane (such as recycled and bio-based elastane) and acrylic, while also working towards replacing wool with recycled wool, organic wool or RWS (Responsible Wool Standard, which is a voluntary standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on).

"At first glance, I thought it would be one of these very itchy baggy sweaters that can be worn only with a shirt or a blouse underneath. I was so wrong! It's a loose fit, oversized pullover that is very breathable and gentle to the skin and didn't lose its shape after five washes. The color is sage green, which is the latest thing in fashion and it keeps me warm during winter. I wish that the fiber mixture contained more recycled cotton and less acrylic. One thing I would change is the rounded neckline - I personally prefer a v-neck for my body shape." - Rena, Moincoins Content & Media Manager

#3 Pull&Bear Animal Print Jacquard Cardigan

Pull&Bear Animal Print Jacquard Cardigan
priceLabel
$49.90
GUESS icon

Overall score 3.4/5

Materials

2/5

 

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 | Pull&Bear Join Life

Fabric | 58% polyester (at least 25% of recycled polyester), 26% acryl, 14% nylon, 2% spandex

Textile Certifications | no certifications

Origin | China

Packaging | paper bag, no additional plastic wrapping

Color | blue

Size | S-small

  • plus

    thick and soft material

  • plus

    stretchy - gets back in shape after laundry

  • minus

    no textile certification

  • minus

    gets easily statically charged

  • minus

    low percentage of sustainable fibers

Only 0.2 points away from the winners' scores, comes the animal print jacquard cardigan with a v-neck, button fastening and bright blue color. This cardigan sweater consists of at least 25% of recycled polyester, which we think is a very low amount. The nylon, acryl, spandex and conventional polyester in the fabric blend only worsen the overall carbon footprint of the product. However, the brand gives more insights about the recycled fibers, highlighting that they’re made of recycled PET plastic, like used water bottles. By transforming this waste into a new resource, Pull&Bear manages to reduce the production of raw materials, consumption of water, energy and natural resources, which is a piece of great information for the customer.

"I generally have a good impression after wearing this cardigan - it is very cozy, light, soft and easy in care. What I didn't like much is that it's getting statically charged, which is not always a pleasant thing. The cardigan is made of 58% polyester, with only 25% of it being recycled - that's a bummer. I'm scoring it with only 2 points for the materials it's made of, as I believe things that are sold as eco-friendly, must truly be so." - Oleksandra, Moincoins Project Manager

#4 Zara Soft Knit Sweater

Zara Soft Knit Sweater
priceLabel
$45.90
SHOP NOW icon

Overall score 2.4/5

Materials

2/5

 

Certifications

0/5

 

Product information

4/5

 

Durability

3/5

 

Quality

3/5

 

Collection | Zara Join Life

Fabric | 56% acrylic, 36% recycled polyester, 4% wool, 4% elastane

Textile Certifications | no certifications

Origin | China

Packaging | paper bag, no plastic wrapping

Color | fuchsia

Size | S-small

  • plus

    doesn’t irritate the skin

  • plus

    kept its shape and fit

  • plus

    doesn’t pill easily

  • minus

    non-vegan (contains wool)

  • minus

    easily catches fibers from other garments, like scarf

  • minus

    the color faded and some of the pink fibers washed out

This long sleeve v-neck sweater initially fascinated us with its very bright and eye-catching color. It belongs to the Join Life eco collection of Zara. It was produced by using less energy consumption and water. We certainly expected a more sustainable fabric blend: this sweater is made of only 36% of recycled polyester, plus it contains 4% of wool, which makes the material non-vegan. Moreover, the product carried no textile certifications and it did not perform well in our testing. The quality was similar to the regular Zara lines but the color faded and it is now a lighter pink than before. Also according to our tester’s feedback and prediction, the garment will not survive more than two winter seasons. That’s why we scored 3 points both for durability and quality.

"This sweater from Zara comes with 35% recycled polyester which is a start, but in terms of durability, it needs improvement. The color washes out after just a few gentle cleaning cycles. Although I like the style and the color suits me well, I want a sweater that keeps me warm not just for one or two seasons. This is where fast fashion contradicts the whole sustainability concept - fast fashion is just not made to last. This item is a sad reminder of that." - Melina, Moincoins Content & Media Manager

Methodology

How Did We Pick the Brands and Items?

Selecting the four sweaters that would best represent our research was a crucial thing for us. We conducted major research on the fast fashion brands in the U.S market that provide an extended collection of sustainable clothing. Our final picks were Pull&Bear, H&M, Guess and Zara. These brands are among the biggest and bestselling mass fashion retailers, together counting millions of items and thousands of stores. Another criterion was that two out of four brands (Zara and Pull&Bear) are part of the Inditex Group, which is the largest fast fashion manufacturing company in the world. It was important to include this group in our campaign because most people are familiar with it and have shopped for its products. 

All sample clothes belong to the brands’ eco-friendly collections and were picked by using the websites’ navigational filters. When selecting the four knitwear items, we tried to cover a wide spectrum of materials, including recycled polyester, wool content and viscose to make our testing more multifaceted and give you as many useful insights as possible.

How Did We Test?

To provide you with 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 and lasted three months. We took photos of each product, measured them, wore, washed (minimum five times), ironed and then recorded our results. Our testers treated the items they received as their own. 

Additionally, we exposed every item to different conditions, including sunnier and colder places. The goal was to have a better understanding of their long-term durability and quality to ensure objective results. We reviewed how each garment responds over the course of time in terms of shrinking, wearing or washing out, losing shape, fading color and more.

It’s also important to highlight that we followed all suggested handling instructions. All sweaters were washed in a cold program with no tumble drying or bleaching and they were ironed on the lowest heat settings, except for the H&M and Guess pullovers. Those did not require any ironing at all, according to our testers. 

Another important factor is the overall presentation of the product on the website. We particularly paid attention to how precisely the sustainability of the sweaters is described and how extensive the information about the production process is. We cross-checked the online 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 similar mindsets 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

In terms of textile sustainability, it’s fair to say that the Guess pullover is a clear winner. This sweater consists of 75% certified viscose. This material is often considered a sustainable alternative to cotton or polyester, becoming more and more popular in the fashion industry as a cheaper and more durable alternative to silk. We appreciated that the percentage of this sustainable material was pretty high, therefore we scored one point more than H&M. The latter is a knit sweater made of 52% recycled polyester and an additional blend of acrylic, spandex and wool. Not only because of the sustainable content in the fabric blend but also because of the wool it lost points scoring a total of three. The Pull&Bear and Zara sweaters each scored two points for this criterion due to the low percentage of sustainable materials (up to 25% and 26% respectively). To that, Zara’s is a non-vegan garment. None of the sweaters achieved the ultimate five points, which means that there’s still room for improvement. We think that knitwear made of 100% organic cotton would be a great idea for the next collection launch.

Textile Certifications

We were very disappointed that this particular criterion was applied only for the Guess hoodie. Guess received points as the only one carrying the Lenzing EcoVero label, which means that the material was derived from certified renewable wood sources, ensuring responsible production and high environmental standards at the same time.

Product Information

To be able to assess sustainability even better, we also checked how transparent and extensive the product information was. First of all, we carefully reviewed the garments' descriptions on every website. We looked at the material composition, production process, place of origin, working conditions or any other sustainability statements. After that, we cross-checked this information with the inside label of each garment. 

In this case, Pull&Bear and H&M sweaters received the best scores for their efforts to share valuable information about the suppliers and the production processes. However, we have to mention that when the H&M sweater arrived, the main label was missing but we decided it would be unfair to deduct points for that since the entire H&M order carried all necessary labels. We assume this was just a mistake that happened only to one piece and it would have been unfair to rate them with zero points for this reason. Zara, scoring four points, tried to share some sustainability statements regarding water reduction during the production process. Yet, we believe this information can be a little more specific and therefore transparent. 

As for Guess, even though we’re generally disappointed by its product descriptions, this time we appreciated the further explanation of what the Lenzing EcoVero label is and why it is better for the environment. However, the description on the website doesn't say precisely that only 75% of the fabrics are sustainable. We think that a regular customer might not know that Lenzing Ecovero is sustainable viscose. Again it would be better to deliver this kind of information in a clearer way.

Durability 

More durable clothes also mean more sustainable clothes since they last longer and don’t need constant replacements with new ones. With this in mind, we thought that durability deserves being a separate criterion. We paid attention to how long-lasting or fragile the garments were during testing. Even though we have two winners in this category, only one of these received excellent feedback in terms of durability. The H&M sweater reached the ultimate 5 points for durability and we noticed that its loose shape, initial measurements and soft touch were not affected by laundry or daily use. The tester can predict that this sweater will last for many winter seasons, which is a great aspect to consider. 

On the other hand, our second winner, Guess, didn’t get the best ratings for durability. Its tester noticed that there were some loose strings hanging out after laundry. Moreover, the blush pink color started fading a little bit. But we have to admit that all stains that were created on purpose (oil from cooking, tomato sauce from eating pasta and toothpaste drip) were easily removed with a cold wash program. 

Also, the Pull&Bear cardigan got a perfect rating on durability and testing did not affect its pre-usage condition. Finally, we also scored Zara knitwear with 3 out of 5 points since we noticed a few changes after testing. The color faded because some of the pink fibers washed out and it‘s now a lighter shade of pink than before. The most important comment we’ve got though is that the tester thinks that this garment will not last more than two winter seasons, which contradicts its placement in a sustainable collection. 

Quality

The H&M and Pull&Bear sweaters not only scored five points on durability but also on quality. Both of these pullovers were rated as a top-quality choice for your next shopping trip. Even though the H&M sweater looked like one of those itchy and baggy sweaters at first glance, it appeared to be a great, oversized pullover that was very breathable and gentle to the skin. Similarly, the Pull&Bear cardigan was commented as a very cozy, light and soft piece. Even though it gets statically charged, which is definitely a thing to consider, we were satisfied with its overall quality. 

Guess follows in the quality rating, scoring four points due to some stitches sticking out. In general, the quality of the cord and the manufacture of this hoodie seem good and the material smooths out by itself when it gets wrinkled. The Zara pink pullover didn’t receive a good review since we noticed that the quality is generally not better than other items from the regular Zara line. It easily catches fibers from other garments like scarfs and we assume it’ll fall apart in the long term. 

Our Key Test Findings

The winner product was determined by calculating the scores from five different testing criteria. We were not completely satisfied by the performance of the four tested sweaters since none of them reached more than 3.6 points in total. However, we were happy to see that both winning items consisted of the most sustainable material composition. 

In this case, also the most expensive sweater ($79.00) landed on position #1, yet it didn’t get as good a review in terms of quality and durability as other garments. It’s also fair to say that H&M green sweater has a great balance between the sustainability of the fabric and the testing performance, therefore it’s our favorite pick between the two winners. There is still a way to go, especially in terms of textile certificates, considering that only one garment carried such a label. 

Wait! Here is more

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Wool Harmful to the Environment?

Pure wool is often used in the fashion industry and is considered one of the best options to keep you warm during the winter season. However, we believe it’s no longer a wise decision to use pure wool in our clothing. Wool is a typical byproduct of the meat industry as is obtained from animals, like sheep, goats or rabbits in a brutal and painful way. And we all know that farming is very much responsible for massive greenhouse gas emissions, which directly affect not only nature but human health as well. We should also bear in mind that many chemicals are also used on these animals to keep them free of parasites. Considering all these factors we should seek vegan alternatives to replace wool in the fashion industry.

Which Fabric Is Best for Sweaters?

Most conventional sweaters are either made of wool, cotton, acrylic or polyester. However, cashmere is arguably one of the most luxurious sweater materials out there (and one of the most expensive, too). Both cashmere and wool fibers are obtained from goats, which means that the garments made of these materials are non-vegan. Cotton is another often-used option for making sweaters because it’s breathable, lightweight and can also be warm. But if cotton is not sourced sustainably (which is mostly the case), such clothing affects the entire ecosystem due to toxicity, the high water consumption etc. At Moincoins, we believe that for every unsustainable fabric there is a more eco-friendly substitute. We even created a guide listing the most popular textile materials so you can find an eco-friendly substitute to pretty much anything. It’s also helpful to look for certifications, such as GOTS, Oeko-Tex, OCS, etc, when making your purchase. In this way, you will ensure that your garment fulfills the highest environmental and social standards.

Sources 

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