Joe Fresh Destroys Brand New Clothes: This is Fast Fashion


I wasn’t expecting much when a Joe Fresh store opened on the corner of 5th Avenue and 16th St. (which is literally a half-block from my boyfriend’s apartment). I watched with interest as it got its new-store makeover—it’s expensive real estate and the spot used to house an Esprit—and quickly stocked with clothing. I could tell right off the bat that it was likely going to be filled with cheap-as-cheap-can-be clothing because everything about it looked low-end-disguised-as-clean-and-happy. I read up on Wikipedia about its being the brainchild of designer Joe Mimran (a Canadian!), and how it is one of those ‘vertically integrated’ brands that seems to be taking over the fashion landscape.

As the store opened, and the months went by, I watched the displays change, and was first just hit with how incredibly BORING the designs were. Like a Gap rip-off, but not even as interesting as Old Navy (not that I think Old Navy is that great). I started mocking it every time I walked by, and my boyfriend and I had a running joke about actually going in.

One day, we did. I was horrified but the merch up close. Crummy craftsmanship, the junkiest materials, and the prices were unbelievably low. $12 or $15 for almost everything, all of it made in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China; not one thing made in the USA or any country that has strict labor laws (I especially looked). I even tried a few things on, and the fit was atrocious (I’m a totally average size 8, so I never have fit issues). I had been making fun of the store in my head for at least three months (“Joe FRESSSSSHHHHHH!!!!”) but even I was shocked but just how crap everything was.

A slashed pink sweater. I’m sure there are plenty of homeless women who would have loved such a bright piece in the middle of winter.

I didn’t think too much more about Joe Fresh until one freezing night I was headed to my boyfriend’s place. I saw a clearish plastic bag sitting in the garbage heap outside Joe Fresh and it was filled with colorful fabrics. I opened the bag and it was filled with new clothes (with tags, see above and below), that had been shredded. Brand new clothes, which later, when I pieced them back together, had no other visible issues (no spilled coffee, unravelled hems, etc.). I thought of the homeless families from Hurricane Sandy, the women and children who lost ALL their clothes due to flooding; I thought of the people struggling to put together clothes to go to work in, the myriad people who would have loved a bright and fun piece like those shown above, even if they aren’t high-quality (at least they would be used).

And I got SO ANGRY. Because it’s not bad enough that this stuff is made in countries with unenforced labor laws where women and children die in factory fires, it’s not enough that dying it up pollutes the rivers and ecosystems where the fabrics are made, or that the non-organic cottons dumps toxic chemicals into the soil (and people’s bodies where cotton is farmed). It’s not enough to fly clothing around the world just to put a label on it, and fly it back to add the buttons, adding to the climate change we have all just begun to feel; it’s not enough to make something as cheaply as possible because poor people in other countries will let you take advantage of them. But then you destroy those clothes so that nobody else can ever wear them?

Incensed would be the word to describe what I feel about this insanity of wastefulness.

The bad news? According to July article in the Globe and Mail, “Loblaw said it will roll out almost 700 Joe Fresh shops next spring within troubled U.S. department-store retailer J.C. Penney, getting close to achieving its goal of running as many as 800 Joe Fresh stores across the United States.”

I’m pretty sure that this post will only get employees in trouble, or make them start using black bags that one can’t see through and won’t change how Joe Fresh does business, but it’s just too infuriating to let pass. I welcome comments from Joe Fresh via my email address on the contact portion of this site about what their possible justification for this could be.

All images by Starre Vartan.

Click on any of the images below to see a larger view and the rest of the slideshow.

About Starre Vartan
Starre Vartan is editor-in-chief of and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life.


  1. Good on you Starre. That’s integrity..hold their feet to the fire..Not to worry will be so bad financially on the world scene that it won’t be profitable to have things made overseas..Prison labor in the’s already going on..they’ll just have to arrest more people.

  2. Lissa Dohl says:

    This is so sad, and such a lost opportunity to help those in need. Many lifetimes ago I worked for a very big sportswear company in Los Angeles who also slashed clothing samples/discards. When I asked why, why not donate them, the answer was that they didn’t want their clothes identified with the homeless. It is a branding issue!

  3. I am appalled at what you found. I put out a blog post on our website about it:

    I co-own BagInspiration which sells eco friendly, many of which are fair trade made, handbags and purses. This definitely needs to be looked into. Did you contact them? If not, I will!

  4. I’ve heard stories like this before, but never saw any pictures. How horrible to hear! They rather distroy otherwise “wearable” clothes only because they’re afraid. Why not donate it as you suggested? I can’t believe an employee could be cool with (doing) such things. Aweful to hear!

  5. Thank you for writing this post. I remember about a year ago there was a bridal shop that did something similar to wedding dresses. I think this might be a common occurrence for retailers and it is a shame that it isn’t donated, instead.

  6. Unfortunately, this is a very standard practice in a lot of the fashion industry. It’s disgusting and unethical but it’s done anyway for several reasons: to prevent the homeless from wearing their brand name clothing (this is the worst reason, imho), for tax breaks in damaged merchandise that cannot be sold (as in, they couldn’t sell it so instead of taking the loss, they damaged it), for insurance claims (often fraudulent), or simply to make room for new merchandise that will supposedly sell better (and it’s just “too much effort” to donate the old).

    All disgusting, all tragic, all a part of what’s wrong with the fashion industry, big business, and our country. Darlings, buy local, buy handmade, buy made in the USA, buy from indie shops and designers! Don’t support this crud!

  7. I just don’t see how there could be any justification for this wasteful and destructiveness. These clothes should have been donated to charity rather than confined to landfill. I agre,e I can’t stand this sort of cheap, boring, bad fitting and poorly made clothing, such a shame that so many people choose to buy it despite the implications of ethics and sustainability.

  8. joe fresh destroying their own property… bad.
    vegas casinos stealing people’s $… good?

    it’d be fair to say that vegas has caused quite a few people to be homeless, the very ones that you want joe fresh to clothe, lol

    interesting logic there. but i suppose if joe fresh was paying you this article wouldn’t exist, would it? not an angry rant here, just an observation

  9. Hmmm….I would have had a better opinion of this article if it had not started with you bad mouthing the place before even going in, and then making a comment about the designer being Canadian, like his nationality was a big deal. Not sure why you put (a Canadian!), but it irritated me, making everything you said afterwards seem biased and unfounded. If you want to be proactive, maybe approaching them to see what the reason is for the shredded clothing, instead of assuming, and see if you can get them involved in the community, might be more productive than writing this one sided article that comes across catty and lazy.

  10. I agree with Jeannette, so many assumptions were made before even entering the store. And what gives with the Canadian reference? You lost all credibility at that point, in which could have been an excellent piece of investigative journalism.

    Why not look for an alternative – instead of wasting energy moaning about the problem, work at developing a solution, actually talk to the store employees or to Mr. Mimram.

  11. I mentioned he was Canadian because I generally think that Canadians have higher standards than American businesspeople and Mr. Mimran, obviously, does not care for anything other than the bottom line. It was meant as a compliment to Canadians, not to be derogatory in any way. I love Canada!

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