Top Apparel Brands – The China Report Card

Top Apparel Brands – The China Report Card

Updated 3/14/24. Original publish date 10/16/21.

Since I first published this article in 2021, boy have things changed.

I haven’t gone clothes shopping for many years, thanks to the combination of working from home from 2020-2023, getting laid off from my corporate job in 2023, and generally not having a lot of fashion sense. But today for the first time in years, I went shopping for clothes.

What a difference two years makes.

I spent a lot of time bad-mouthing Brooks Brothers below, but boy, have things changed. When I went to my local Brooks Brothers store today, I saw labels from Malaysia, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, and Jordan when just two years ago (as I wrote in my original post), nearly all of Brooks Brothers clothes were made in China. In the whole store I found one item that was made in China—an ugly sweater marked off 80%.

I’ve had similar experiences shopping at other places. At a recent trip to Macy’s, I saw UGGs made in Vietnam, DKNY blouses made in Vietnam, Polo and Lauren knits made in the Philippines, Bar III made in Indonesia, Tommy Hilfiger shorts made in Sri Lanka, Calvin Klein shirts made in Indonesia, Calvin Klein swimming trunks made in Vietnam, Tommy Hilfiger underwear made in Kenya, and Polo underwear made in India.

I remember in my last trip to Muji and a recent trip to Tumi I saw the same things. More and more of their products are no longer made in China.

I’ve written often that my greatest hope in creating this site is that one day it goes away—that American consumers actively seek out and demand things not made in China. Yes, I would miss the nickels and dimes I get when you click on an affiliate link to buy something. But it’ll be worth it.

How did this happen?

There are a few things I can point to that caused this dramatic shift in just a few years.

  • The 2018 Tariffs put in place by President Trump and kept in place by President Biden and Trade Ambassador Tai. For years, the so-called “experts” warned that consumer prices would skyrocket if tariffs were put in place. The result was very much the opposite. You can see for yourself how the CCP for years artificially manipulated costs to ensure that its manufacturers always had the lowest bid.
  • The attention (mostly from the left-wing) put on human and animal rights abuse. The attention that was focused on China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang opened the eyes of many in the world of the threat of a totalitarian regime
  • The attention (mostly from the right-wing) put on China’s increasing threat geopolitically and to our national security due to things like influence peddling and fentanyl.
  • The attention (mostly from libertarians) put on China’s role in COVID-19 and its ever-growing surveillance state.

It was a combination of all of these things that resulted in where we are today. This gives me a lot of hope that as divided as we seem as a country, there are still certain things we can come together on.

The mainstream media and the CCP both have a common goal: to keep us divided. The mainstream media wants it because it gets them more clicks and views. The CCP wants it because it wants to show the world that the freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights is what makes us weak, and that their flavor of totalitarianism is the model. But I’m proud of all of those in the free world that made this happen.

So is it “fixed”?

Of course as quickly as things changed, they can change back just as quickly. As of this writing, Trade Ambassador Tai has extended the Section 301 Tariffs to May 31, 2024.

That’s why we must never stop putting the pressure on. Most importantly, everyone needs to continue to help amplify the voices from Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and even within Mainland China who are yearning to breathe free, both humans and animals alike. And if you’re an American citizen, regardless of whether you plan to vote for Biden, Trump, Kennedy, or Mickey Mouse, let your elected representative know that you want the Section 301 Tariffs to be kept in place and expanded.

You can bet that lobbyists are pushing HARD for the Section 301 tariffs to expire, and when that happens manufacturing will go flooding back to China, where the CCP is no doubt waiting to sweeten the pot for manufacturers that come crawling back.

And of course, even if the tariffs remain in place we can’t be naive. It’s likely that many of the suppliers who are setting up manufacturing in countries like Vietnam are companies in China looking to avoid the tariffs. But even so, at least these other countries have a chance to do to China manufacturing what China has done to American manufacturing.

Finally, as thrilling as it is to see clothing manufacturers leaving China, the reality is that China has already monopolized certain supply chains. Try finding an alarm clock, a waffle maker, or a child’s smart watch not made in China. They’ve cornered the market on small appliances and electronics, and it will take some doing to take it back. Don’t worry, I’ll keep this blog up as long as you keep looking for not made in China.

I’m keeping my original post in place, if nothing else but as a warning (I also plan on visiting each of the brands listed here to update the “report card” as of 2024. Keep this page bookmarked.

The most popular clothing retailers and China

In the last few “report cards” for clothing brands we’ve focused on different categories, from sportswear to luxury fashion to shoes. This last “report card” in this series will focus on the general clothing retailers in the industry. These companies all sell multiple types of clothing with mass market appeal.

Of course, there are hundreds of these companies, but I just focused on the top ones. For this list I looked at the list of the top Clothing retailers in the world, as measured by sales revenue. Their goal, especially the “fast fashion” companies, is to come up with a design, find the cheapest possible way to manufacture it, and get it to store shelves before the design gets old.

You won’t find any company here that makes things in the USA. That’s just the reality. There are plenty of high quality US manufacturers still around (and if you know of any, please share them in the comments here or on the forum). But when it comes to mass market companies, the best we can hope for are companies that don’t allow China to monopolize their supply chains or bully them around by threatening to block access to their market.

You’ll notice that most of the companies get “blah” scores. They follow a similar pattern:

  • Most started manufacturing their own products, but have since switched to a pure outsourcing model where they contract out to factories (on the “honor system” that the factories will not steal their intellectual property).
  • Many were on a path of outsourcing everything to China as recently as a few years ago
  • The 2018 tariffs were a wake-up call to change their ways and diversify their supply chain
  • The 2019 report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute was a further wake-up call to not be locked into business with China, especially since many of them were called out by name
  • The 2020 backlash from CCP-orchestrated trolls on social media to boycott them was meant to scare them into renouncing any negative thoughts they had about the CCP and proclaim their allegiance to China–weak companies like Nike kowtowed to China’s pressure, while smart ones continued to diversify their supply chains.

Best Clothing Brands Not Made in China – Quick Ranking

1. Zara 🇪🇸 – C+

Zara has had a long history of bending to bullying from the Chinese Communist Party. In 2021, their parent company Inditex deleted a statement that stated that they have a zero-tolerance policy for forced labor and that it did not have any relationships with factories in Xinjiang after Chinese Communists threw a hissy fit. In 2018, they were commanded by China authorities not to represent Taiwan as a separate country on their Web site, and they complied–to this day they shamefully refer to Taiwan as “Taiwan, China” on their Web site.

Such is the cat-and-mouse game that the CCP plays with every Western brand that wants access to its market. Pledge your loyalty to the Communist Party and enjoy the riches of the country. Show the slightest amount of disrespect and be shamed into submission (not coincidentally, in June 2021, Zara was attacked by the Chinese government as being “unsafe”, a move aimed at diminishing Zara and propping up local China brands, many of whom no doubt are using the same factories that Zara outsourced to).

As for where Zara sources from, they’re very good at hiding this information online. This information isn’t readily available on their Web site, and when I asked them what percentage of their products are made in China, they said they didn’t know. But their customer service folks were very good when I asked them to look up specific products for me to see where they were made. I asked about five of their best sellers, which I chose randomly. One dress was from Turkey, one pair of pants was from Myanmar, two dresses were from China, and one top was from Morocco.

Officially, the Web site of their parent company Inditex has some data on where products are made. Today, 53% of their factories are located near their headquarters in Artexio, Spain. They use over 1,800 supplies and 8,543 factories worldwide. Looking at their annual report, they do have 12 manufacturing “clusters” (Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Argentina, and Brazil), but it does look like China is the single largest. So it looks like their supply chain is fairly diversified, which is not a bad thing.

I’m going to give them a “C+”–they do seem to make a lot of the products outside of China, but they make it difficult to find out where. And their kowtowing to the CCP doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies that they really care about principles.

Hints for avoiding made in China: If you must buy online, contact a Chat agent and ask if the specific product you want was made in China. Otherwise, go to the store and check the label.

2. Uniqlo 🇯🇵 – D

The good news is that Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo, does a decent job of showing transparency in their supply chain. They publish lists of the sewing factories and fabric mills they outsource production to.

The bad news is that 167 out of 333 of their “sewing factories” are in China, as are 46 out of 84 Fabric Mills. While it is nice to see some countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Vietnam on this list, China is easily the country on which they rely the most–ironic, given how on their Web site they claim to value “good labor conditions, human right, and the environment”, three things that the CCP has had a terrible track record of enforcing.

Worse, they do not disclose country of origin online, other than a generic “Imported” on all their products (I’m on the US site, and since they don’t manufacture anything in the US, every single product is marked as “imported”, which is oh, so helpful). What I end up doing is going to their India site and trying to find the same product on that site, where Country of Origin Online Labeling is mandatory. But of course this isn’t foolproof, as some products may be made in more than one place.

I do like that a certain amount of products that I personally use weren’t made in China (I’m a fan of their Chino shorts, made in Bangladesh, and of their HEATTECH T-Shirts, made in Vietnam). But until I see them less reliant on their factories in China OR clear country of origin labeling online, I can’t give them a very good grade.

Uniqlo made the headlines when the US customs agency blocked a shipment of their cotton shirts in May 2021. They appealed the action but withdrew the appeal, which at worst signals that they were complicit in using Uyghur labor, and at best signals that they completely lost control of their supply chain. Like every clothing company they have pretty words on their Web site touting how they stand for human rights, but they need to do better.

Hints for avoiding made in China: Check the India site for “hints”, and call or chat with Customer Service to confirm that a given product is not made in China. Otherwise, go to the store and check the label.

3. 🇸🇪 – C

The good news is that Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) is very transparent about their supply chain on their corporate Web site. The not-so-good news is that the China is by far their largest production market. Specifically, they use 235 suppliers in China and 570 factories (the next largest manufacturing country is Bangladesh, at 136 suppliers and 242 factories). When I contacted them via chat, they gave me different numbers, but basically said that 80% of their clothes come from China.

So while it’s possible to find stuff not made in China, you’re going to need to check every label to be sure.

As happened to Zara, H&M faced the full ire of China Internet trolls after it released its statement following reports of forced labor in Xinjiang. In the case of H&M, they posted a message to their Web site citing “deep concerns” over the reports, and announced that they has stopped buying cotton from growers in the region. This launched a coordinated attack against H&M clearly aimed at making an example out of them. Communist Youth League trolls on Weibo organized relentless mobs to insult H&M. Soon, H&M product disappeared from China’s top e-commerce platforms. Mall operators shut down H&M stores. In the ultimate irony, the China government issued sanctions against H&M, accusing them of poor safety standards in their products. H&M affiliates within China suffered from penalties to their “social scores” (yes, they really exist) which is further going to make their lives difficult.

Clearly, the “insult” of even mentioning the situation in Xinjiang was enough to put a bullseye on H&M to be made an example of to other brands. To their credit, H&M didn’t grovel to China begging for forgiveness, which shows that at least have a backbone. Unfortunately for them, China is likely not going to China hurt them–China fell out of their top 10 markets served.

So H&M is a tough one to score. I appreciate how they resisted the urge to prostrate themselves before the altar of the CCP to try to save their market in China–especially since they had been one of the high flying brands in China. That said, I don’t like how they still have so much of their supply chain wrapped up in China. Let’s give them a “C”.

Hints for avoiding made in China: Avoid buying online. Go to the store and check the label.

4. Old Navy / Gap / Banana Republic – C+

The Gap, which owns Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic, stated in their 2020 annual report that 32% of their merchandise came from factories in Vietnam, while 16% came from China. As I mentioned in the athleticwear article, their executives did say that they’re trying to reduce reliance on China’s supply chain, and this is a good indication that they’re succeeding.

Their Web site doesn’t have any information on country of origin other than to say a product was “imported”. So it’ll be up to you to go to a physical store to check the label to make sure it’s not from China.

Hints for avoiding made in China: Avoid buying online. Go to the store and check the label.

6. Calvin Klein / Tommy Hillfiger – B

Calvin Klein and Tommy Hillfiger both fall under PVH (the Philips-Van Heusen Corporation).

In their 2020 Annual Report, they clearly stated that one of their goals is to reduce reliance on China. That’s good news.

We continue to explore new areas of production that can grow with our businesses. Our country of origin strategy provides a flexible approach to product sourcing, which enables us to maximize regional opportunities and mitigate our potential exposure to risks associated with new duties, tariffs, surcharges, or other import controls or restrictions. While China remains an important sourcing country for us, we have been reducing the amount of production we do in the country over time in favor of production in other parts of Asia and in Africa that better serve our sourcing strategy. Many of these efforts have been with our existing partners, but in facilities and countries that offer us production or cost advantages over those in China.

In 2020, they said that 20% of its global sourcing is from China, with about 10% of that coming to the US. So your chances are probably very good at finding something not made in China. In fact, at one point they revealed this information on their Web sites, but they too made the foolish decision to hide country of origin and just say “imported”.

Hints for avoiding made in China: Avoid buying online. Go to the store and check the label.

7. Ralph Lauren Polo – C+

Ralph Lauren is an interesting one. If you view their most expensive offerings, such as the $1000-4000 dresses in the Ralph Lauren Collection, you’ll see country of origin marked clearly. Made in Italy, Made in Portugal. But once you go to the sub-$1000 products, that’s where you’ll just see “Imported”. And of course, all of their iconic Polo shirts are marked “imported”.

As with most other brands on this list (including Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein, Gap, H&M, Uniqlo, and Zara), Ralph Lauren Polo was named in the now infamous report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute of having Xinjiang cotton in its supply chain.

Ralph Lauren seems to follow the pattern that a lot of luxury brands do. Continue to manufacture the ultra-high end products out of Europe or the USA, while pouring “low end” products–in the case of Ralph Lauren this means sweaters, Polo shirts, and footwear”–to China to be mass produced.

In 2019 the CEO Patrice Louvet did say that Ralph Lauren Polo had reduced its dependence on Chinese manufacturers from 33% to 25% because “we don’t want any market to represent 30% of our sourcing”. That seems to be a wise move. I wish they would be more open about country of origin for their “cheap stuff” on their Web site, but it seems there’s probably a decent chance of finding a Ralph Lauren piece of clothing that’s not made in China if you look hard enough.

Hints for avoiding made in China: Avoid buying online. Go to the store and check the label.

8. American Eagle Outfitters – C

American Eagle Outfitters claims that their products are made in China, Guatemala, India, the USA, and Vietnam, but this blogger did a nice job in 2014 of demonstrating that most of their products are actually from China or Vietnam. As of 2019, Barrons reported that about 30% of their products are made in China. On their Web site, they make it clear without sugarcoating that they prohibit the manufacture of any product or the use of raw material from Xinjiang.

Not surprisingly, like everyone else American Eagle Outfitters simply puts “Imported” on their Web site product pages. You can go to their India site to get some idea of where their products are made, assuming the products that go to the India market are the same that go to you market. For example, this product on the US site has no information about Country of Origin, but this one would suggest that it was made in Bangladesh. But of course, visit the store or contact customer service to be sure.

Hints for avoiding made in China: Avoid buying online. Go to the store and check the label.

9. Abercrombie & Fitch – B

Abercrombie & Fitch is another brand that is relatively transparent about its supply chain, and the good news is that they seem pretty well diversified-they do have about 50 factories in China, but they also have over 70 in Vietnam.

As of 2020 they seemed committed to reducing their reliance on China, aiming to decrease the total goods made in China from 42% (in 2017) to 22% (in 2019), with the amount of China goods imported into the USA to just 10%. Again the 2019 tariffs seem to have done their job–let’s hope the current president will keep them in place.

Hints for avoiding made in China: No surprise that Country of Origin is not accessible online–again, contact a customer service rep or visit a store in person to check the label.

Any clothing brands you want reviewed for how much in the tank for China they are? Let us know in the comments!


  1. I’ve read that many factories in Vietnam and other countries, including Italy, are Chinese owned, including by state-owned companies.

    The CPC are not dumb and know many of us are trying to avoid buying goods made there, so are moving some manufacturing offshore and the true ownership is hidden.

    So, while I commend your site for trying to keep us informed, I don’t think it’s as simple as not buying goods made in China.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Shelley. I hear you.

      Coincidentally, I’m on Twitter right now and dozens of people are sharing a Wall Street Journal article with the clickbaity title “Apple plans to move manufacturing out of China”.

      Right in the article itself, it says that yes, Apple plans to move operations out of China. But it also says that it is moving away from Taiwan-based ODMs like Foxconn and Pegatron and towards China-based ODMs like Luxshare and Wingtech.

      There’s a lot of high-fiving on Twitter, but what no one realizes is that means if an ODM like Luxshare ends up getting the contract and establishing manufacturing operations in Vietnam, not only will Luxshare get the bulk of the profits (and pay 60% in taxes to the CCP that Foxconn would have. paid to Taiwan), they will also have a “Made in Vietnam” sticker to hide behind.

      You’re right that this sort of thing is happening in every industry, including the fashion industry. But it’s important not to give up. Why?

      Ultimately, I think any kind of diversification is useful. Even if it’s a Chinese-owned company that owns a manufacturing plant in Vietnam or India, if local communities are learning about manufacturing or management techniques in the process, hopefully there will be enough of them to eventually start their own businesses–just as China took everything the US taught them and eventually turned around and used it to squeeze American companies out of every contract.

      The burning question, of course, is–does the CPC not only own those factories but fill them with immigrants from China? That’s highly possible, but something like that is up to the local governments to handle through legislation.

      Appreciate your beating the drum. I agree it’s not as simple as not buying goods made in China, but at least that’s a start.

  2. If we could add C&A, a Dutch brand chain store that’s to H&M what BK to McDonald’s in most EU cities, I’ll give them an F. I checked all of their labels on the pieces that I like, but never saw a country’s name. The only exception is a kind of jeans whose only feature is “made in the EU”.

    Pierre-Cardin’s low end goods have the same problem.

  3. ABLE clothing – clearly states under product description where it’s made. Saw a couple China, but mostly Mexico and India.

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