Where to buy clothes online—our review of 5 European fashion retailers
Our online clothing store review looks at the shopping experience, delivery options, returns procedure, and sustainability credentials of five major European fashion retailers, from ASOS to Zara.
7 min read
We’ve all spent lots of time in our sweatpants over the past year. It might have been nice at first, but one year into the pandemic, you may feel like sporting some new clothing and accessories during your video calls. But with many non-essential businesses still closed throughout Europe due to lockdowns, it’s likely that you’ll need to purchase clothes online.
Buying clothes without trying them on may seem like a dicey prospect. However, most online retailers offer free or affordable shipping and returns, making it pretty painless to send back or exchange items that don’t fit. Online fashion retailers also provide guidance, such as customer reviews, and advice regarding size and fit.
To give you a sense of your options, we’ve reviewed the online stores and burgeoning green credentials of Zalando, Zara, ASOS, H&M, and Mango. While their websites all offer similar categories and functions, there are a few key differences that may help you decide where to shop for what.
Zalando—fashion, influencers, and secondhand clothes
This Berlin-based German multinational is active in 17 European markets. Zalando started out as a footwear retailer, but has since expanded to include clothing, accessories, and beauty products from countless brands.
As you browse the shopping categories, you might be surprised to see photos of social media influencers mixed in among the products. Labeled Get the Look, these pages feature influencers wearing outfits from Zalando’s product range. Below this, you’ll find corresponding product pages for the individual items that make up their outfits. Around 40 international fashion influencers appear on Zalando’s website each month. If you like their style, navigate directly to the Get the Look tab in the top menu.
There’s also a Pre-owned section featuring secondhand clothes. Anyone can send their used, lightly worn garments to Zalando in exchange for store credit. To make it easier, Zalando manages the marketing and postage for you. The pre-owned clothes are sold just like new products, with categories and filters for size, brand, color, price, material, new arrivals, etc.
Zalando offers free shipping and returns for 100 days, a Sale % section with discounted goodies, and a sustainability filter that makes it easy to shop green. You can also join Zalando Plus to get exclusive offers, faster delivery, and other perks.
N26 Smart—spend and save with confidence
Zara is gradually going green and wants you to “Join life”
This Spanish fashion designer and manufacturer is a high street retailer positioning itself as a high-end brand. Its minimalist website is reminiscent of a luxury fashion magazine, but the designs are all affordable. The main browsing categories are Woman, Man, Kids, and Shoes & Bags. The site also features a Home section, where you can shop for household items like dishes and home textiles. (Tip: if you’re planning on redecorating, be sure to check out our review of online homeware stores!)
Like several other “fast-fashion” chains, Zara has responded to criticism about its less-than-great environmental credentials by launching a sustainable clothing label. Entitled “Join life”, Zara’s sustainability range offers garments produced using energy-efficient processes, recycled raw materials, and organic cotton. The initiative also includes clothing collection containers in Zara stores, where you can donate your used yet wearable clothing to charities like the Red Cross.
The product pages are filled with photos, “match with” product suggestions, a size guide, links to information about the origin of the materials, exchanges and returns, as well as in-store availability—handy if you want to use the free “click and collect” service. Standard delivery only costs a few bucks (e.g. £3.95 in the UK, €3.95 in Germany) but it’s free if you spend over a minimum amount (e.g. £50/€50). Return shipping is free, and you have 30 days to make up your mind.
ASOS is all about youth, diversity, and discounts
Visually, ASOS is the opposite of Zara. The colorful “buy, buy, buy!” vibe is aimed at teens and early 20-somethings—ASOS is even on Snapchat! Upon opening the site, you’ll immediately be offered a discount coupon, and students can register for a 10% discount that is valid until they graduate. This British fashion and cosmetics retailer exists exclusively online, sells over 850 brands, and has its own range of clothing and accessories. Its fulfilment centers ship to over 200 countries worldwide.
ASOS purchased Topshop in 2021, which is why the UK high street fashion label features prominently in the navigation bar. Alongside the usual product categories, you’ll find New In, Trending Now, and Outlet for sales and bargains. You can shop by Body Fit categories including Curve & Plus Size, Maternity, Petite, and Tall. Refreshingly, ASOS is big on body positivity and its models tend to be more diverse than those found on other fashion websites. There are even unisex brands.
Narrow your search with filters like Sale, New Season, Style, Design, Brand, Color, Sleeve Length, Product Fit, Size, Price Range, and Responsible—with environmentally-friendly options. There’s also an entirely separate online store called ASOS Marketplace where you can buy secondhand clothing and pieces from independent brands. Standard delivery is free if you spend over a certain amount (e.g. €42 in Portugal and France), otherwise you’ll pay around €4 for shipping. Returns are free for up to 28 days.
H&M—Swedish design available all over Europe
This Swedish fashion chain has online stores and apps in 29 European countries. Dive into categories like New Arrivals, Offers, Trending Now, Shop by Product, and Shop by Occasion. A separate line for younger shoppers called “Divided” offers smaller sizes and more daring colors and patterns.
The product pages are a bit light on the details. There’s no size chart, no detailed customer reviews, and the delivery information only appears for H&M members. Scroll down for some “style with” suggestions, such as other products worn by the model in the product photos.
Like Zalando, Zara, and ASOS, H&M is trying to become more sustainable. Its “Conscious” range is made from at least 50% sustainably sourced materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester. Yet the “Conscious” products are pretty well hidden on the website. Select a category, then click on All Filters > Quality, where you can choose between Conscious and Premium. You can also earn “Conscious Points” when you purchase sustainable products, recycle your old clothes with H&M, or bring your own shopping bag to the store. The points can then be converted into store credit.
Standard delivery is €5.75 in Austria and £3.99 in the UK, but shipping is usually free if you spend over a certain amount, or you’re a H&M member. You have 28 days to send items back for a refund, and a return postage label is included in your delivery. Keep in mind that refunds usually exclude the original shipping costs.
Mango—limited filters but loads of photos
Hailing from Spain, this multinational is cut from the same cloth as the other fashion retailers above. Mango’s online store is photo-heavy, highlights sale items, features a plus-size range, and lets you add items to a wish list. And although the other companies also stock kids’ clothing lines, only Mango seems keen to promote them.
Mango has also started the slow shift towards sustainability. The newly launched “Committed” range is partially made using sustainable materials, and you can read all about it under the Committed menu item. However, you can’t browse those products specifically, making it trickier to buy green. Instead, you have to delve into each individual product page to check whether or not the garment was sustainably produced. Click on Product Details, then scan the small print for the sustainability details. You also won’t find a sustainability option in the product filters, which are limited to Colors, Size, and Price.
If you want to check the shipping costs, either add items to your bag or click Help in the footer—there are no Delivery or Shipping buttons. Standard delivery is £2.95 in the UK and €2.95 in Germany, but it’s free if you spend £30/€30 or more. You can also pay €6 extra to receive your order in 48 hours, or pick it up in-store for free. Returns are free for 60 days, and you can choose to post the items back, arrange for a courier to collect them, or drop them off in person.
Secure online clothes shopping with N26
With N26, you can shop online with peace of mind. N26 is a 100% mobile, fully licensed bank, which means that we provide the same level of security and follow the same regulations as traditional banks. Our two-factor authentication protects your account from being accessed by others. Plus, Mastercard’s 3D Secure technology encrypts your personal payment information when you shop online with your N26 card. So when you create a customer account with ASOS or Zara, you can save your card details and place orders with complete peace of mind. Don’t have an N26 bank account just yet? Head to our Plans page to pick the account that suits you best.
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