The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
The Chinese company Shein, started in 2008 by Chris Xu in Nanjing, China, has grown over the years to become the most downloaded app in 2021. Their sales have gone up since the Covid-19 pandemic all over the world, making an income of around $10 billion by shipping to 220 countries. Forbes valued Shein’s worth at $15 billion this year. The company is known because of their too-good-to-be-true prices, and this is exactly the reason why we should stop buying from them. To have these prices, there must be a lot of things going wrong inside the company.
They constantly use social media, celebrities, and influencers as a marketing strategy, but currently, the Shein Try-On Hauls on TikTok are the ones bringing more attention to the company. We have to give it to them, their online presence, marketing strategies, user analysis, and data collection has them on another level in the fashion industry, especially being all of it without brick-and-mortar stores.
Now ask yourselves: if you buy a $5 shirt, How much did the garment worker earn by making that piece? How good is the fabric used to make it? How long will it last before it is worn out because of its poor quality? Was the $5 for a shirt that you might use three times before it is completely ruined truly worth it?
Let’s start from the beginning. Shein is currently the number one company working fast fashion, but what does that mean? Fast Fashion can be summarized in the need of buying garments because they are trending and, once the customer buys the product, it’s already past season so they feel the need to buy more. They also use the concept “from the runway to the store” because as soon as it hits the runway you can see similar things in store. The fashion world, with fast fashion being one of the main reasons, is currently the second most polluting industry on our planet.
As of right now the term “Ultra-Fast Fashion” has Shein’s logo all over because they upload about 1,000 new pieces daily. Stores like Zara usually take two to three weeks to design, produce and deliver, but Shein has managed to bring this time down to seven days.
Being part of this movement, buying garments, and then throwing it away is seriously affecting the world’s wellbeing. One cotton t-shirt needs 2,700 liters of water to be made, making the fashion industry responsible for approximately 20% of wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions. Just imagine how many thousands of clothing garments made daily are affecting the planet in the end.
Some pieces bought from e-commerce might not be that bad while others describe their purchases as “you get what you paid for”. Nevertheless, their reviews don’t pass the 3.0, yet people keep buying from them. Waiting for weeks for your package to arrive is not a problem when the prices are so good. And can we talk real quick about their pictures? Everything looks good quality and well done on their webpage, but that is not exactly what you get once it arrives. That should be enough to not buy any more items from these companies!
One of the biggest problems with the company is the lack of transparency regarding the workers’ conditions. On their website they state that they offer a healthy working environment and a fair pay “above the average”, but it’s all constantly questioned since they don’t offer any proof about it nor do they openly talk about this at all. It’s a topic to worry about due to the prices of their products and the daily mass production of garments.
An article from Reuters stated that the United Kingdom requires some specific information about the companies supply chain and Shein has failed to present it, along with making false statements about their factory conditions being certified by international labor standards. The company keeping information about their workers’ environment, wages, and where they get their products is not helping their own credibility.
Now let’s get to the other point: Shein has been known for stealing small companies’ designs. Remember the “from the runway to the store”? If it was inspired by haute-couture brands, for example, it might be understandable, but they are constantly stealing designs from independent designers from all over the world. It has happened way too many times for it to be a coincidence and, most of the time, it’s not just the clothing but the entire photoshoot concept.
Recently, in July, a Nigerian clothing brand called Elexiay shared that one of their handmade designs was stolen by Shein with a side-by-side picture posted on their Instagram. The brand shared that the crocheted sweater takes 4-5 days to be finished, plus all the time it takes brainstorming and designing. Shein removed the sweater from their website and made no comments about it. Similar to this situation, Los Angeles-based designer Mariama Diallo shared on Twitter that Shein also stole one of the designs from her company Sincerely Ria. Diallo’s design became one of Shein’s highest-selling items and, as the designer wrote, “they even stole the brand’s aesthetic for the pictures.
And, as if it wasn’t enough, they tend to collaborate with celebrities, as if they were the ones to actually buy from there, being Khloé Kardashian the latest addition. Because of this pairing, the Kardashian sister has received a lot of backlash. In this collab, Khloé Kardashian will participate as a judge in the competition called “Shein X 100K Challenge Series” that will have 30 designers competing for $100,000 and the chance to have their garments sold on their website, which is funny when they’re known for constantly stealing designs.
Shein is not the first fast-fashion store nor will it be the last. Sadly, known stores like H&M, Zara, and Urban Outfitters (to name a few) are part of the movement, but, at the very least, there is an attempt to make amends by using recycled materials to create the garments. They could always be doing more, but it’s a start and; unlike Shein, we can see some type of effort on their behalf.
The truth is supporting ethical brands is expensive. Buying a $100 pair of pants is not realistic for a lot of people and that’s why they prefer to purchase a lot of garments for the same amount of money. But knowing who you are buying from and who made your clothes can help you become a more conscious consumer.
Keeping in mind that Shein has more than 10,000 employees including customer service in different places around the world, we only want to assure they do work in safe spaces and get paid what they deserve. The company is making enough money to meet the safe labor standards, create their products without earning money from stolen ideas, and equally as important, actually move to more sustainable practices inside the fashion industry.
The problem with the company is the overconsumption in general. We may not be able to afford $100 on one garment, but there is also no need to spend it on 10 garments that will not last a year. The best way out of this is by finding our own style, staying away from what’s trendy, and buying only pieces that we need (or really, really like), that we might use multiple ways, and, most importantly, will be durable.