Shopping Shein? What to know about the fast-fashion brands so-called dark sides National

what is shein

He also said that the brand wishes to make its supply sites more energy efficient and incorporate recycled fibers into its products more often. Additionally, the company revealed it „formed a product review committee with staff from different cultures and religions“ to avoid repeating past mistakes; however, they’ve continued to face accusations of insensitivity and appropriation. She agrees with Winder that consumers and companies alike are being more cognizant of the lasting environmental impacts that come from fast fashion cycles. Leconte says the nature of Shein’s business model means its clothing production cannot possibly be done entirely in-house, which means leaning on third-party factories to take on work, which can in turn outsource production to other contractors. In China, however, LatePost reported that Shein has developed “a reputation for timely payment [to factories],” which is a rarity in the country. The retailer also appears to have a good rapport with the factory owners it employs, who were willing to relocate their operations alongside Shein in 2015.

  1. I’ve previously written about how the fashion industry is one of the world’s most resource-intensive sectors, even though there is no official research that fully summarizes fashion’s environmental impact.
  2. The prices of Shein’s products have also raised questions about its environmental footprint and its labour practices, like many of its rivals.
  3. Friends and coworkers have recommended Shein swimwear and dresses to me in casual conversation, over text and even on Slack.
  4. Observers of the retail and fashion industries have started to pay closer attention to Shein in recent years.

Long heralded as a disruptor for its online-only model, Shein has also started toying with pop-up storefronts, potentially bringing its brand to a wider, in-person audience. Women’s tops advertised on the Shein Canada website, for example, are often priced under $10 and sometimes as low as $5. A flurry of banners advertise steep sales and discounts on shipping — up to 90 per cent off for an extended May long weekend sale, for instance. If you’re a regular online shopper — especially if you’re under the age of 30 or so — you’ve probably seen the name Shein, and might have bought an outfit or two from the retailer.

CBC reported that lead exposure can damage the heart, brain, kidneys, and reproductive system; and contamination can be especially harmful to infants and children, making the levels found in the children’s jacket that much more dangerous. Miriam Diamond, environmental chemist and University of Toronto professor, pointed out to CBC that this contamination is not only unsafe for shoppers but also for the individuals actually producing these items. CBC reports that since being alerted of the contaminations, Shein has removed the flagged products from their website and stopped working with the suppliers of these products until they’ve completed their own investigation and taken any necessary action(s). Concerns about the company’s labour practices have been enough to prompt American representatives to ask the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to verify Shein’s supply chain does not use forced Uyghur labour before considering reported plans for an IPO in the country, according to Reuters. Shein told Global News that it takes “all claims of infringement seriously” and addresses issues of intellectual property (IP) with artists when they arise.

Before Shopping At Shein Again, Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Targeting trend (and cost) conscious shoppers on social media, the online-only giant adds a staggering 6,000 new items to its range daily. „Our artisans, all women in Nigeria, spend 4-5 days crocheting such beautiful piece of art. It’s quite disheartening to see such talent and hard work reduced to a machine made copy,“ the brand wrote on Instagram back in July 2021. Apart from the Public Eye report, there is little to no information that confirms whether or not Shein is enforcing policies that protect workers on its production sites. According to a 2021 report by Reuters, Australia requires companies that make over $100 million AUD annually to submit a „modern slavery statement“ to the Australian Border Force (ABF) every year. Fast fashion, which refers to inexpensive and trendy clothes being produced at an inhumane speed to meet public demand, especially damages the environment due to the mind-blowing abundance of clothing being produced in such a short time period.

what is shein

Since Shein ships its orders directly to customers from Chinese warehouses, packages worth less than $800, or small-value shipments, generally remain duty-free. In other words, Shein has managed to circumvent paying both export and import taxes for about three years, something brick-and-mortar retailers aren’t able to avoid. Throughout the early 2010s, Shein launched overseas sites in Spain, France, Russia, Italy, and Germany, and began selling cosmetics, shoes, bags, and jewelry, in addition to womenswear. According to a translated article from the Chinese tech site LatePost, by 2016, Xu had assembled a team of 800 designers and prototypers, dedicated to rapidly producing Shein-branded clothes. Shein also began honing its supply chain, cutting out suppliers that produced “mediocre-quality products or images,” according to a 2016 press release.

“They know that it’s probably not the best supply chain setup, but they also know that they only have so much money available to look good and feel good,” Winder says. The company took that pledge to Toronto’s Eaton Centre in April, with an event that encouraged customers to bring in bags of used clothing for donation to a local non-profit providing clothes to vulnerable populations. The sheer volume of clothes produced by Shein’s rapid supply and demand cycles also fuels environmental concerns. However, Shein’s business model comes with “dark sides,” Winder says, which could hamper its reputation with consumers and prospects with regulators.

More from Global News

While more renowned companies, like Levi Strauss and Ralph Lauren have taken their accusations against Shein to court, many of the smaller designers who Shein has allegedly stolen from have turned to social media to call out the fast-fashion brand (via Dazed). In 2020, a researcher interviewed 10 people who worked at companies that supply Shein’s products and reported her findings back to Public Eye. She discovered that these supply sites were riddled with fire hazards, such as blocked entrances and exits, second-story windows barred shut, and no emergency exits. She was told that employees worked for up to 75 hours a week, which is not only inhumane but also highly illegal, according to Chinese labor law. Not a single interviewee could provide a contract of employment, which is also illegal, and only one of these sites enforced a minimum income — the other factories enforced a pay-per-item model (a maximum of 47 cents per item). Apart from the speed and abundance with which the company updates its website, Shein is also unique in its reliance on social media influencers for marketing.

what is shein

While venture capitalists and tech entrepreneurs tout Shein as the future of fashion, the company’s rise didn’t occur in a vacuum. Its success is predicated on a confluence of factors, from geopolitical trade policies to a decades-old, disaggregated global fashion ecosystem. Shein was recently described as „manipulative“ by web design agency Rouge Media, which identified eight prompts on its website encouraging shoppers to spend more money or give away personal data in exchange for discounts or reward points.

Intellectual property infringement

In what author and Chinese technology expert Matthew Brennan has branded „real-time retail“, smaller companies along its supply chain are fed information from its in-house tools on what’s trending or how well certain products are performing. The company has benefited from viral marketing that is especially popular with gen-Z on social media, Winder says. The popular #SheinHaul tag on TikTok and Instagram sees thousands of teens and young adults act as influencers for the brand as they share what came in their latest bulk order. The company is well-known on apps such as TikTok and Instagram, where generation Z shoppers will show off their #SheinHaul — a collection of clothes ordered from the online-only retailer at deeply discounted prices. I’ve previously written about how the fashion industry is one of the world’s most resource-intensive sectors, even though there is no official research that fully summarizes fashion’s environmental impact.

The retailer has stayed mum on ethical fashion and sustainability, but it’s hard to imagine Shein embracing corporate accountability without widespread consumer pressure. Regardless, Shein seems poised to be the fashion giant of the decade, and investors are scrambling to look for other retailers that could copy its speedy supply chain. And as the fashion industry adjusts to Shein’s blinding pace, it’s safe to assume that shoppers are encouraged and expected to buy more and more. All it takes is another viral must-have product from a brand that might be the next big thing. Shein was first launched in 2008 under the domain SheInside, as a site that sold wedding dresses and women’s fashion geared toward US and English-language shoppers.

The fast fashion business model was pioneered in the 1990s by the founder of Inditex, the parent company of Spanish retailer Zara. Zara notoriously abandoned the concept of fashion seasons for a year-long cycle of production, which introduced customers to novel items every few weeks. Its success prompted other Western designers and retailers — H&M and Forever 21, to name two — to follow its lead into the next decade. Retailers migrated most of their manufacturing process overseas to countries with lax labor laws, where wages can be low and working overtime (without additional pay) is common. This, of course, made fashion companies more profitable, as shoppers became hooked on a cycle of novelty.

Shein’s low prices make this model accessible to even the youngest shoppers who have just a bit of pocket money to stretch, Leconte says. “Shein has been known for years to copy, plagiarize the work of up-and-coming designers who don’t have big enough structures in place to legally act against that company so they steal freely,” she alleges. She tells Global News that Shein’s legal firepower is too much for independent designers to realistically go up against. However, a Shein spokesperson denied the company has any plans to go public in a statement to Global News on Tuesday.

In an effort to better their reputation in terms of environmental, social, and governance (ESG)issues, Shein hired a group of new executives who aim to change how the general public views the fashion retailer, Bloomberg reported in June 2022. The most notable hire is Adam Whinston, the brand’s new global head of ESG, who is largely in charge of positively changing Shein’s image and introducing a more sustainable model to the company. In October 2021, CBC Marketplace conducted an investigation to identify potentially toxic chemicals in products from fast-fashion brands like Shein, Zaful, and AliExpress. Out of 38 samples of children’s, adults‘, and maternity-wear clothing and accessories, CBC Marketplace found that one in every five items had „concerning“ levels of chemicals like lead, PFAS, and/or phthalates. Behind Shein’s explosive growth are accusations from artists that their designs have been knocked off, concerns that its rapid production cycles come with an enormous carbon footprint and allegations that its clothing is made through abusive labour practices. But by virtue of Shein’s location and software technology, the retailer developed a speedy edge on its competitors.

The production of polyester textiles alone emitted about 706 billion kilograms of greenhouse gases in 2015, and hundreds of gallons of water go into making a single cotton garment. Most of the clothes from Shein are made from synthetic fabrics, which are responsible for releasing plastic microfibers into oceans. It has also been accused of copyright infringement and faces lawsuits from the likes of the maker of Dr Martens boots, although the e-retailer has previously denied any wrongdoing. According to Whinston, Shein’s 6,000 new styles per day feature is more sustainable than it seems. In a conference, he claimed that these new styles are created in small batches, which allows the company to figure out which of its styles are most popular before they commit to manufacturing large batches of clothing. Along with this, Whinston has shared that Shein plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by sending more products by ship than by air.