Hounded by Shein ads? Here’s everything you need to know about the fast fashion brand


We all know that fast fashion and overconsumption are huge problems for the environment. Prioritizing quality over quantity is important, as is supporting local brands.

That said, luxury isn’t always an affordable option and preaching about why you should never buy a fluffy pair of socks or a kitschy Christmas sweater won’t do much to solve the problem – in fact, often it turns people off from hearing your side of things. No one likes to feel judged, especially when it comes to money, so a little compassion and understanding is really needed here.

Friends may tell you that buying from Shein is a gamble – shipping is slow (the retailer is based in China but ships to 220 countries), the products aren’t made to last, and it’s rare for this to happen. in your hands is as pictured on site. It was only cheap, so who cares…right? The issues run deeper than that, though, and there’s a seedy underbelly to the business that those behind the wheel would probably prefer you didn’t know about.

What is that?

Shein, pronounced shee-in, has been around for over a decade now, but the site only recently took off. In fact, sales skyrocketed during the pandemic and it even overtook Amazon to become the most downloaded shopping app in the United States. Now the world’s largest online-only fashion company according to Euromonitor, Coresight Research estimates it generated approximately $10 billion in revenue last year alone – its eighth consecutive year of revenue growth of over 100% or said in passing. Competitors ASOS and Boohoo generated only $4.4 billion and $2.4 billion respectively in 2020.

Marketed heavily to Gen Z and the TikTok generation, the website has managed to grow its audience with several celebrity endorsements and has previously collaborated with well-known musicians such as Katy Perry, Nick Jonas, Lil Nas X and Rita. Ora for concerts and events. . Sponsored influencers include Addison Rae among others, with a series of capsule collections of D-list reality stars also helping to generate interest.

Thousands of new styles are added to the website every day (there are an average of 3,000 new styles a week – compared to Boohoo which averages around 500 a week), the general idea being to get people to buy, buy, to buy. Less is not more, After is more and such overconsumption is driven – even justified – by their questionably low prices.

Smoke and mirrors

Surface surveys of Shein will tell you it’s great. They’re size-inclusive (they fit up to a 4XL) and their “Shein cares” hashtag will have you believing they’re committed to all the same causes we care about – including but not limited to , feminism and sustainability. But Shein’s website is built on greenwashing and buzzwords.

Shein works on a trial-and-error approach, reversing how the industry usually works and gauging how customers react to products after they’ve been launched. Unlike other fast fashion brands that tend to brainstorm designs before releasing them, Shein flipped the script and pushes everything, tailoring subsequent products based on customer reaction. This may work well for the retailer’s bank balance, but it creates a sea of ​​goods that usually ends up in landfill.

Not only that, but there is an air of mystery to the website that allows them to shirk any responsibility. Few details of who runs the site, their supply chain, or their environmental practices exist…and that’s how they like it. Shein has gone to great lengths to stay out of the spotlight, and many backers have even cited an oath of confidentiality they pledged to when investing.

All we know is that it was first launched by Chris Xu as a wedding dress retailer in 2008 under the SheInside domain. Well-versed in all things SEO and brand marketing, he started by sourcing clothes from a clothing wholesale market in Guangzhou before the site acquired its own supply chain systems. in 2014, making it a fully integrated retailer. By 2015 it had shortened its name to Shein and had a team of over 800 designers and prototypers working for them by 2016.

Things really took shape in 2017, though it was largely the rise of TikTok and the onset of global lockdowns that helped catapult it to its current popularity. The company has increased its revenue by 250% in the space of 12 months, but many have expressed concerns about whether garment workers are paid a living wage. The concerns officials are doing little to allay as they have never publicly shared factory workers’ wages or hours, despite being required to do so by law in the UK.

Of course, you — a website that rates brands on a variety of important social and environmental issues — ranks Shein at the lowest end of the scale. Discouraging consumers from shopping there, the website claims that Shein is “not taking adequate steps to ensure that its workers are paid a living wage. “Shein’s environmental rating is ‘very poor’,” he says. “There is no evidence that it has taken any significant steps to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals. It uses few environmentally friendly materials. There is no evidence that it reduces its emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases greenhouse gases in its supply chain. There is no evidence that it has a policy to minimize the impacts of microplastics. Its work rating is also “very poor” and there is no evidence that policies to protect workers against the impact of Covid-19 have been implemented.

Besides ethics and sustainability, the company has had several other mishaps, many of which are extremely offensive. For example, Shein came under fire after a swastika necklace went on sale on the website this year. Shoppers also noticed that there were Muslim prayer rugs available for purchase, although they referred to them as “decorative rugs”. Shein apologized for these “errors” and blamed it on the algorithm-based design process.

The company is also frequently ridiculed for scamming other designers/brands – although sadly, intellectual property infringement is a completely normal practice in the fast fashion world.

More recently, a Market investigation found that out of 38 samples, one in five items contained high levels of chemicals which experts found of concern – one particular toddler jacket contained more than 20 times the amount of lead Health Canada says is safe for the children. “If the end product is not safe for me, it is certainly not safe for the workers who handle these chemicals to make it,” commented Miriam Diamond, environmental chemist and professor at the University of Toronto.


While much remains unknown about Shein’s business practices, this was a very intentional move on their part and the silence speaks volumes. It’s true that not everyone can afford ethically produced products, but it’s not low-income shoppers who support the brand and TikTok’s regular ‘transports’ promoting Shein are proof of that. . It is the most mentioned brand on the platform and was tagged more than three times more often than McDonald’s or Starbucks. However, the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world and turning a blind eye to the problem is no longer an acceptable way to “deal” with the problem.

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