Last April, the Chinese fast fashion (i.e. very cheap fashion clothing) online store Shein was valued at 100 billion dollars, about 96 billion euros, more than H&M and Zara combined, and almost 7 times the figure at which the same company was rated in 2020. Shein’s e-commerce is particularly appreciated by an audience of young women for the very wide choice of items and extremely low prices; in the last two years it has also become very popular mainly thanks to the role of social networks. At the same time, began to attract a lot of criticism for an approach that, according to various points of view, encourages unbridled shopping and “short-term” fashion, with a presumably enormous environmental impact.
Shein (which is pronounced ski-in) was founded in 2008 by Chinese entrepreneur Chris Xu in Nanjing. At first he sold wedding dresses bought in wholesale markets, then he started selling regular dresses too, taking advantage of the fact that there were not many online dress shops at the time.
Things began to go particularly well in 2015 when the online store began producing its own clothes, moving production to Canton, the center of Chinese textile manufacturing. It was then that Shein – until shortly before SheInside – began to focus both on digital technologies and on its image to compete with the biggest fast fashion brands in the world and take share of the European and American market.
Unlike other fast fashion clothing stores, such as Zara and H&M, Shein sells its products directly to the public, without intermediaries, in order to cut costs. It is based on a very fast production flow and does not have its own identity or its own aesthetics, but uses algorithms and data analysis to intercept the fashions of the various countries and re-propose them as quickly as possible in its new collections, often copying explicitly the creations of more or less famous designers, replicating them with a much lower quality.
With this system, Shein is able to produce new collections in a matter of days, while her main rivals would take an average of three weeks; in addition, he manages to put online thousands of new items every daysuch as t-shirts for 6 euros and summer dresses for 11 euros, encouraging the purchase also through discounts and promotions.
The coronavirus pandemic contributed enormously to Shein’s growth, both because other fast fashion brands had always focused heavily on physical stores, and thanks to advertising campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Much of the success of the brand comes precisely from the following it has built on social networks: simply by asking its users to publish photos with their clothes, and then publish them on the official e-commerce channel, or through collaboration agreements with various influencers. .
Another way in which Shein has established itself among the younger generations are the so-called “haul videos”, Literally“ loot videos ”, ie those in which people open the packages of products they order at home, increasing the visibility of the various brands. To give the idea, the videos tagged with the “Shein Haul” tag on TikTok have been viewed more than 5.7 billion times. With over 25 billion views of its hashtag, Shein is the brand most quoted absolutely on TikTok, the social network frequented above all by people of the “generation Z” (ie those born after 1996).
While thousands of young people continue to find Shein attractive and competitive, many others, more attentive to environmental sustainability, contest her approach, criticizing the company also for the alleged exploitation of child labor and workers in general, which is a very current problem in the fast fashion industry.
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In April, Samoan-American influencer Drew Afualo was harshly criticized from many of its 7.5 million followers on TikTok for a sponsorship deal with Shein. In May, the inauguration of a temporary e-commerce store in Toulouse, France, has been interrupted by a few dozen people demonstrating against the enormous environmental impact of fashion “in the short term”, while hundreds more lined up to enter the store.
In a video shared on YouTube that has been viewed more than 3 million times, American influencer Mina Le attributes to the “haul videos”(Like Shein’s) an excessive increase in consumption among social network users, who are forced to buy more and more products, including clothes that they already know will last a few months.
The way that SheIn is making three of the most polluting fashion brands look insignificant is utterly terrifying. pic.twitter.com/OSAU8imqtm
– Venetia La Manna (@venetialamanna) April 7, 2022
Shein is an extremely private company and practically nothing is known with respect to its supply chain or its production processes: for this reason it is not possible to know with certainty even the environmental impact of its super-fast production.
One of Shein’s particularly contested habits is that each of her garments is delivered in plastic packages that are bound to end up in landfills right away, as is often the clothes themselves. It was estimated that Shein produces at least 35,000 garments a day: it’s a big problem, considering that the clothes she sells have a limited shelf life and that on average people throw away 60 percent of the clothes they buy in the same year in which they bought them.
How summed up quite effectively the site Highsnobietywhich mainly deals with streetwear and youth trends, “the amount of waste that Shein has to produce with its ultra-cheap garments, plants in constant operation and international shipments must be immense”.
Also, in some cases, clothes and accessories sold through the site have been found traces of lead in large quantities. Miriam Diamond, a chemistry professor at the University of Toronto, told Canadian public television CBC that the amount would be up to 20 times what Canadian health authorities deem safe for young children.
In recent months Shein has been trying to defend herself from the various criticisms received, showing herself more attentive to the concerns about environmental sustainability expressed by her customers. You have announced the establishment of a $ 50 million fund to reduce waste of textile products and has started a collaboration with a non-profit organization that deals with environmental protection. In his report on sustainability and social impact of 2021, he said he wanted to commit himself to limiting water consumption and reducing waste during all stages of production.
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Shein’s “short-term” fashion is beginning to dislike – Il Post
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