Infamous fast fashion giant Shein is back in the spotlight after a new investigation found that workers at its factory are paid just 4 cents a piece while working 18-hour shifts.
Channel 4 UK's new documentary 'Untold: Inside the Shein Machine' takes viewers behind the scenes at some of the Chinese factories that produce clothing for e-retailers.
While shocking, the hidden camera findings will not come as a surprise to those familiar with the company's environmental and human rights record.
How tall is Shein?
she inside(pronounced she-in, not shine, as it started out as SheInside) launched in 2008, originally as a bridal gown retailer. Since then, the Chinese company has expanded rapidly, last year becoming the world's largest online retailer.
As of July 2021, the app has become the most downloaded app with over 17.5 million downloads on the Google Play and Apple stores.
And themost mentioned brand on TikTok, far surpassing Netflix, which came in second. Shein has been labeled more than three times as often as McDonald's or Starbucks – it entered the Gen Z market better than any other brand.
Shein now represents almost a third (28 percent) of thefast fashion marketUSA only, and the company isrumored to be headed for an initial public offering- also known as the company's listing on the stock exchange.
But as Shein takes social media by storm, with influencers around the world sharing their '#SHEINHAUL' videos, activists and pundits alike are desperate.
The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world, and fast fashion brands like Shein are a key part of that pollution.
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What's wrong with Shein?
When you look at some of the brand's numbers, it's pretty amazing. According to CEO Molly Miao, the company releases between 700 and 1,000 new items a day.
Yes, you read that right: one day.
Shein says that each product is only produced in small quantities (between 50 and 100 pieces), which minimizes raw material waste. When a product is popular, it is mass-produced on a larger scale.
But even a product produced on a small scale still contributes to carbon emissions and waste. Based on the numbers above, and using the most conservative numbers, at least 35,000 items are still produced every day, and in the worst case, 100,000.
Sustainability is ultimately about buying and consuming less. Shein's business model is set to drive demand, ensuring that there is almost always something new for the consumer to want to buy.
Whenvetted expertsOn the company's website, they found that 70% of the products in stock are less than three months old. At other fast-fashion retailers like Zara and H&M, that number is between 40% and 53%.
In a world where the average consumer pulls60 percent new clothesthe same year they were purchased, Shein's sales approach is a clear part of that pattern.
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The environmental impact of fast fashion
The fashion industry is responsible for more than 10% of carbon emissions and consumes approximately 100 million tons of oil each year. Virgin polyester (also known as new polyester) is a key part of these numbers, with production levels of this fabric doubling since 2000.
One Year Manufacturing Process Of Virgin Polyester Shakesthe same amount of CO2like 180 coal power plants, that's about 700 million tons of CO2 a year. Reports estimate that this could double again by 2030.
Carbon emissions are at the heart of global warming, which means that every ton of CO2 released into the atmosphere makes our planet increasingly uninhabitable.
The effects of our warmer weather have been very evident in recent months, fromforest firesand heat wavesdeadly floodsand hurricanes. the most recentIPCC reporton climate change, he stated that global warming must be kept at 1.5°C to avoid "climate disaster".
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Fast fashion brands like Shein are bad for people and the planet
In addition to contributing to the climate crisis, fast fashion is also based on exploiting people within the supply chain. To mass-produce clothing and sell it at such deep discounts, costs must be reduced.
"The garment industry, not just the fast fashion industry, is built on miserable wages and forced labor conditions."ExplainSpokesperson for the Clean Clothes Campaign.
“These working conditions are not mere failures of individual factories, but are driven by an industry practice of pushing for the lowest price and shortest lead times in an eternal race to the bottom.”
Although Shein has a corporate social responsibility page that says the company "always practices fair labor" and "never EVER engages in child or forced labor," Reuters reported last year that Shein failed to provide adequate transparency about its supply chain. grocery supply.
Shein specifically has also come under fire multiple times from independent designers, who accuse the fast-fashion giant of stealing their work.
Last August, Bailey Prado, a crochet designer based in Los Angeles and London, accused Shein of stealing 45 of her designs.
“I convinced myself it was no big deal,” Prado said on Instagram, “but now my designs, which have been my whole life for the last 3 years, are now being sold to millions of Shein consumers who will never hear from me. .
"It seems that fast fashion companies have no consequences."
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Why do people love Shein so much?
Despite several designers such as Prado highlighting the theft of Shein's intellectual property, along with a host of articles and videos condemningthe poor quality of the brand- The company is going from strength to strength.
At the center of their marketing strategy are #SHEINHAUL videos, where influencers and social media users share images of various items they have purchased or been given as gifts by Shein.
Shein is also a rare brand (not just in fast fashion, but in all of fashion) in serving plus-size consumers. They have many products going up to 5XL (UK 26/US 22/EU 54), which is way beyond what high street equivalents like H&M, Zara and New Look offer.
This has certainly helped with the popularity of the brand, as it offers options often unavailable to plus-size shoppers, who often end up paying the so-called 'fat tax' in the clothes.
But some have pointed out how incongruous Gen-Z's love for Shein is.
Generation Z (people born between the mid-1990s and 2012) is famous for its sustainable preferences and political activism. Like Millennials, the generation is more progressive than previous age groups, as well as being digital natives, better educated, and more concerned about climate change.
However, young people make up a significant part of Shein's target audience, as evidenced by the decision to focus marketing efforts on TikTok.
While the social media app has become a space for social activism and manysustainable designersand brands to make a name for itself, is now also dominated by Shein content.
“The concern with what Shein is doing, especially with their target audience of Gen-Zers, is making them think it's okay to pay next to nothing for an item of clothing, when the only way to reach that price would be to exploit people. throughout the supply chain, from manufacturers to designers,” said Rebecca Morter, founder of sustainable e-commerce site Lone Design Club.Glossy.
With a reality show in the works and numerous celebrity collaborations, Shein's rise to the top seems unstoppable. This ends up leaving things in the hands of the consumers.
The choice is ours: a livable planet where workers are paid fairly, or cheaper clothing created from stolen designs.