Welcome to the dark side: Why Shein might be the biggest rip-off since fast fashion was born

“You won’t receive all of your orders at once, and some of the shipments may get lost in the mail,” colleagues and acquaintances had informed me. It appears to be common knowledge that purchasing from online retailer Shein is always a risk. But who cares when a garment costs less than £20, right? Wrong. I stumbled into Shein one evening in September while obsessively perusing the internet in quest of the right attire to wear to a wedding.

Strange, because I don’t normally go to quick fashion websites, but they found me this time, thanks to the wonders of Facebook marketing. I couldn’t believe it at first. The pricing were absurd: £8.99 for a shirt, £9.99 for a maxi dress, £22.99 for a coat, and so on. Everything appeared to be in order in the photos.

Looks with that trendy detail or a specific hue that have been seen on all of the major Instagram influencers this season.
Surprisingly, the garment’s quality did not appear to be questionable – to put it frankly, it did not appear to be cheap. Shein had succeeded in persuading me that I had discovered the holy grail of online buying.

Smoke and mirrors

Shein bills itself as a “global B2C rapid fashion e-commerce platform (that) focuses on women’s wear, but also offers men’s apparel, children’s garments, accessories, shoes, bags, and other fashion items,” and it believes that “everyone may experience the beauty of fashion.”

Shein (formerly known as She Inside) is a complete enigma. There was no phone number, email address, or press contact information available on the internet. According to El Mundo, even the name of its originator is a complete mystery. Instead of disclosing anything about their supply chain in a transparent manner, this ostensibly opaque corporation depends heavily on internet marketing and bloggers to get you hooked on their products.

The website in the United States has a “fashion blogger program” to help it maintain its massive social media following (7.8 million followers on Instagram alone). “Would you like clothing for nothing? They inquire, “Are you looking for long-term sponsorship?” “Then don’t hesitate to write us an email to tell us about your fashion ideas, your blog website, or your YouTube channel.” Every month, you may get free clothing worth $40 to $200!” Shein has made a pledge.

Every month, it’s worth US$40 to US$200!” Shein makes promises. After eight years, the brand has grown to the point where it is endorsed by celebrities such as Madelaine Petsch, who stars in the Netflix series Riverdale and has over 16 million Instagram followers. She just uploaded a stunning video in which she is seen going through a posh countryside home in a number of Shein summer ensembles.

Shein previously opened a pop-up shop in Paris, which received a lot of positive attention. Shein is a’size inclusive label’ (Shein accommodates up to 4XL) that offers beautiful items for less, according to Paulette magazine and Cosmopolitan magazine. The business has been enhancing its image for months by creating pop-up stores in other French towns such as Lyon, Bordeaux, and Marseille.

Independent voices in the French media, such as Adaptation Magazine, have a different take on the brand, calling it “old fashioned” and questioning its marketing strategy focused only on visual appeal. Estelle Surbranche, a fashion journalist, consultant, and blogger, writes in her piece “Why we would never buy from Shein?” that fashion influencers praising the company on social media and attending its fashion show in Paris are to blame.

The professionally staged event, which took place on October 3rd during Fashion Week and can be viewed on their website, took place on October 3rd.

Is this for real?

To be honest, I worried if I was going insane while watching the show online. Was this the same Shein as the one I bought a month ago? Is it true that they are authentic clothes? I ended up acquiring a selection of gorgeous underwear from Shein when I was browsing for that party outfit. The things were ill-fitting and of terrible quality when they arrived, and there are no words to explain how bad they were.

My first reaction was to toss them all away, which is unusual for someone who strives to live a low-waste lifestyle.
But, in my opinion, Shein’s clothes go in the garbage can.

Who’s paying for our clothes?

Apart from the low-quality, virgin oil-based textiles utilized (everything is composed of polyester, nylon, and other synthetic fabrics), the biggest question is who makes Shein clothes and how much they are paid. Every year, those who participate in Fashion Revolution Week raise the question #whomademyclothes on Twitter and Instagram.

According to Jezebel, the fact that the Chinese company routinely plagiarizes independent designers is also public knowledge. Fast fashion has received a lot of criticism in recent months. Missguided debuted the £1 bikini in June 2019, prompting Fashion Revolution to issue the following statement.

“We believe that low prices result in customer savings because they are low. This may appear to be true in the short term, with a limited focus and a sole concentration on the money in our wallets, but as global citizens, we will all eventually pay the external cost, the true cost of unsustainable clothes use and production.”

“This is why, when garments are priced as low as single-use items, it communicates that our apparel is disposable,” the organization concluded. And if we buy into that message, we’re investing into a particularly obnoxious side of fashion.”

75-hour working weeks

But things are about to get a whole lot worse. A new research published in November 2021 revealed some disturbing details concerning the work culture in Shein’s Chinese factories. According to Public Eye, a Swiss advocacy organisation and NGO, a number of employees at six locations in Guangzhou were found to be working 75-hour weeks.

Researchers from Public Eye went to 17 manufacturers that supplied Shein and its parent firm, Zoetop. They spoke with ten workers in six of those places and found that most of them worked three shifts each day, with only one day off per month. This is against Chinese labor standards, which stipulate that a maximum working day is eight hours, resulting in a 40-hour work week.

According to the NGO, the fact that workers are “paid per item” of clothing pushes them to labor excessive hours. The ‘per-piece pay rate’ model is also known as the ‘paid per item’ model. It refers to when a worker’s remuneration is determined by the quantity of garments he or she completes. The worker gets paid a certain sum for each completed piece, which is known as their rate of pay.

This simply disadvantages them because their work may be rejected due to quality difficulties, resulting in them not being compensated. Furthermore, there is no security because you are not compensated if no job is available.

When editors of major news organizations confronted Shein with the findings of Public Eye’s investigation, he responded as follows: “At this moment, SHEIN has no comment because we are awaiting a copy of the report and the opportunity to review it.” We take all supply chain issues seriously and eagerly await your response.”

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