by Amy Walter
Shein, a brand that encapsulates the modern consumption of trends, media and clothing, has recently opened a limited pop-up store in London amidst the city’s Fashion Week.
The brand has always been stained with controversies, and the protesters used this time to rehash such problems.
From the poor working conditions to stolen designs Shein poses a far larger issue compared to its fast-fashion counterparts. The pure amount at which it is consumed enables its malpractices to continue and its prices to get lower and lower along with their workers’ pay.
However, many continue to endorse and support the brand due to its affordable prices and size inclusivity. Whilst we reflect on the protest, we must ask the question, is it really the consumerists fault?
On the 15th of September through to the weekend, Shein welcomed its pop-up store to central London. It featured a range of the brands’ products, predominately its clothing but also homeware, a nail parlour as well as a makeup station. With people queuing for an hour to get a glimpse of the deals inside, they were also welcomed by protesters who aligned the front of the store.
Leading the protest was Venetia La Manna, a ‘fair fashion campaigner’ that spreads the word of ethical fashion consumption on TikTok and beyond. The protesters’ signs read damming facts like how the Shein CEO has a net worth of ‘8.5 billion’ where a ‘Shein garment worker makes 3p per item.’
This is in reference to an undercover investigation done by Channel 4 that found workers were being paid per item rather than hour as well as ‘working up to 18 hours a day with no weekend and just one day off per month.’
Another sign read ‘Freedom for Uyghurs’ this is in association with the claim that Shein uses Uyghur forced labour to produce some of its clothing, though Shein denies these claims of using any forms of ‘forced labour.’
The protesters also created small QR codes to be placed in people’s bags and pockets, which led to a fake site which demonstrated the unethical practices of Shein as well as the Channel 4 expos𝑒́.
So, why do people continue to support Shein?
The obvious answer is its cheap clothing and size
inclusivity, but Shein’s values towards clothing allows a clearer insight. The company has a ‘lean production model’ basically translating to how they detect trends and act accordingly. Their clothing items are ‘released in small batches and are only mass-produced if they become’ popular.
This business model directly correlates with how trend cycles are becoming shorter and shorter, Shein not only encouraging consumers to interact with short-lived trends but other competitors to do the same.
For many, it’s a convenient, cheap brand with, according to the BBC, over 600,000 products on
its websites at any given time.
Another huge driver of Shein is its social media presence particularly on TikTok.
With 8.3 million followers on its official account, the hashtag Shein having 73.8 billion views and the hashtag Shein haul having 12.8 billion views, the brand has a clear grip on the apps’ algorithm. With influencer codes and £500 hauls plaguing TikTok’s ‘For you Page’.
Recently, Shein was in the news for a sponsored ‘Influencers trip’ where the company sent fashion influencers to go to their Shein warehouses in China and document the conditions. All the participants left with glowing reviews, commenting on how ‘impressed’ they were with the conduct of the brand.
However, after receiving backlash, most have since revoked their association with the brand. It highlights this idea of being purposefully naive to exploitation to justify our own behaviour, social media making us feel so detached that a question of exploitation is a mere passing headline, rather than a real-life issue.
The future of fashion is truly in the hands of brands like Shein. With recent talks of the fast-fashion
giant to buy Missguided, the brand shows no evidence of slowing down. However, with protests and investigative reports becoming more frequent.
Consumers are beginning to ask the question, what is the true cost of fast-fashion?