With SHEIN being the talk of the Internet for quite some time – and for so many reasons – we understand how overwhelming it can be to process all the information. While they produce so many styles at such cheap prices, it can be quite alluring, but once we dig a bit deeper to uncover how they are able to offer this, we start to shed light on the multitude of reasons that we should be avoiding them at all costs. Alongside the rapid growth of SHEIN comes compounding social, ethical, and environmental issues that are affecting nearly every part of their supply chain.
So sit back, grab a tea, and let us share just a few of the reasons you should join us in boycotting this fast fashion giant:
1. ULTRA fast fashion
When we think of fast fashion, our minds immediately think of Zara or H&M. However, SHEIN takes the cake with a valuation of $100 billion as of April 2022, which is more than H&M and Zara combined. How did this company gain so much popularity seemingly overnight? Their secret is none other than pushing the accelerator on the fast fashion pedals. If Zara takes 3 weeks to make one new product, SHEIN gets it done in 1. In Q1 of 2022, SHEIN added 314,877 brand new styles to their site, compared to Zara and H&M, which launched 6,849 and 4,414 new styles respectively.
2. Toxic materials
While it may not seem to matter that we have a few polyester pieces in our wardrobes, when you're producing millions of garments a day, those numbers really add up. It has been reported that more than 85% of the products on SHEIN's site are polyester or acrylic, meaning they are essentially plastic made from fossil fuels. Not only are these fibres harsh on our skin, synthetic fabrics are a massive contributor to climate change for so many reasons.
Aside from the fossil fuels required to create the fabric, the issue continues when customers wash these garments. For every load of laundry, around 700,000 microfibres are released, and when the fabric is made of plastic, those microplastics end up just about everywhere.
Once these clothes are discarded – likely after only 1 or 2 wears – they sit and decompose in landfills, releasing toxic chemicals into the air, soil, and waterways. Synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, and nylon can take up to 200 years to decompose, and by then they have already done their damage.
And finally, a recent study by CBC Marketplace found hazardous amounts of lead in many of SHEIN's products. Out of 38 samples, 1 in every 5 products contained huge amounts of toxic chemicals that include lead and phthalates at levels that were almost 20 x higher than the scientifically suggested 'safe' amount.
3. Slave labour
The internet is filled with questions about SHEIN's labour policies, and for good reason. Their site does not share any clear information on worker safety or factory conditions, leaving us to wonder.
Lucky for us, a recent undercover study revealed that SHEIN's factory workers are forced to work 17 hours days, make 500+ garments per day, and paid only 3p per item made. And if they make a single mistake, they risk major wage cuts.
With only one day off per month, it's no wonder how SHEIN can continue to afford to offer so many styles at such cheap prices. Someone, somewhere, is paying the price.
4. Design theft
The brand has been on the firing end of many social media posts from artists, designers and other brands who have claimed and proven that SHEIN has stolen their designs to claim as their own.
The brand has stolen designs from major fashion power houses, but their recent victims are smaller independent – often BIPOC – designers such as Bailey Prado, Tracy Garcia, Joanna Cosentino, and Florentine Roell to name a few.
While the larger corporations rightfully sued SHEIN, it's not as easy for these smaller designers. SHEIN has made a name for itself by shamelessly (and repeatedly) stealing designs, with no major repercussions so far.
5. Low quality products
Based on the price of their garments, we don't have to guess what kind of quality to expect. Anyone who has purchased from SHEIN can be a testament to the fact that these products are only good to wear for a handful of times after which they either fall apart or are thrown away, clogging our landfills and thrift stores. How many times have you wandered through your local Value Village and seen hanger after hanger of tacky SHEIN clothes? Trust us, we’ve been there.
6. Lack of transparency
The brand’s e-commerce platform has very minimal information about the brand, its values, mission and/or ethical standards. Their homepage is flooded with thousands of products, and only after scrolling through all these products, are we able to locate the ‘ABOUT’ link. That's a major red flag – the fact that don't make it easy to even try to find out more about them.
This link includes numerous vague claims about their ethical standards however, the company never shares any proof to back these claims. Despite the entire fashion industry calling for increased transparency, SHEIN has yet to provide any further information to deny these claims.
7. Cultural insensitivity
The recent whirlwind of controversy the company got themselves into was the selling of culturally inappropriate products- Prayer Mats as Greek Carpets, and religiously insensitive necklaces as fashion statements: Swastika symbol pendant and “Allah” necklaces. Although the company has apologized for this inconsiderate mishap and removed these products from their website, it has left a lot of people enraged, and for good reason.
These issues are really just the tip of the massive, unethical iceberg that is SHEIN. A quick google search will find thousands of articles and social media claims of why and how SHEIN is violating our social, ethical and environmental values.
As consumers, we have very little information about how SHEIN's clothes are made, who makes them, and what the working conditions in their factories are. We are left to guess, and based on the price point and quality of the garments, we’re guessing it’s not great.
It is time that we collectively work together to demand better from brands like this. Our actions can lead to change, and we encourage you to consider who is paying the price when you reach for the 5$ t-shirt.