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  • Writer's pictureValinda

Why is Shein Bad? The Truth about Ultra Fast Fashion 

In a world where trends change as swiftly as a social media scroll, Shein has emerged as a beacon of affordable and up-to-the-minute fashion. With its vast array of styles and wallet-friendly prices, the brand has captured the hearts of fashion-forward individuals globally. Yet, as the allure of Shein's virtual aisles draws millions, there's an unsettling question that lingers in the air—why is Shein bad?

Beyond the glamourous facade of runway-inspired looks and budget-friendly finds lies a tapestry woven with controversies. In this blog post, we embark on a journey behind the scenes of Shein's fast-fashion empire, shedding light on the ethical, environmental, and quality concerns that have sparked a discourse on the true cost of our fashion choices. As we peel back the layers, we invite you to explore the complexities of the Shein phenomenon and consider the implications of supporting a brand that has garnered both admiration and skepticism in equal measure.

what is wrong with shein

What is Shein?

Embarking on the global fashion scene in 2012, SHEIN, initially known as ZZKO, had a more humble beginning in 2008 as a platform dedicated to the sale of wedding dresses. However, in a strategic move in 2012, the company pivoted its focus to the bustling wholesale clothing market in Guangzhou, China, specializing in general women's fashion. A renaming followed, with the birth of “She Inside." Fast forward to 2015, and the brand underwent another transformation, rebranding as "Shein" for a name that resonated more effortlessly and was easier to discover online. The company's evolution continued, marked by substantial growth and development. By 2016, Shein boasted a team of 100 employees headquartered in Guangzhou, with a supply chain system meticulously crafted and a dedicated team of 800 designers and prototypers crafting Shein-branded apparel. From a niche focus on women's wear, Shein expanded its horizons, offering a diverse product catalogue that spans across women, men, and children's clothing, along with a surprising array of home goods and even pet supplies . Today, Shein's global reach extends to over 150 countries, a testament to its meteoric rise in the fashion e-commerce realm. The brand's ascent reached new heights in 2020, becoming the most downloaded app and experiencing a remarkable 250% surge in sales following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion of TikTok. As of 2021, Shein reported an annual revenue of a staggering $16 billion, a substantial increase from the $10 billion recorded in 2020. The SHEIN logo, now recognized worldwide, symbolizes a fashion empire that has captured the hearts and closets of millions.

shein logo - Why is Shein Bad

Why is Shein so Popular

Shein's meteoric rise to popularity can be attributed to its irresistible cocktail:

Trendy Styles: Shein has gained immense popularity by consistently offering a vast array of clothing inspired by the latest fashion trends and celebrity styles, allowing fashion enthusiasts to stay in vogue. releases 10,000 new products a day

  • Affordable Prices: The brand's competitive pricing strategy has made it a favorite among budget-conscious shoppers, providing an opportunity to experiment with various looks without a significant financial commitment. “Very little of our merchandise isn’t sold. That’s how we can be so cost-effective,” Miao told The Wall Street Journal.

  • Constantly Changing Inventory: Shein's commitment to keeping its inventory fresh and dynamic contributes to its popularity, as customers can always find new and exciting fashion options whenever they visit the online store.

  • Global Reach: With convenient global shipping options, Shein has expanded its reach to fashion lovers worldwide, making it accessible to a diverse and international customer base.

  • Experimentation Without Commitment: The brand's affordability and diverse selection enable customers to experiment with different styles and trends without the long-term commitment, fostering a sense of fashion exploration.

  • Online Community and Influencers: Shein's active presence on social media platforms, along with collaborations with influencers, has cultivated a vibrant online community that amplifies the brand's popularity through user-generated content and recommendations.

However, while these factors contribute to Shein's popularity, it's crucial to delve into the ethical, environmental, and quality concerns associated with the brand, revealing a more nuanced perspective on the darker side of fast fashion.

sewing in factory - Why is Shein Bad

Why is Shein so Cheap

What's the secret behind Shein's unbelievably low prices? The answer lies in a combination of strategic business practices.

Efficient Production

  • Shein maintains low prices by selling 98 out of every 100 garments it orders from producers, ensuring high sell-through rates.

  • The company's proprietary logistics software and a network of 6,000 suppliers help predict consumer demand and optimize orders to reduce supply chain waste.

  • Small-batch orders, sometimes as low as 100 garments, minimize unsold inventory costs.

Low Overhead:

  • Operating exclusively online, Shein avoids the overhead costs associated with brick-and-mortar stores.

  • The marketing strategy relies on mid-tier influencers, a cost-effective alternative to traditional advertising.

  • Shein's business model sidesteps import taxes in the U.S. thanks to a 2016 rule exempting taxes on shipments valued at $800 or less.

pile of clothes - Why is Shein Bad

Is Shein Ethical?

While the brand thrives on offering budget-friendly and on-trend apparel, concerns arise regarding labor practices and environmental impact.

Who makes Shein Clothes

Behind the trendy and budget-friendly facade of Shein's fashion empire, a complex web of designers, manufacturers, and suppliers collaborates to bring the brand's diverse clothing lines to life. Shein's supply chain spans the globe, involving numerous factories and workshops, primarily based in China. The company has cultivated partnerships with a vast network of suppliers who play a pivotal role in actualizing the multitude of designs added to the website daily. While Shein has its in-house team of 800 designers and prototypers, a significant portion of its clothing is manufactured by external entities. The brand's emphasis on small-batch production allows for a quick turnover of designs and minimizes the accumulation of excess inventory. However, the specifics of who exactly makes Shein clothes, the conditions under which they work, and the environmental impact of the production process remain subjects of scrutiny. The allure of Shein's affordability and fast fashion appeal comes with a veil of complexity, raising questions about the hands that craft the garments and the sustainability of the entire manufacturing process.

shein workers - Why is Shein Bad

The workforce within Shein's supplier network primarily consists of migrants from other provinces. These individuals reside in the city temporarily, driven by the singular objective of maximizing earnings before returning to their families. Shein appears to exploit the willingness of these workers to sacrifice safety, leisure time, and overall quality of life due to a perceived lack of alternatives. Engaging in dual employment, these workers endure relentless hours without the security of formal employment contracts.

Investigations by Channel 4 revealed that two factories supplying Shein were in violation of China's labor laws as well as Shein's own code of conduct. Shockingly, employees endured grueling 18-hour workdays with just one day off per month, while pay rates were abysmally low, with one factory compensating workers merely four cents per garment.

In response to inquiries about its labor conditions, a Shein spokesperson emphasized the company's commitment to respecting human rights and complying with local laws. The spokesperson cited a doubled investment in the responsible sourcing program and directed attention to the factory wage investigation report, which audited approximately 2.5% of its producers, encompassing 150 factories.

Researchers successfully identified 17 of Shein's suppliers in Guangzhou, where the company is headquartered, and conducted interviews with some of their workers. The investigation uncovered that several workshops were situated in repurposed residential buildings, with some lacking emergency exits and featuring barred windows. The corridors and stairways were obstructed by large bags of clothes and rolls of fabric, posing potential hazards by impeding a swift exit during emergencies, such as a fire.

Shein faced criticism in June 2023 when it sent influencers on an all-expenses-paid trip to its factories in Guangzhou, ostensibly to improve the company's image. However, this move backfired as consumers, seeing it as a public relations stunt, questioned the influencers' positive portrayal of working conditions. The controversy prompted discussions on social media, with some calling out the influencer trips as a barter system for favorable coverage rather than genuine investigative journalism.

sewing in factory - Why is Shein Bad

Amid Shein's rebranding efforts, a congressional report titled "Fast Fashion and the Uyghur Genocide" highlighted the brand's use of the direct-to-consumer model to bypass a ban on imports from China's Xinjiang region, where reports indicate the forced labor of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. Despite lab tests confirming the use of Xinjiang cotton in Shein's clothes, the company vehemently denies employing forced labor and claims not to have suppliers from the Xinjiang Region. The discrepancy between the allegations and Shein's responses adds layers to the ongoing scrutiny of the brand's labor practices.

Shein faced allegations of potential discrimination when BBC News reported that the company posted job ads on Chinese recruiting platforms, explicitly stating that individuals from certain ethnic minority backgrounds, particularly Uyghurs, were not eligible to apply. Following these claims, Shein initiated an investigation and responded by asserting that its name had been fraudulently used. The company affirmed its commitment to a zero-tolerance policy against forced and child labor as well as discrimination. In broader terms, when confronted with issues related to working conditions within its premises or supply chain, Shein consistently emphasized its dedication to compliance with the laws and regulations of the markets it operates. The company portrayed itself as an equal-opportunity employer, advocating for fair trade and ethical labor practices. Shein declared a strong and clear policy against forced labor, underscoring its serious approach to addressing any claims related to these matters.

shein violations graph - Why is Shein Bad

Where are Shein Clothes Made?

Shein boasts numerous warehouses worldwide, with prominent ones situated in the USA, Spain, France, Russia, Germany, Italy, Australia, Switzerland, and the Middle East. While there are multiple warehouses in various countries, all products are sourced from the Shein international warehouse in Foshan, Guangdong province, China, where the majority of the items are manufactured.

Child Labor

Despite Shein's claims on its website advocating for "fair pay for all" and offering "wages and benefits above the industry average," detailed information supporting these assertions remains undisclosed. Persistent rumors circulating on platforms like TikTok and YouTube have suggested the use of child labor by Shein, even predating the controversial "need your help" tag incident. It's crucial to note that these allegations have not been substantiated or proven. Furthermore, Shein asserts on its website that it "never engages in child or forced labor" and emphasizes ongoing efforts to assess and address human trafficking and slavery risks within its product supply chains through internal inspectors tasked with investigating relevant reports. So, while Shein’s social responsibility page on its website stated that it “never, ever” engages in child labor, it did not provide any transparency required.

Are Shein Clothes Toxic

In scrutinizing the fashion landscape, concerns about the potential toxicity of Shein clothes have garnered attention. Let's delve into the factors contributing to these concerns and explore whether Shein's trendy ensembles come with an unseen cost to health and well-being.

A recent report from Greenpeace Germany suggests that the business model of the ultra-fast-fashion brand SHEIN not only revolves around contributes to environmental destruction but also the use of hazardous chemicals. Testing 47 SHEIN products revealed that seven of them (15%) surpassed EU regulatory limits for hazardous chemicals, with five of these products exceeding the limits by 100% or more. The tests also identified that a total of 15 products contained hazardous chemicals at levels raising concerns (32%).

In a Marketplace investigation involving 38 samples of children's, adult's, and maternity clothes and accessories, it was discovered that one in five items exhibited elevated levels of chemicals, including lead, PFAS, and phthalates, which experts deemed concerning.

The company also has faced recalls, including children's sleepwear sets violating federal flammability standards and a jacket with unsafe lead levels, raising concerns about its commitment to safety standards. Critics argue that Shein's focus on maintaining extremely low prices may compromise investments in compliance and safety.

A report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation revealed alarming levels of lead, nearly 20 times the safe limit, in a Shein toddler jacket. Lead toxicity affects nearly every function in the human body, with children experiencing more significant impacts than adults. The heightened vulnerability in children is attributed to their softer tissues, both internal and external, compared to adults. Even at low levels, lead exposure can have severe consequences for infants and young children, potentially leading to behavioral issues, learning deficits, and a reduction in IQ. In response, Shein pledged commitment to product safety and regular testing, emphasizing actions against non-compliance.

shirt with chemicals - Why is Shein Bad

Is Shein bad for the Environment?

As a giant in the ultra-fast-fashion industry, Shein significantly contributes to environmental degradation through its extensive production and business practices. Firstly, the sheer volume of clothing produced at remarkably low prices by Shein promotes a culture of disposability among consumers, exacerbating the environmental impact. The brand's heavy reliance on polyester, reaching 95.2% in its clothing items, surpasses industry averages, hindering recycling efforts and further contributing to plastic pollution. The continuous influx of new designs added daily not only escalates pollution from production but also leads to increased waste as customers constantly seek the latest trends. Additionally, Shein's global shipping to over 150 countries contributes to greenhouse gas emissions due to the high volume of deliveries and returns, often ending up in landfills.

Despite these criticisms, Shein has taken steps to address environmental concerns. The release of its first Sustainability and Social Impact Report in 2021, the introduction of an eco-friendly clothing line called evoluSHEIN, and commitments to sustainability initiatives, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030, showcase the brand's newfound focus on environmental responsibility. However, the effectiveness of these efforts remains uncertain, and skepticism lingers regarding Shein's ability to control its entire supply chain, especially given its extensive reliance on external suppliers. The brand's transition towards a more ecological approach may pose challenges to its longstanding competitive advantage and business model, raising questions about the true impact of these initiatives on Shein's environmental footprint. Only time will tell if these promises translate into tangible actions and meaningful results.

evoluShein - Why is Shein Bad

Shein Quality of Clothes

The allure of SHEIN's trendy and pocket-friendly fashion extends beyond its aesthetic appeal to a realm where quality often stands at a crossroads. While the brand boasts a vast array of on-trend garments that quickly capture the latest fashion vibes, some consumers raise questions about the longevity and durability of these pieces. The expedited production cycle, coupled with reports of employees spending minimal time crafting each garment, prompts scrutiny into the craftsmanship and overall quality.

The adage "you get what you pay for" resonates in Shein's quality ratings on the SiteJabber review platform, where it earns a modest three out of five. A noteworthy aspect is the prevalent use of inexpensive synthetic fabrics in many of Shein's pieces, shedding light on the trade-off between affordability and material quality.

Copy Cats

Over the years, Shein has faced numerous allegations of design infringement, with notable companies like Levi Strauss and Dr. Martens filing trademark infringement lawsuits against the Chinese e-commerce giant. Accusations of copying designs from both independent designers and major firms have been prevalent, and social media platforms, especially TikTok, have witnessed users comparing Shein's designs with those of other brands, leading to trends like #zaravsshein. While large multinational companies have the financial means to pursue legal action, small independent designers find themselves at a disadvantage. The prevalence of art theft stories on social media, particularly under the hashtag #sheinstolemydesign, underscores the challenges faced by independent creators in seeking justice. Despite facing criticism for copying, Shein has taken steps to address these concerns, launching the SHEIN X program in 2021 to support independent designers and artists. This incubator program offers tools, marketing, manufacturing, operational, and financial support to independent creatives. Additionally, Shein implemented measures to ensure its suppliers certify that their products do not violate third-party intellectual property rights, signaling a commitment to addressing and preventing design infringement issues.

sheinX - Why is Shein Bad

Tax evasion

In its current state, Shein is revolutionizing a $36 billion industry, outpacing industry giants like Zara from Inditex SA and H&M at their own game, essentially turbocharging the fast-fashion trend that they pioneered (and subsequently faced considerable criticism for). Shein accomplishes this feat through a seemingly ingenious blend of supply-chain expertise, data-driven clothing design, and notably, the utilization of tax loopholes both in the U.S. and China, which gained prominence during the trade war. What was initially an offensive move to curb Chinese dominance has inadvertently contributed to the rise of a formidable giant in the fashion landscape.

Ethical Alternatives to Shein

Embarking on a quest for alternatives to Shein? Dive into the world of thrifting, where affordable treasures and high-quality clothing await. Thrifting isn't just a wallet-friendly option; it's a sustainable and ethical choice that champions the circular fashion economy. Uncover unique pieces with character, while contributing to the reduction of fashion waste. The thrill of the hunt in thrift stores adds an element of excitement to your wardrobe refresh, offering a more mindful and eco-conscious path to style that stands the test of time. So, if you're seeking not only cost-effective but also sustainable fashion alternatives, thrifting might just become your go-to style adventure.

In conclusion, while SHEIN's allure of trendy and budget-friendly fashion is undeniable, the shadows cast by allegations of environmental impact, questionable labor practices, and concerns about product safety cannot be ignored. As consumers, we bear the power to shape the narrative by making informed choices that align with our values. The debate about whether SHEIN is "bad" or not is multifaceted, encompassing ethical, environmental, and social considerations. Ultimately, the decision to support or steer clear of SHEIN rests in the hands of the discerning consumer, prompting us all to reflect on the impact of our choices on the fashion industry's future. As we navigate the complex landscape of fast fashion, let's strive for a more conscious and sustainable approach to our wardrobe choices, fostering a fashion culture that respects both people and the planet.


zheran Gao
zheran Gao
May 28

May I share your article on my space? I can't agree more with you. I hope more and more people could read and change.

May 28
Replying to

sure, go ahead.


zheran Gao
zheran Gao
May 28

Thanks for information. However it is not easy to say NO to cheap fashion.

May 28
Replying to

Doing the right thing can be challenging but we have to try.


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