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The Problem With SHEIN

Fashion culture has always been about keeping up with the latest trends, shopping for what’s in season and continuously improving your wardrobe. The ball in the fashion industry is always rolling and sometimes it can be hard for others to keep up. Consumers’ desire to stay relevant in the fashion world has led to nothing but false consciousness, commodification, overconsumption and wasteful practices. Many fashion brands know exactly how to capitalize on this particular attitude of their consumers — this is what created fast fashion.

Fast fashion is a highly exploitative business model that replicates trendy clothes and mass produces them at a low cost. Some of the top fast fashion brands would be H&M, Zara, Urban Outfitters and the main offender — SHEIN. SHEIN has increased in popularity in recent years and many don’t realize the problem with this brand.

According to Good On You, SHEIN is rated as “we avoid.” The rating is very poor and is the worst score on their scale. Their review goes in-depth about their impact on the planet, people and animals. 

SHEIN is not taking adequate steps to ensure payment of a living wage for its workers; evidence for worker empowerment initiatives is non-existent, its source for production is located in countries known for its labor abuse and it does not disclose any policies or safeguards that would protect suppliers and workers from the impact of COVID-19.

The environment rating for SHEIN is just as poor as its labor rating, it does not take any action to reduce hazardous chemicals and many of the fragrances used on the clothes are carcinogenic; there are very few uses of eco-friendly materials and no evidence is given that the brand has the policy to minimize the impacts of microplastics. Also, evidence is lacking that proves SHEIN reduces its carbon and greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain. The clothes that SHEIN sells are made so cheaply — they are not made to last — and will end up being thrown away by consumers at least a month after buying. According to SHEIN’s site, 1,000+ items are added to the site daily.

The last rating on Good On You’s website is for SHEIN’s treatment towards animals — it’s given an “it’s a start” rating. The brand uses wool but does not use leather, exotic animal hair, fur, down, angora or exotic animal skin. It should still be noted that there is no evidence of a policy to minimize the suffering of animals.

Many consumers excuse some of these truths about SHEIN due to the affordability of its products — not everyone can afford well-made, sustainable clothing and there are individuals who live in areas where thrift stores are not within reach. While this is true, SHEIN profits most off of those who are able to buy large quantities of clothing at once. Many thrift stores around the country have been overflowed with people’s wasteful fashion choices — people will buy an entire SHEIN haul, wear them for about a month and then get rid of the clothing. If you have the ability to choose fashion that is good quality, sustainable, safe for animals and safe for people…then make that choice and find alternative places to shop; for instance, small businesses, thrift stores or boutiques. For those who cannot afford this lifestyle, you can still be mindful about your purchases; ask yourself if this is something you’ll use often; you can even do the simple task of having these conversations about fast fashion.

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