By: Ariel L. (’23)
Many people are familiar with the trending online shopping site SHEIN where everything is cheap with tops being around $5 USD and dresses being around $7 USD. However, this year the brand had to apologize a lot for its unethical practices. From advertising swastika necklaces to selling Muslim prayer mats as “decorative rugs”, the company is definitely problematic.
Founded in October of 2008, the company described itself as an “international business to consumer fast fashion e-commerce platform that prides itself on offering on-trend styles catering to both young women and teens that won’t break the bank.” This all sounds great but first we should break down what fast fashion is. Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing produced rapidly in response to trends. It is reported that the company drops around 700 to 1000 styles daily.
Considering many of their clothes are made of fabrics like polyester and nylon, this is a huge environmental problem. The lack of quality suggests that many of the clothes will end up in landfills contributing to global warming. The industry itself is already responsible for 10% of carbon emissions and the rise of fast fashion is worsening this problem.
The company also has problems with the accuracy of orders. It is very likely that the company had clothing that came and was nothing like how it appeared online. This issue doesn’t appear every time but inconsistency is something to be aware of. To give an example, Mousy Leigh a YouTube posted a video about her shopping from SHEIN.. Her experience was a disaster with many of her items missing seams making it look like cut pieces of fabric. Two of her items were also the wrong colors compared to advertising.
In addition, the company has repeatedly been accused of copying and stealing designs of smaller fashion brands. Back in 2018 the company was reported to be using the same designs as LA-based indie brand Valfré. The company’s founder said that “customers started send [them]photos through Instagram and email alerting [them] to identical copies of [their]product.” This didn’t just happen once as the brand founder of Sashagai took to Instagram to post a side by side comparison of her brand’s shirt with one on SHEIN’s site saying “I have countless DMs of people saying they bought it and had no idea who I was. That’s a shame. Because that was an opportunity for you to do WHAT YOU SAY and support Black people and designers. The lies. The exploitation. It. Never. Ends.”
Now it is time to address the issue of racial insensitivity. In July of 2020 customers noticed that the company’s “Fringe Trim Greek Fret Carpet” actually resembled Muslim prayer rugs. Forbes even explained that some of the imagery had religious symbols like the Kaaba which promoted a greater outcry from activists. SHEIN made an apology 2 days later.
However the company was under fire again this time for selling a swastika pendant necklace. For those wondering what a swastika necklace is, it is a symbol with historic association with Nazism. In their apology, the company explains that they should have been more considerate of the symbols’ hurtful connotations to people around the world. They also explained that it was a Buddhist swastika which symbolized the feet or footprints of the Buddha. There is a difference between the Buddhist and Nazi symbol Shein’s decision to sell such a product was obviously disrespectful to the Jewish community.
The evidence of SHEIN’s wrongs is overwhelming yet people around the world and in our TAS community still decide to buy the brands products because of how cheap and trendy it is. However, by buying from the brand, people are supporting fast fashion, global warming, the stealing of designs and racial insensitivity.