Shein's controversial rise into a $100 billion fast fashion



1/6 ● Business of Business
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Shein’s rise to the top of the fast fashion heap

While it might appear that Shein was suddenly everywhere overnight, the company’s rise to the top of the fast fashion world has been anything but an accident. The Chinese company has actually been around since 2008, when it was founded by Chis Xu, an entrepreneur and SEO marketing guru.

The company was originally called ZZKKO, and it sold wedding dresses

Accusations of stealing art

On a sweater costing $22 was a picture of one of Bowman's paintings. It was an exact replica of her work despite the fact that she’d never been contacted by Shein requesting the rights to her work, according to the artist.

Bowman is far from the only artist who claims to have had their work stolen by Shein. A quick perusal of the hashtag #ShameOnShein reveals dozens of posts from creators claiming their designs were stolen by Shein.

The Nazi Necklace

In 2020, Shein faced controversy for selling a $2.50 necklace featuring a swastika. It wasn’t simply a case of the company’s design resembling the infamous anti-Semitic symbol. The offending item was literally labeled “metal swastika pendant necklace” on the website.

At the time, the New York Post reached out to Shein for a statement on why the product featured the Nazi hate symbol. The company backtracked and claimed that the necklace was a “Buddhist swastika which has symbolized spirituality and good fortune.”

Allegations of questionable labor practices

A 2021 report from the Swiss labor advocacy group Public Eye, found that some of Shein’s employees at six of its factories in Guangzhou were working 75 hours a week and faced enormous pressure to make the clothing quickly.

The company also caught flack for failing to make required disclosures under the U.K.’s Modern Slavery Act. Although Shein’s website maintained that it never used forced labor or child labor, it nonetheless did not provide the supply chain details the law requires.

Greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals

Perhaps the hardest controversy for Shein to overcome is the simple fact that fast fashion is bad for the planet.

While Shein produces its products in small numbers – most are ordered in quantities of 50 to 100 pieces – that’s still 35,000 items being produced daily at minimum and could be up to 100,000 pieces daily.

Shein is set up to create demand for cheap clothes produced quickly, and that’s just not sustainable.

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