Fast-fashion giant Shein has just become the largest online-only retailer in the world. In July this year, the app became the most downloaded with over 17.5 million downloads across the Google Play and Apple stores. But why does Shein’s rapid growth have sustainability experts so concerned?
Shein (pronounced she-in, not shine, as it was originally called SheInside) launched in 2008, originally as a wedding dress retailer. Since then the Chinese company has expanded rapidly, with particular success in social media marketing.
It is the most-mentioned brand on TikTok, far surpassing Netflix which came in second. Shein has been tagged more than three times as often as McDonald’s or Starbucks – it has tapped into the Gen-Z market better than any other brand.
Shein now represents almost a third (28 per cent) of the fast-fashion market in the US alone, and the company is rumoured to be heading towards an IPO – aka listing the company on the stock market.
But as Shein takes social media by storm, with influencers all over the world sharing their ‘#SHEINHAUL’ videos, activists and experts have been left despairing.
What’s wrong with Shein?
When you look at some of the numbers around the brand, it’s quite astounding. According to CEO Molly Miao, the company releases between 700 and 1,000 new items a day.
Yes, you read that right: a day.
Shein says each product is only produced in small numbers (between 50-100 pieces), thereby minimising how many raw materials are wasted. When a product is popular, it’s then mass-produced on a larger scale.
But even a product produced on a small scale is still contributing to carbon emissions and waste. Based on the numbers above, and using the most conservative figures, that’s still at least 35,000 items being produced every day – and at worst 100,000.
Sustainability is ultimately about buying and consuming less. Shein’s business model is set up to fuel demand, guaranteeing that there is almost always something new that a consumer will want to buy.
When experts examined the company’s website, they found that 70 per cent of its products in stock are less than three months old. At other fast-fashion retailers, like Zara and H&M, this number is between 40-53 per cent.
In a world where the average consumer throws away 60 per cent of new clothes in the same year they were bought, Shein’s approach to sales is a clear part of that pattern.
The original full article can be found at euronews.com