SHEIN clothes are very popular right now, especially with high schoolers and young adults — but does the brand deserve people’s support?
No one can deny it is a convenient way to get trendy clothing. It is a one-stop shop, and while it primarily caters to women, there are clothes for men and children as well. Based in China, they ship to over 220 countries in the world.
The Ethical Issues:
While SHEIN has a statement on their website saying they “make social responsibility a priority,” there is no real way to make sure that is the truth. There is no real evidence on their website or elsewhere proving that the company acts responsibly in regards to both the environment and their workers. While there is no proof that their labor practices are moral or not, it is unreasonable to think that the people – -often very underprivileged children — are paid fairly and work in a good environment.
SHEIN started manufacturing in China, and as the online store grew, warehouses popped up around the world. What people may not realize is that SHEIN and many other brands will produce their clothes in overseas factories where workers can be paid significantly lower compared to domestic workers. In the U.S. there are labor laws to prevent unethical practices, but many of these overseas countries do not have the same standards, or the laws are not enforced. For example, in Shenzhen, China — where the original SHEIN factory is — there are harsh working conditions and virtually no protections for the working class.
SHEIN also manufactures products at a fast rate, and there is just no feasible way that is possible without having unethical labor practices. Another way to reach this conclusion is to realize that selling clothes for very little while paying workers a living wage would equal no profit.
The company also has a reputation for hurting the environment. Every website that has analyzed SHEIN’s impact suggests there is little effort to ensure their production is not hurting the environment. Their website says they are working to decrease their carbon footprint, but the problem of overconsumption says otherwise, not to mention fast fashion overall contributes to 10% of human’s carbon emissions.
SHEIN’s cheap prices, discounts, and promo codes make it incredibly easy for people to buy large amounts of clothes at a time, and due to this overconsumption waste builds up at record speeds.
Mass producing any amount of clothes, especially when they are poorer quality, inherently means a lot of waste — their brand drops hundreds of new styles every day that are often made out of synthetic fabric, which does not decay.
The only thing SHIEN could have going for them is that they do not use leather or any exotic animal fur/skin, but that is really a bare minimum accomplishment.
There are some alternatives to brands like SHEIN or ROMWE — a similar clothing brand. You can easily shop at consignment or thrift stores like Plato’s Closet, North Raleigh Ministries, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and many more that will offer cheaper items without being fast fashion. Supporting these stores both prevents supporting unethical brands and also gives support to different organizations that actually help people.
If you want to check which brands have ethical practices, you can click here. This website will give you a rating and some reliable information about fashion companies’ ethical practices.
Fast fashion is a big problem in our society today because while we may know it is not a good thing to support, nice clothing that is super affordable and easy to buy is rather difficult to find. The stores in malls or many online shopping stores have prices higher than many, especially broke high school or college students, can or want to pay.
However, to put the situation into perspective, most of us are fortunate enough to be able to buy clothes from more expensive or sustainable fashion brands. Buying from SHEIN hurts those exploited by them, and we should do our part to put a stop to this practice. We should care about the impact this trend of buying fast fashion has on both people and the environment.