This fashion website Shein offers all the clothing you could ever want at a low charge. But is the price of ethical boundaries really worth it?
Shein is an online fast fashion brand that was founded in 2008. It has since been met with massive popularity for following the philosophy that “everyone can enjoy the beauty of fashion”. However, this has been met with criticism over their impossibly affordable prices and massive catalogue of clothes, accessories, makeup, and home décor; keeping up with fleeting trends without any concern over sustainability or ethics. So, with the rise of more social consciousness within fashion, is it time that we boycott this company for good?
First of all, the company promotes overconsumption of material items. I find a weird sense of enjoyment watching videos with titles such as ‘I spent $400 on Shein…’ and ‘Buying my dream wardrobe on Shein’. I can understand that impulse-buying clothes online is fun. There’s no shame in doing so every now and again. However, it becomes an issue when we have so many options to choose from. This is evident by the fact that the brand is built on the ethos that ‘more is more’, adding as many as 500 new items to their never-ending catalogue each day. Not to mention the excess of clothes that will inevitably end up in landfills, contributing to Shein’s already detrimental impact on the environment. This, of course, isn’t great marketing long term and yet it has contributed to the growing influence of this website.
We haven’t even approached the worst aspects of this company yet. It’s no secret that Shein’s mass-producing habits are not exactly, shall we say, up to scratch. So how have fast fashion brands gotten away with this for so long? Shein’s website says that they abide by child labour laws in each of the countries they operate in, but this statement doesn’t really consider how these laws differ from country to country. Regardless of age, it’s obvious that a brand which sells each garment for such a cheap price won’t pay individual workers what they deserve. Yet we overlook this due to the fact that we often don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. However, as slower modes of fashion production become more and more mainstream, we can’t sustain being ignorant of the kinds of practices anymore.
As well as being unethical from a humanist perspective, Shein and similar labels help contribute to environmental issues in some unsettling ways. The vague language of the brand’s Social Responsibility page (e.g. claiming to be ISO certified when in actual fact the ISO has many different types of certifications of different standards) leads me to believe that they are participating in greenwashing, which is when brands put up a facade of being more environmentally sound than they actually are. This is a widespread issue which extends past just this particular site, but they are one of the largest perpetrators; using synthetic materials such as polyester and packing each item they sell into individual plastic bags (which is especially an issue if you’re buying many items at once). Does this seem like an attempt to be environmentally conscious to you? That will have to be a resounding no.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I have not shopped in an ethically sound way previously, with brands like H&M and Urban Outfitters taking up a large portion of my wardrobe. I am also aware of the fact that it may not be financially feasible for some to buy from more environmentally conscious brands. However, I think that we should all try to be more mindful of where we’re shopping from. Buying second-hand from sites such as Depop and Vinted are becoming a more and more sustainable, and affordable, way of expanding your wardrobe without fuelling labour-friendly and environmentally-unfriendly trends. All in all, we should be directing our attention to more sustainable and ethical brands, or at least halt on buying excessively from shops that overlook these values.