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Shein - The Giant of Fast Fashion


While many brands are trying to improve working conditions in their clothing factories to address public concerns about exploitation and human rights, Shein continues to avoid these practices and dominate the market.


Shein is the largest fast-fashion e-commerce company in China, with a global distribution network that allows it to ship to over 220 countries. Over the years, the company managed to build a large supply network among local factories in different parts of the world, allowing the company to better identify trends and produce items ready for export in a short period. This model, also known as “ultra-fast-fashion”, turned Shein into one of the leading clothing manufacturing hubs of all time.


Shein offers clothing for every occasion, size, and category, including women's, men's, and children's clothing, as well as gadgets and home decor. Its success can be attributed mainly to its marketing strategies, low prices, and highly targeted communication, all of which have resulted in its widespread popularity both offline and online.


By using a variety of media channels and strategies to communicate with the targeted audience, Shein has positioned itself at the center of consumer society. The giant of fast fashion works through the dynamics of gamification of the purchasing experience. Shein users can earn points (and receive discounts) when they make purchases, write product reviews, or interact with the platform.  


Shein has the expressed goal to offer its targeted consumer the opportunity to afford the latest trends at the most rock-bottom price. By capitalizing on the logic of less for more, in an increasingly digitized environment, the company has demonstrated a great understanding of changing market dynamics and the way through which new generations articulate in society. 


In the midst of all this, Shein's global production and distribution have come under intense scrutiny from the public. Many organizations have criticized the company for failing to make public disclosures about labor conditions in its supply chain. The latest Fashion Transparency Index report, which aims to investigate brands in terms of their human rights and environmental impacts across their production chain, gave Shein a total score of 1 out of 100 - based on publicly disclosed data on the company's behalf.


Behind Shein’s enormous sales and profits, there is a textile industry that works on the backs of exploited workers, with basic human rights denied, low wages, poor health care, and inadequate workplace security measures. According to the NGO Public Eye's 2021 report, on the "shiny façade of the Chinese 'ultra-fast fashion' giant," employees work 11 to 13 hours a day, mostly seven days a week, with no overtime pay and only one day off per month. The NGO visited 17 of Shein's Chinese supply factories and interviewed ten workers in six different cities. According to the findings, no social security contributions were made to any of the workers, and many companies kept failing to comply with even the most fundamental safety standards.


In an environment where fast fashion appears to be on the rise and human rights under threat, where does our responsibility as consumers lie? How can we help improve the situation and bring about concrete social change? 

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Tags: #China #LabourExploitation #FastFashion #Shein


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