Fast fashion retailer Shein has caused a debate online after a Twitter user argued that people who spend $700 on clothing items from the low-priced brand can afford to purchase clothes from more expensive, sustainable brands.
The Chinese e-commerce company is well-known for its inexpensive and abundant clothing options. Since its founding in 2008, Shein is now valued at $100bn, making it as valuable as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and worth more than fashion giants Zara and H&M.
However, Shein has recently been accused of stealing ideas from independent designers, has faced allegations of exploiting their workers, and is seen as being a major contributor to the environmental damage caused by the fast fashion industry.
While the fast fashion industry faces criticism from consumers and fashion experts alike, many people often turn to companies like Shein for its inclusivity and accessibility. The affordability of Shein’s large inventory (about 314,877 new styles were added in the US this year) makes current fashion trends available to low-income individuals, and plus-sized people say Shein is one of the few online retailers that offers sizing past an XL . However, some people believe that this is not an excuse.
“If your Shein cart total is $700, you might as well spend that money on quality pieces,” wrote Twitter user @SOruthless_305 on Sunday, 17 April. Their tweet has since received 232,900 likes and more than 3,749 quote tweets from other users.
“If u can afford to drop $700 on shein, you can afford not contributing to fast fashion,” replied one person.
“Shein is WORSE than the regular fast fashion retailers and it’s not even close,” said someone else.
Many consumers defended their choice to shop from fast fashion sites like Shein because it allows them to spend money on an entirely new wardrobe, rather than waiting to save up on a few more expensive pieces.
“Why spend that on 1 item when i can get 37?” asked one user.
“Why would I spend $700 on one Gucci or Chanel piece when I can spend almost less then $20 somewhere else FOR A WHOLE OUTFIT!!!” wrote another person. “At this point just buy what you want if you like it get it I’m not showing out for nobody”.
In the last two decades, the production of clothing has doubled. The world consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year, while the average number of times an item was worn decreased by 36 per cent overall. In fact, the Saturday Evening Post reported that the average American throws away around 81 pounds of clothing annually. That is more than $500bn worth of clothing that is lost every year due to clothing underutilisation and a lack of recycling, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Shein, whose headquarters is based in Guangzhou, ships to 250 countries worldwide — a staggering number considering the fashion industry is responsible for eight per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.
Many people argue that the issue doesn’t lie with buying products from Shein, but with the over-consumption of clothing. Does one person really need 100 new items of clothing to last them through all four seasons?
“I know sustainable fashion is inaccessible and that most sustainable brands are not size inclusive,” tweeted one person. “the problem here is overconsumption. a brand like shein does nothing but encourage and reward overconsumption.”
“If you can afford to buy $700 from Shein (That’s like 100+ clothing pieces), then you can afford to buy fewer pieces from a more expensive sustainable brand,” someone else said. “Nobody needs 100+ new clothing pieces a season.”
The Independent you have reached out to Shein for comment.