In the mainstream culture of recent yearsbuy clothes onlinea practice long repelled by strong skepticism about size and portability has been erased for good and the e-commerce platform of she in It has long been promoted as a (if not the) industry leader, known as it is for its last minute offers, but also and above all for the ceaseless renewal of its extensive catalog.
Inspired by this model, or implementing production to stay competitive with the giant, more and more clothing brands are entering the mass consumer market with bargain prices and a variety of impressive annual collections.
However, these are two dangerous variables to approach, as well as the mechanism by which they can balance themselves: the phenomenon of fast fashionwhich developed from the “slop shops” through the industrial revolution and the second world war to the present day.
cheap fashionContrary to popular belief, you actually pay at high cost† but its impact is submerged.
Environment, health and ethical view of work these are the main themes of a necessary reflection, which is being taken up, in order to spread awareness among consumers. So let’s go back for a moment the rise of Shein understand the reasons for its success on the one hand and the consequences that certain purchases have outside the wardrobe on the other.
The secret of Shein’s success
Shein, formerly “Sheinside”, is a company founded in 2008 by entrepreneur Chris Xu. Contrary to what was claimed in November 2021, the app does not plan to go public, but the company in 2020, it said. Forbes† it has a turnover of 8.5 billion euros† To be clear: a doubling compared to 4.5 in 2019.
Thanks to the pandemic, thanks to the implementation of market strategies, the e-store is expanding.
On paper, the company claims to have three offices around the world, one in Nanjing and two more in the US and Europe, but no location has been specified. The production, on the other hand, is exclusively Chinese, despite the fact that no garments of the brand are sold in the country.
On its productive rhythms, the magazine Fashion Network, reports rather sensitive data: from conception to the packaging of a garment, only 3-6 working days pass. The reason for this speed seems to be the use of artificial intelligence software. In short words it’s an algorithm that designs the clothes and the process is made possible by the constant training of the machine on ever-new parts of social resources (images and likes) that are used as a measure of predicting user consumption. The study of buying behavior is therefore delegated to the use of big data.
In short, this is the secret of the very rich catalog, but how is the pricing policy maintained?
The price of a fashion without cost is completely human
Shein is present in 220 countries with 10,000 employees† From the official statements we read how the brand is proud to offer “For women and young people the opportunity to afford the latest trends at democratic prices”† The problem is that to position themselves with such aggressive pricing, shipping free items and unlimited returns, it’s women and adolescents who are wrong, even if it’s not in the canonical way we’re used to thinking.
On its website, the company claims to treat its employees well, but l’Swiss NGO Public Eye he repeatedly denounced the use of forced or exploitative child labour in factories. According to the institution, the locals have very few safety guarantees and the working weeks can be longer than 75 hours for only 1,370 euros in the most prosperous months.
Not only does the issue burn itself out, but it is also illegal compared to Chinese law itself, which provides for a maximum of 40 hours per week and 36 overtime hours per month.
Not only that, until July 26, 2021, Reutersreports how they were on the site false statements† It was even claimed that the environments were certified by international labor standards bodies (International Organization for Standardization).
However, there have been no corporate responses to these complaints and the only light on the matter is campaign “#PayYourWorkers” Carried out by Amnesty International†
The Environment Asks Us: The Carbon Footprint Reports
Another major problem is that of waste, as cheap garments often end up in a short period of time dump but they turn out difficult to recycle†
The reason is the composition of the fabrics, usually made of synthetic fibers that cannot be thrown away naturally. The long storage of these animals leads to the release of harmful chemicals typical of dyes, while once arriving at incinerators, if unregulated, it contributes to air pollution. Upstream, the problem is really the dye for the necessary water supply and for the production methods of the polyesterextracted from petroleum and mainly responsible for the microplastics present in the seas.
A search for Nature Reviews Earth & Environment confirms how, with approximately 5,000 million tons of CO2 released annually, the entire fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global emissions and that, if nothing changes, it could be 26% by 2050.
Customers are at risk themselves: high levels of lead detected
However, the risks are not only indirect. This is clarified by a Canadian investigation into the productions of Shein, AliExpress and Zaful that the products in the lead detection, pfas (considered “forever chemicals” because they are not eliminated from the body and are not broken down in the environment) e phthalates† The substances are said to be present in 1 sample of 5 of the 38 analyzed by the CBC Marketplace program.
As we read on the CBC News†
Scientists found that a small children’s jacket bought from Chinese retailer Shein contained nearly 20 times the amount of lead that Health Canada says is safe for children. A red bag, also bought by Shein, held the threshold more than five times.
The effects of this substance are: harmful to the brain, heart, kidneys and reproductive system with particular consequences for children and pregnant women.
Some scholars consulted by the broadcaster say:
If the finished product isn’t safe for me, it isn’t safe for the workers who handle these chemicals to make it.
But Shein’s response was there this time: an emailed statement to Marketplace announcing that she had removed the offending bag and jacket from the app. But is it really enough to withdraw so late and partially?