Will the Fast Fashion Bubble Ever Burst?

Graphic by Alycen Kim

 

“I don’t support Shein, I just bought clothing from there once,” senior Avery Simonian said when asked about the newest fast fashion corporation that has made its way from every high school girls’ search engine to their closet. 

Shein racks up annual revenue of around $36.3 million from creating over 500 pieces of clothing per day for extremely low prices. 

It has bent and broken the rules of a moral and ethical corporation in almost every way possible.

With over 15 million followers on Instagram, Shein has taken advantage of endorsements from celebrities such as Addison Rae, Hailey Beiber, Lil Nas X, and Katy Perry. 

Many influencers promote brands before researching them, and end up giving their platform and the value of their influence to ethically questionable companies, marketing it to a largely impressionable teen audience, hungry for affordable clothing. 

“[Influencers] need to realize that millions of people are looking at what they post. 

“A lot of these young kids don’t know any better – they just see Addison Rae posted about Shein,” Simonian said. 

Shein’s social media marketing is one of many reasons for its success as a fast-growing international e-commerce retailer. 

During COVID-19, many mall-avid consumers have turned to buying clothing online, and the increase in unemployment may force others to seek a cheaper alternative.

Fashion is known to be the second most polluting industry in the world. 

Notorious for its lack of transparency, buyers are left to ponder or dismiss the fact that this rapid creation of clothing is obviously harmful to the environment. 

Shein’s “Social Responsibility” website page states they “strictly abide by child labor laws in each of the countries that we operate in.” 

However, the child labor policies in Bangladesh, an area known as a fast-fashion manufacturing kingdom that Shein most likely does business with, has child labor laws allowing children as young as seven to begin working. 

According to UNICEF, the impacts of COVID-19 could cause a rise in children joining the workforce, as older members of the family fall ill or lose their jobs to cheaper labor. 

But, does the average buyer hold the responsibility to fight against these exploitative companies? 

“I think it’s very difficult because it’s happening in a different country. We can’t control it, but if we lessen our buying of these types of products, it might help,” senior Kiley Keenan said. 

Senior Aidan Eliasson disagrees. “You’re giving these people a job and they’re going to work anyways. I think it’s supporting the economy.” 

Shein has been in hot water for stealing designs from small-businesses, cultural appropriation, and jewelry in the shape of hate symbols, but has only apologized for the latter two.

“Independent businesses struggle to stay afloat in America,” Simonian said. “[It] makes me more upset because it’s not a big chain business.” 

Eliasson agrees,“I don’t like stealing from independent companies. I would tell people to not buy from [Shein].”

Shein is a part of the Globalegrow online retail conglomorate, which focuses on providing cheap alternatives to American-made products.

The money of the consumer has and always will have influence and control over the corporation, and at its core, the Shein customer is buying into the process of child labor and environmental degradation. Some argue these purchases allow heinous practices to go unchecked. 

“That’s kind of where we are in society at the moment; bend your morals and buy affordable clothes or be broke but have really nice things,” Simonian said. 

However, Keenan disagrees. “There’s plenty of American brands that aren’t using child labor and are cheaper, and there are alternatives like thrifting and upcycling.” 

The question of whether fast-fashion will continue to thrive or fail is becoming a matter of morals and ethics for the American consumer.

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Will the Fast Fashion Bubble Ever Burst?