Who is SHEIN?
SHEIN is a Chinese giant of ultra fast fashion which has quickly become the leader of the international clothing market. The brand, which is exclusively present on the internet, is starting to set up temporary shops, particularly in France. With nearly 8,000 new references per day, SHEIN is running at full speed, at the risk of our ecosystems and our health.
A voracious and exponential growth, based on the collection of user data
SHEIN is based on a flexible, data-driven business model: the brand collects massive amounts of consumer data which it interprets agilely to create ultra-fast collections based on micro-trends (linked to fashion weeks or series, for example). Everything is manufactured in small quantities to create desire, at very low cost and renewable very quickly. Its powerful algorithms analyse and anticipate the tastes and desires of its targets, which are teenagers and young adults, fond of new trends.
Over the period 2021/2022, SHEIN’s growth was 100%. Its valuation would have reached 100 billion dollars  (the brand does not share its figures, they are estimates), although recently re-evaluated downwards in a global context of declining values of the tech market. Nevertheless, it has already surpassed its competitors Zara, Gap, Walmart and H&M in the US in terms of product volume and sales .
Looking for investors to continue its growth, SHEIN is reportedly in the process of raising $2 billion in private financing .
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Ridiculous prices, reflecting the production ethic
With an average basket price of €10 and clothes sold for between €2 and €15, SHEIN has been very successful with its audience, which has been increased tenfold by its communication campaigns on TikTok. The brand uses this platform to collect more and more data from the heart of its target audience. With the help of influencers, SHEIN has recorded nearly 50 billion videos/advertisements on this medium. The “SHEIN hauls” are everywhere on the web and make its sales explode. This concept consists of unpacking dozens of packages ordered on the site, in front of the camera, trying on the items, describing the product, giving one’s opinion… The #sheinhaul has been viewed nearly 3.7 billion times.
On the site, the app, the brand’s social networks, specialised targeting and promotions are permanent, the offer is broken by 50% on average. For low-income consumers, the proposition is irresistible and the user’s return to the platform is inevitable. SHEIN thus competes with its fast fashion counterparts to a very large extent.
The value chains are opaque, it is very difficult to get information about them. Nevertheless, SHEIN has already been the subject of multiple scandals, such as those related to the work of Uyghurs, minors or the exploitation of employees in deplorable working conditions for a miserable wage, more than 12 hours a day, with only one day off a month, without a work contract or insurance . SHEIN flouts with impunity the rules of the International Labour Organisation and fundamental human rights.
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Why is SHEIN a threat?
A threat to our health
Oil has a prominent place among the brand’s raw materials, processed using chemicals considered dangerous by the European Union, which is not subject to the same regulations as China. But the controls escape customs. Thus, the NGO Greenpeace carried out tests by an independent laboratory in Hamburg, Germany, on 47 products ordered at random from the SHEIN site. 15% of them contained hazardous chemicals that violate EU regulatory limits (REACH), 10% exceeded the limits by 100% or more, 32% at levels of serious concern. SHEIN products containing hazardous chemicals are thus flooding European markets and violating regulations that are not enforced by the authorities.
NB: Minors are particularly concerned
We bring here a fundamental point of vigilance concerning the health of the youngest, who are particularly exposed to the toxicity of these products: directly when they wear them on their skin, indirectly when the industrial discharges of the SHEIN factories pollute the fresh water courses and the water tables, the air by massive release of mono- and then carbon dioxide, and the oceans by the plastic micro-particles.
The health consequences of plastics are still largely underestimated, and are already responsible for reduced fertility and endocrine disruption, respiratory diseases and carcinogenic processes. Microparticles are present in our lungs and in the placentas of pregnant women. The plastic load released by synthetic fibre clothing (polyester, polyester-cotton and acrylic) that ends up in wastewater amounts to more than 700,000 microparticles, per individual machine per household [Marine Biology and Ecology Research Center (MBERC) in England].
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A threat to the environment (of which we are an integral part)
The damage of fast fashion to the environment is considerable, over the entire life cycle of the garment:
In short, SHEIN is :
Raw materials almost exclusively from petrochemicals
Toxic processing of textiles
Enormous amounts of energy required to produce the garments in a country with a fossil fuel-based energy mix (China)
Thousands of shipments around the world every day
Digital pollution for exclusive marketing purposes
Clothing that releases microplastic particles into the oceans
Product degradation in the environment that will take hundreds of years and contaminate the soil
SHEIN is responsible for 22% of the CO2 emissions of French teenagers [Teenage Lab by Pixpay].
Moreover, these clothes are worn on average 3 times. Their deplorable quality does not give them any value on the second-hand market and does not allow for efficient recycling, as the textile recycling sector is not very mature in France and is associated with high operating costs (particularly energy).
SHEIN employs an aggressive commercial strategy that jeopardises Western brands with no regard for human beings
Sustainable development and its challenges are at the heart of the reflections and actions of French fashion brands, whose quality standards and production ethics tend to improve day by day. However, particularly in the context of the economic and energy crisis, they will not be able to compete with SHEIN’s cut-price and aggressive commercial policy, which undermines quality and respect for garment workers.
II A collective launches a petition to ban SHEIN and ultra-fast fashion in France
Objective: one million signatures for a “pivotal effect” towards government mobilisation
Through this petition, a collective (composed of brands, citizen activists, media, politicians, and federations), seeks to reach a tipping point, to move from a niche activism to a massive citizen movement in order to accelerate the fight by drawing the attention of the French Government, considering that the boycott of the brand by informed consumers is not enough
Highlights for regulatory requirements until 2025, at international level
From 2009, the Grenelle de l’Environnement to the implementation of the Anti-Waste Law for a Circular Economy in France, to the Environmental Product Labelling being established in Europe: the time has come to put in place effective and binding legislation and regulations that will fundamentally change the face of fashion but also determine the health, environmental, social and economic viability of the world in which we will live tomorrow.
The collective’s action is presented as radical in order to seize the unprecedented opportunity to pass and enforce laws for coercive and punitive measures against SHEIN or any equivalent successor brand.
This collective is not alone in demanding radical governmental action. By now, governments around the world were gradually mobilising to put pressure on SHEIN.
In the US, the Fashion Act is being passed by the New York State Senate, a bill that would require major fashion companies to disclose at least half of their supply chain and identify high carbon emission areas.
The US Congress is considering legislation that would repeal an exemption that removed taxes on Chinese imports up to $800, the vast majority of SHEIN’s shipments to America.
For the collective, this is about making France the country worthy of its history, of moral values, freedom, equity and social justice, the world leader in great initiatives and risk-taking in fashion, believing that exemplarity is the best way to exert influence.
The aim of the petition is to reach one million signatures.
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