Listen up “fashionistas,” it’s finally time to address something very troubling: SHEIN. 

I honestly didn’t think I would need to write about a company that is so blatantly terrible because I thought that it would both fizzle out over time and the thousands of sources that are easily accessible on the internet would warn consumers about the truth. But it turns out that with the increase of “unboxing” and “haul” videos all over social media, SHEIN has become one of the dominant fashion companies in the world. 

SHEIN, an online Chinese fast-fashion retailer, is most commonly known for its low-cost and trendy looks. For most of their shirts, the prices remain around $3.99 to $11.99 which is a drastic comparison to small businesses or even other popular companies located in any mall that would normally have a price tag that is approximately three times higher. This “cost-effective” choice, however, should not counteract the extreme damage it causes to our environment and innocent workers.

A simple Google search that poses the question “how does SHEIN hurt our environment,” tells you all that you need to know with a three-minute read. According to “Synthetics Anonymous,” the “rapid use of virgin polyester and large consumption of oil churns out the same amount of CO2 as approximately 180 coal-fired power plants.” Due to this, SHEIN produces approximately 6.3 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, heavily contributing to the global carbon emissions that directly cause global warming. And, their harmful production does not even account for the effects of its overconsumption. 

Found in a 2016 report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the “equivalent of one garbage truck full of textile waste” is sent to landfills and incinerators every second, worldwide. The most troubling fact is that it doesn’t matter how these materials are discarded—burned or left in a landfill—both options emit toxic greenhouse gasses and petrochemicals that can take between 20 and 200 years to completely degrade. With SHEIN’s daily website updates that average around 6,000 new items every day, there is really no shock in how the company plays a large role in destroying our planet. 

My biggest problem with regular consumers is that usually, the people that preach support for SHEIN because they “don’t have enough money to shop at nicer stores” are the same people that spend $300 in total for a large shipment of cheap unethical clothing. And if you can spend upwards of hundreds of dollars, you can certainly choose to spend it somewhere else that will last you until your later adult years. What happened to quality over quantity? 

Even so, if you genuinely don’t have a lot of spending money, there are still countless other low-cost fashion companies that are less harmful: Pact, TAMGA, Wear Well, Made Trade … just take ten minutes to do your research! Also, let’s not forget about consignment shops. Thrifting is not only inexpensive but the best way to reduce textile waste. The funny part is that in the recent months that I have been to consignment stores, I actually see SHEIN tops hanging on the racks throughout the shop; so if you truly did like their style, I’m sure you can find one that has been tossed after two wears. 

In the end, it’s frustrating because a majority of students that go to Fairfield University can afford clothing that is derived from ethically sourced companies—let’s not play coy—and yet, I always spot an endless flow of girls proudly displaying their SHEIN tops at every social gathering. 

Not only is SHEIN horrible to our environment, but they also force their employees to work in unspeakable conditions. I mean this with no exaggeration: it is quite literally a sweatshop. Multiple publications have come forward to reveal that the workers are in the factory for 18 hours a day, for less than 50 cents per hour. Although the labor laws in China are not the same as those implemented in the United States of America, these conditions are completely disregarding the country’s guidelines.  

I’ve also seen countless videos revealing the word “help” stitched into the clothing tags and even blood left on the cloth. Even with clear proof, consumers say “how horrible” and immediately purchase their next large bulk of clothing—and I’ve seen this happen firsthand. How do you lack any sense of empathy? 

I will be understanding to people who have purchased from SHEIN before learning about their unethical behavior; I know that in high school I certainly was not made aware before I had spent $10 on three bathing suits. But after thousands of sources have been made public where investigators have revealed true dangers, I cannot understand anyone who continues to support the company. It’s harmful to both the environment and their workers, and you only wear their clothing twice before it falls apart. Please think before you shop.

About The Author

-- Senior I Executive Editor I English Creative Writing & Digital Journalism --

Brooke is a senior English Creative Writing and Digital Journalism major, with minors in Film, Television & Media and Editing & Publishing. She plans to pursue a career in screenwriting after graduation.

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