When I think about fast fashion, Shein is the first brand that comes to mind. The company churns out massive amounts of low-quality clothing for very low prices, catering to trend cycles and consumerist attitudes. The letter graphic crop tee is a dupe for another shirt by Brandy Melville (another very problematic brand) and one of the best sellers on Shein’s site. The only positive this shirt has is that it’s cheap. Shein perpetuates a cycle of excessive waste by creating clothing that is meant to be worn a few times before being thrown away and makes absolutely no effort to lower its environmental impact. If you can afford to shop elsewhere, please do!
Shein’s letter graphic crop tee is 95% polyester and 5% spandex. In 2015, polyester production accounted for 706 billion kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. Shein creates insane amounts of products every week, most of which rely on polyester, which only adds to this number. Shein provides absolutely no information about how and where its textiles are manufactured or how much waste goes into production. Overall, Shein gets zero planets for “what it’s made of,” as they provide very little information on their materials and rely on environmentally harmful synthetics.
Shein itself provides virtually no information on its manufacturing process, explaining only that it’s fast, responsive to trend cycles, and takes place in factories. There is no information on factory conditions or emissions. As discussed in the “what it’s made of” section, the majority of Shein’s designs are made from synthetic fabrics, which account for a huge amount of emissions by the fashion industry. This polyester top is no exception.
Shein’s responsiveness to trend cycles is what makes the brand so dangerous. They churn out thousands of new products a week, which speeds up the fashion conveyor belt and leads to insane amounts of waste. Consumers who want to stay fashionable in an accelerating world of trends may be tempted to order huge hauls of clothing, which just makes Shein produce more. Shein doesn’t just respond to trends, they also copy other trending products. The letter graphic top tee is a direct rip-off of Brandy Melville’s Ashlyn Cowgirl top, down to the font and crop. This is a common model for Shein, which makes me wonder why they aren’t constantly being sued. The brand will copy other styles and sell them for less than half the price at a much lower quality. They don’t just do this to big brands, but also smaller artists, and they never credit these individuals.
Shein has come under fire in the past for potentially employing children in its sweatshops. The company’s rebuttal to this is that it relies on regional labor laws, however, these vary by country, meaning Shein employees could be very young teenagers. Shein churns out 500 new designs per day on its website, which is a red flag when I think about how working in their factories must be. They also provided no information on Covid policies, which makes me think they likely provided no protection for their workers. Shein also claims to audit a percentage of its supply chain, but it’s telling that it doesn’t disclose what that percentage is and where they are auditing. They could very well just audit their Instagram team and still make the same claim, which does not make me confident in their labor practices.
On the design side, Shein is notorious for stealing designs at a rapid rate. The t-shirt in this review is a blatant rip-off of another brand’s design, as are most other products on the site. Shein has also come under fire for selling offensive designs, like a swastika necklace and a phone case depicting a handcuffed black man. They apologized for these issues on social media, but continue to exploit its laborers and steal from designers, proving that any commitments to social justice are purely performative. Overall, Shein represents some of the worst qualities of fast fashion retailers, and I would recommend shopping somewhere else if you are able to do so.