Has Shein killed the dream of sustainability in fashion?

Shein, the hugely successful e-commerce fashion company that popped up just 14 years ago, is said to be weighing a $100 billion valuation, a staggering number that could make the company a one of the most valuable startups in the world. there with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The Chinese retailer has managed to weather its worst PR flops so far — accusations of design theft, criticism of their massive environmental footprint, infuriating products like a swastika necklace — on a journey to conquer the hearts and minds of shoppers forever on the hunt for cute designs at super-cheap prices.

So far, it’s working. The followers of Shein’s Gen Z cult have been well documented, with teens and 20s looking to TikTok to show off and evaluate their Shein purchases. The startup’s strategies blend neatly with the social networking platform’s structural need for a constant stream of new content, to the point that scrolling through Shein’s website often feels like looking into the soul. Find the joy of the Internet.

But the amazing thing about fast fashion in general is that over the years, despite its glaring mistakes and notable failures, the industry has managed to sidestep the undeniable truth about what goes wrong. deep structural flaws make it possible to produce clothing in large quantities. Shein is the latest and most remarkable expression of consumers’ unstoppable desire at any cost, and since Shein’s services cost almost nothing, the company could have secured a permanent position in the fashion world.

“There’s really nothing more powerful than the amount of dopamine people get when they score a $13 dress.”

– Elizabeth Shobert

“There really is nothing more powerful than the amount of dopamine people get when they win a $13 dress,” says Elizabeth Shobert, VP of Digital Strategy and Marketing at STYLESAGE. “It’s instant, you get that rush and it feels great. It’s much more satisfying than the things we need to do and the choices we have to make to be more sustainable.”

In recent years, some fashion analysts have theorized that seasonal trends have become obsolete amid the burgeoning arena of social media: to get noticed, It’s more important to stand out than to be relevant. Coupled with the destabilizing onslaught of a virus death that has forced people to wear their sweatpants for months on end, it could be that chasing the dopamine rush in on-trend clothing is a habits have been permanently diluted. Alixandra Barasch, Associate Professor of Marketing at NYU, doesn’t think so.

“People love to say they’re unique, but it turns out that social relevance and signals and all the psychological reasons why trends are the reality of the market, those are hard things to overcome with as a consumer,” Barasch said. “The social effects are real, and aesthetically, people only have so much power to avoid these forces.”

Sustainability is one of the hottest fashion trends of recent times. As consumers become more and more aware of the environmental downsides of the global clothing industry, brands have responded with promises to reduce emissions, adopt recyclable materials, ethical roots and improve workers’ rights. A study of Fashion business found that by 2020, 32% of Millennials and 30% of Gen Z respondents said they would spend more on products with the least negative impact on the environment.

The following year, German e-commerce company Zolando conducted a consumer report and found that while 72% of respondents said it was important to reduce food waste, plastic and water, only 54% said the same is true for fashion. 44% said making more sustainable choices in other areas of their lives was the reason for their preference for disposable fashion.

“If we are tired, lonely, or feeling financial stress or inflation uncertainty, it will be harder to put your money where to buy based on value.”

– Alixandra Barasch

“Consumers really believe they care about the ethical aspects of their purchases, and when they are in a safe place, they can accept these kinds of value-based decisions,” says Barasch. “But whenever we feel a little less secure, if we are tired or lonely or feeling financial stress or inflation uncertainty, it will be harder to put your money in. where to buy based on value.”

Plus, when it comes to quantifying the actual changes to sustainability that have taken place in major brands, the company’s lack of clarity makes it difficult to confirm major improvements. “The fashion industry needs to fix its misinformation problem by creating a truly transparent supply chain and publishing quality data.” Fashion business concluding report. “With less than 10 years left to achieve the global climate and sustainable development goals, time is running out and simply stating ambition for change is no longer good enough.”

Since its founding, Shein has employed ruthless strategies on its way to dominating the clothing market in the US and Europe. Completely eliminating the costs of physical retail spaces, Shein has always operated only online and uses a system the company calls a “large-scale automated checkout and re-order (LATR) model.” “, the startup can identify in real time which patterns are driving a growing consumer response.

As new styles are introduced on the website in limited quantities, hot selling items will be replenished immediately by Shein’s production facility in Foshan, while items can be quickly replenished. Sold out.

Shein cites their manufacturing strategy as proof of their commitment to sustainability. “We harness our fully integrated digital supply chain to limit excess inventory, reducing the potential for production waste,” their website reads. “Also, we try to sell unsold or returned inventory at wholesale prices before donating to those in need.”

On the manufacturing front, Shein also says they do their best to “source recycled fabrics, such as recycled polyester, a non-virgin fiber that has little impact on the environment and reduces damage to the original material.” head”.

But some items pulled from the company’s huge inventory – 52,000 dresses are currently listed for sale – caused problems. In December, a Shein jacket was flagged and recalled in Canada after tests determined it contained 20 times the sanctioned limit of lead in children’s products.

Some of Shein’s competitors, like Spanish fast-fashion retailer Mango, are countering the explosive growth of e-commerce by doubling their physical footprint. Mango just announced that it plans to open 40 locations in the US by the end of 2024, and by 2022, 3,882 new retail stores under different brands are also planned to open in the US. Whether shoppers will continue the in-person experience with encouraging numbers remains to be seen, but it’s a big bet. (The Daily Beast has reached out to both Shein and Mango for comment.)

The basic appeal of fashion lies at the heart of this capitalist building. As shoppers, we can say one thing and do another in the pursuit of glamorous happiness; forever engulfed in the urge to do and remake our self-image, self-destructive values. Why?

One answer can be found in a psychological concept first proposed in 1943: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. “Style and fashion make you feel good and make you feel like you can be more of who you are,” says Barasch. “These identities are really powerful, and for many people ethical, existential, and ethical considerations are higher-level needs. We only get to the point of being concerned with these when our other needs, more social or status, are met. “

In other words, you could argue that let someone even begin In order to act in accordance with their beliefs, they must first put on a sick new set of clothes. It is this psychological vulnerability that companies like Shein have crept in and claimed territory, and they can be nearly impossible to uproot.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/has-shein-killed-the-dream-of-sustainability-in-fashion?source=articles&via=rss Has Shein killed the dream of sustainability in fashion?

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: russellfalcon@interreviewed.com.

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