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Shein's Fast Fashion Domination Comes At A High Cost

Mélo is one of the thousands of influencers on TikTok and Instagram who works with Shein to post "Haul" videos, where she tries on piles of clothes, invites followers to visit Shein's pop-ups, and promotes their sale events. It's a social media strategy that has been wildly successful for the company, pushing Shein to the top of the fashion ladder-and making it the world's most popular fashion brand in 2022.

Over the years, Shein went from being a low-cost Chinese apparel merchant to a global, online-only fashion juggernaut, climbing in sales from $10 billion in 2020 to a whopping $100 billion in 2022. The center of its marketing strategy is its use of influencers and their #SHEINhaul videos: the company has partnered with countless micro-celebrities, fashion bloggers, and reality show contestants who show off their Shein deliveries.

In October, on the heels of the company coming under fire for fuelling wasteful consumption, Shein announced it would spend $7.6 million on a partnership with the nonprofit, Apparel Impact Institute, which works with manufacturers to set and implement energy efficiency programs.

A lengthy investigation by Wired first chronicled how both laborers and consumers suffered from the production of its clothes, while a documentary by the U.K.'s Channel 4 found that Shein employees were working 75-hour shifts with very little time off. Channel4's documentary, Inside The Shein Machine, sent undercover cameras to film factory workers who were forced to pull 17-hour shifts to make hundreds of garments a day.

Eventually, Shein admitted to the breaches and released a statement that read: "We know we have a responsibility to safeguard the welfare of workers in our supply chain. In light of the recent report in the news, we launched an investigation into the claim that 2 of our suppliers had unacceptable working conditions at their facilities." Citing an Intertek study that found 96% of its workers receive wages higher than the industry average, Shein also said it had made "Significant investments to improve the working conditions of our suppliers' facilities."

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