Ultra-fast fashion highlights a throwaway culture

Shein’s highly successful business model has been branded as ‘environmentally and socially destructive’ 

It has become the “ultra-fast fashion” brand. But Chinese chain Shein, which targets millions of social media followers, stands accused of being “environmentally and socially destructive.” 

Allegations that have been denied by the company founded by Chinese entrepreneur Chris Xu in 2008. 

Still, Shein’s strategy looks unsustainable just days before the latest round of global climate talks at the COP28 Summit in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai.

“It has managed to take the already unsustainable fast fashion business model beyond this extreme, and depends on the exploitation of the environment and people,” Viola Wohlgemuth, of Greenpeace Germany, said.

“[Shein] churns out staggering numbers of dirt cheap, disposable fashion items, with more new styles per day than any other fast fashion brand. Because the clothes are so cheap, most returns probably end up in landfills,” she wrote last year.

Fast and furious:

In the end, it is up to consumers to dump this ‘throwaway culture’.

Between the lines: Peter Pernot-Day, the global head of strategic communications at Shein, defended the retailer’s record in a Reuters report and said the group “was working hard to reduce waste.”

Delve deeper: Dilys Williams, the director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion, highlighted the flaws in Shein’s business model. 

What was said: “Its extraordinary rise comes despite a poor social and environmental record … not to mention the labor conditions found among its suppliers,” she stressed.

Big picture: “Shein is taking fast fashion, an already resource-depleting model in environmental and social terms, to fresh depths,” Williams wrote in a commentary for the London-based Observer, part of The Guardian media group, last year.

China Factor comment: In the end, it is up to consumers across the planet to finally dump this unsustainable “throwaway culture” and not just in fashion.