Shein... a cultural, social & environmental Monster...that we feed!
Let's dive into 8 key issues that I found most intriguing.
1) Back to basics!
We all want to look good - but at what cost? When I was younger, I remember the feeling of wanting that 'new brand' & putting more worth than necessary into those brands that inevitably, made no difference...
I'm glad to be away from those days & more than happy wearing the same black t-shirt every day wasting less time and money. But... it's more complicated and harder for kids today for a variety of reasons.
- With inflation soaring, it can be tough - do what you can but remember it's as much of a 'sustainability' problem as it's a 'consumption' problem.
- Many often forget that spending more, does not always guarantee better quality. Many of the worlds largest brands coming from the same places.
2) A Social dilemma
With influencers playing hop-scotch for trends, attention & money to Marketing taking advantage of every inch to push consumerism, it's in our faces 24/7...
Brands are now often going one step further by masquerading clothes or fashion as 'sustainable', when far from it - making it tricky for us to know what's best to do - even when we think we're doing the right thing. I wonder are we falling foul to being brainwashed!?
A) What's sustainable, is what you have
B) Pet peeve of late: brands telling you 'you need this new jumper to go to Pilates' - stop like.... you can do pilates in whatever you like.
C) Recycled gym-gear, unless you're sorting the micro-plastics problem- it's greenwashing & down-cycling as far as I can see.
3) The Hedonic Treadmill!
Also, chasing trends & following 'influencers' is an endless journey towards wasted money and/or dissatisfaction.
The same way we need to be wary of how technology impacts our own minds and lives, we also need to be wary of how our clothes impact the environment.
It's not just our attention span that has been reduced, it's now also our sense of what our clothes our worth and how long they should last.
4) It's not just the emissions...
Fast Fashion accounts for an estimated 2-10% of Global Emissions.
Unlike electricity or transport that also contribute heavily to emissions, we actually require them on the day to day.
Fast fashion however is deadly as more often than not, we don't need these new clothes, that can be poor quality so they don't last, ending up in landfill or just gather dust in our wardrobes... So what's the carbon footprint of your wardrobe?
Fast Fashion emissions sources are regularly mis-quoted. See McKinsey & UN studies.
5) Shein Workers issues...
- Workers base pay varies from ~$556 per month for at least 500 pieces per day + 2c commission per extra item to no base pay and ~4 cents per item.
- 18 hour days & 75 hour weeks are normalised
- One day off per month has been normalised
- Workers are fined for mistakes
- if we don't support this model, there will be no need for them to work these hours' - however, the fact that the CEO even allows & incentivises these hours with pay-per garment strategies is outrageous either way.
- Data can be taking out of context. What seems low to us, may be the norm elsewhere. However, not the case here as the average pay in China according to Statista, is approx $1,106 - double SHEIN workers.
6) The Supply Chain Issues
The entire supply chain is horrendous. Materials sourced from one country... shipped to another... manufactured... dyes & inks added pre-packaging... The digital footprint and penultimately, the transport to end user... Wait... It doesn't stop there. if 'free-returns' are used, the damage escalates - with the clothes being dumped or burned.
Lastly, rarely discussed is the direct link between the synthetic materials used to produce our clothes (derived from oil & fossil fuels) & the sprinkle of the micro-plastics issue to top of the list of problems meaning, we are essentially 'wearing' fossil fuels!
7) We feed this Monster
What's shorter, our attention spans or how long we wear the same clothes for? The CEO of Shein is good at manipulating both as an 'SEO expert' but it's as much our fault as it is his with our participation and obedience to following 'trends'.
We consume so much 'influence' daily, without the real knowledge of what we're consuming or why - which SHEIN takes advantage of by targeting the younger, more impressionable generation directly and indirectly through 'ads' and 'influencer' programmes - which we need to combat.
We feed the algorithms & influencers with attention... We get fed with 'you need this' or 'buy this' to feed their cravings for profit, exploitation and attention. We need to stop 'feeding' these 'monsters'.
8) Some practical tips to make your life and wardrobe more sustainable
- Every time you think about buying something new, wait a few days...
- Delete the autosaved cards function making it harder to buy at a whim...
- Don't tie your worth to materialism
- Trends are rarely cool, what's cool stands the test of time - it doesn't change!
- If someone online tells you 'you need this' - stop and think for a moment, 'wait, do they actually need me'.
- and if you need something new, cool, go for it...you do you - I don't think anyone likes being told what to do or how to live, we're all adults.
Lastly, my name is Cathal - come say hello if you would like via the below;
Linkedin: Cathal O'Reilly