Most people know that Shein, the Chinese fast fashion brand you cannot escape if you use the internet, is terrible for the planet.
Now, a British investigation has confirmed that its suppliers have people working in sweatshop-like conditions with low wages and exploitative working hours.
In a recent episode of the Channel 4 docuseries Untold, host Iman Amani takes viewers through the experience of an undercover journalist who went to work at a Shein supplier factory in China. Shein does not own any of these manufacturing facilities, despite being today’s fastest-growing fashion brand.
Enter: the Shein machine.
‘You can’t finish SHEIN, like you can’t finish TikTok.’
It’s had a meteoric rise, but what’s behind the success? @ImaniAmrani reveals the truth about fast fashion giant SHEIN in #Untold. pic.twitter.com/gebRtHAR8O
— Channel 4 (@Channel4) October 18, 2022
Only known as “Mei,” the undercover journalist takes viewers behind the scenes in a factory. She uses a clandestine camera and mic to collect evidence of the inhumane treatment of workers, who are forced to toil away for up to 17 hours a day and undergo wage cuts if they make mistakes.
“There is no such thing as a Sunday here,” one worker can be heard saying in the documentary’s trailer.
With China’s dodgy labour laws, factories can get away with paying workers meagre wages for hard work, too.
One factory featured in the episode pays workers around ¥4,000 per month — that’s just over $750 Canadian. This allows the brand to price their items — often low quality — at very low costs.
Human rights advocates and climate change activists have been sounding the alarm on the brand for ages.
Sometimes I just think about how there’s absolutely no silver lining to Shein. The clothes are full of lead. The clothes are made in exploitative conditions. The clothes are contributing to pollution and global warming. The clothing designs are stolen. And the clothes fall apart.
— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) October 20, 2022
In the past, Shein’s clothes have tested positive for dangerous amounts of lead. Last year, Health Canada recalled a certain Shein dress made for toddlers for containing lead.
People have also found bug infestations in their packages.
@luciffersdaughter #disneyplusvoices @SHEIN please explain this because wtf ????? STRAIGHT OUT OF THE PACKAGE INFESTED #fyp #sheinbugs #helpme #SpotifyWrapped ♬ original sound – Luci 🖤
The brand has been accused of stealing designs from creators, particularly artists from marginalized communities.
Im SO over these major brands stealing from black designers. @SHEIN_official STOLE my @sincerelyriaxo designs to a T. They couldn’t even change ONE thing and it’s now one of their highest selling items. They even stole the brands aesthetic. Like Come on pic.twitter.com/ose8DiM9hK
— Mariama Diallo ✨ (@MariamaDiallo__) June 11, 2021
Excuse me @SHEIN_official can you please tell me why you’ve completely STOLEN my design? Im a small independent SUSTAINABLE business and you’ve completely stolen my hard work? pic.twitter.com/QpUVbUK3RU
— mare of boscombe (@fernm8) December 8, 2020
@SHEIN_official just ripped off and stole one of my designs
— Ana ❤️🔥 (@MoontripMarket) December 30, 2020
I don’t even know how to express how I feel. My chest feels hollow. I see it happen to designers on here all the time. @SHEIN_Official stole my design clear as day. It’s really something as a small brand, barely making it, to see your work that you HANDMAKE being sold like that. pic.twitter.com/ViwJrJ0bFR
— Moonlight 🌕 (@Thefirejem) May 18, 2022