Shein clothing haul trend on TikTok sparks conversation on retailer’s ethics


Gracie Watt / Hilltop Views Mashups

Shein is a Chinese fast fashion retailer founded in 2008. The website is known for its cheaply made apparel from China.

Almost every genre of content has made its way onto TikTok, a very common platform used by young people. Clothing hauls — content in which creators buy and review large amounts of clothing — have increased in popularity on the app recently. This has caused some of these hauls to stir up a fair bit of controversy

Clothing hauls for the brand Shein have recently been a point of controversy on TikTok, as a lot of people question the company’s ethics. Shein is described as a “direct-to-consumer fast fashion website.” The site has clothing for all ages and significantly low prices, with some dresses priced starting at $4. The company is based in China, and all of their products are manufactured there. The site first launched in 2008, and recently became the most downloaded app in the United States, even surpassing Amazon. 

When it comes to ethics, Shein doesn’t exactly have a flawless reputation. One of the main concerns regarding the company is its environmental impact and contribution to global warming. In order to get their products out quickly, Shein transports them overseas via cargo plane. This significantly adds to the environmental impact a company makes, especially with the large volume of products that Shein is sending out. 

Another ethical concern regarding Shein is their unoriginal designs and failure to  credit artists. The company allegedly stole designs from independent creators without proper attribution, further damaging their reputation. There have also been questions as to whether or not the company pays their employees a living wage for their work. 

Shein does have a “supply chain transparency statement,” stating various ethical regulations the company has to follow. These regulations have been questioned, as the statement is generic and doesn’t provide many answers. Shein’s code of conduct speaks against any type of slave labor or forced labor, and it also states that their company complies with local laws and does not practice discrimination. While this may seem like a positive thing, it has been regarded as a very surface-level document. In addition to this, their code of conduct applies to their factory partners rather than Shein as a company itself, making their responsibility questionable. 

There is also no evidence from any third party that Shein is actually practicing what they preach in terms of helping the environment. 

Mariama Diallo — fashion designer and creator of luxury fashion brand Sincerely Ria — recently called out Shein on Twitter for allegedly stealing one of her dress designs. The dress, now one of Shein’s top-selling clothing items, was launched by Diallo in November 2020 and was posted on Shein’s website just this summer. The dress is identical to Diallo’s, and the promotion picture mirrors the aesthetic she chose. 

Ethical concerns are very important when it comes to promoting brands on social media, and Shein is the perfect example of convenience and efficiency not always being beneficial. With so many concerns raised about Shein, we will have to see how the brand moves forward on social media.