Is Buying From Shein Really That Bad?

Is Buying From Shein Really That Bad?

Millions of people buy from Shein every year, a vast majority of the demographic being young people. The affordability as well as trendiness of the clothing make it very appealing. Why buy from a costly brand when people can have the dupe for half the price? Most consumers would be naïve to think that what they are doing is harmless. Many people have fallen under the trap of buying bulks of clothing from fast fashion companies.

Fast fashion, by dictionary definition, is “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” The fast fashion industry has gotten even more popular with the rise of micro trends. Micro trends result from fashion cycles getting shorter because of social media apps like Instagram and TikTok. The trend quickly rises in popularity just as much as it falls. When the style is out of trend, they throw the clothing out.

Fast fashion has a major impact on the environment. The clothes on sites such as Shein are made out of cheap, synthetic fibers like polyester. The garments shed microfibers, which make up a lot of the ocean pollution. According to, textile dyes are the world’s second-largest polluter of water. Most fast fashion items are gone to waste because the clothes are not made to last. 

This is not the only thing wrong with fast fashion; Shein relies on thousands of third-party suppliers in China to produce small batches of clothes, about 50-100 per item. Most of the employees are in horrible working conditions and get paid under minimum wage. In a report by the Swiss advocacy group Public Eye, they found several staff across six sites in Guangzhou to be working 75-hour weeks. Little to no employees are being treated fairly in fast fashion brands such as, for example, Shein and H&M. Environmental Health Perspective states that “more than 2,000 young women work in this factory, producing clothes for shops in Europe and North America.”

  The problem does not lie within the people having low-income jobs buying clothes they can afford. This is not made to criticize people who genuinely need cheaper clothes because not everyone can afford costly clothing. It is because of influencers on TikTok buying the clothing in bulk to make a “haul.” These hauls sometimes cost up to $900, this trend heavily promotes overconsumption. The influencer will either throw it away or return it, which is also bad, since most of the returned garments are sent straight to the landfill. 

In an interview with sophomore Grant Bettis, he said, “Having cheap clothing is nice, but child labor isn’t.” 

Overall, many brands people know and love are considered “fast fashion,” such as H&M, Zara, and GAP. But for some, buying from expensive, eco-friendly brands is asking for a lot. So just be aware and be a mindful consumer, because purchasing hauls of clothing for some social media clout just to throw it out in a couple of months is disturbing. Thrifting could be a great alternative. It also comes down to people feeling an overwhelming need to fit in and being pressured into getting trendy clothes. Such things are trivial in the grand scheme of things.

This story originally appeared in the print edition of the Orange R in December 2023.