Cheap and cute, but at what cost?

All about the multiple ethical violations of Shein

Shein is an online, fast-fashion company that is known and loved by many for its cheap prices and trendy clothes. In fact, the brand was given the title of Most Popular Fashion Brand of 2022. However, discoveries have been made that show that the fast-fashion giant has multiple ethical violations including labor, safety, and copyright violations. 

The majority of Shein factories are located in China. A reporter from Channel 4 in the United Kingdom went undercover to two separate Shein factories in Guangzhou, China. 

Shein workers have a quota of about 500 pieces of clothing a day, earning only about four cents per item of clothing. The workers have a 4,000 yuan monthly salary, which is approximately 580 U.S. dollars. 

Shein workers have reported working 18 hour days, with minimal breaks if at all, and only get one to three days off per month. 

It was also reported that workers get money taken away from their already low salary as punishment if there are mistakes in the clothing they make.

Unsurprisingly, these working conditions violate the labor laws set in China. 

Respondents from Shein told Business Insider, “any non-compliance with this code is dealt with swiftly, and we will terminate partnerships that do not meet our standards.”

Despite what the brand says and claims to do about these violations, Shein has been caught multiple times not complying to ethical labor laws. 

Not only has Shein repeatedly violated basic labor laws, but the clothing from the brand has been found to have high amounts of toxic chemicals. 

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) did an investigation on the clothing materials of three fast-fashion brands, including Shein. The investigation found that a portion of Shein’s clothing contained up to 20 times more lead than what is considered safe. 

Not only is this a hazard for the consumers of the clothing, but especially for the workers who make the clothing since they are exposed to these chemicals for multiple hours every day.

According to the Mayo Clinic, excess lead exposure has been known to cause reproductive issues and damage to the brain and central nervous system, among other more minor symptoms. Extreme lead poisoning can lead to death if left untreated. This is especially concerning for children, who are more at risk for developing behavioral disorders and learning disabilities from the brain damage caused by lead poisoning. 

Shein has also been under fire for copyright violations for stealing designs from other artists. 

Many smaller artists have come forward blaming Shein for copying their designs directly, with no credit or compensation for doing so.

Independent crochet clothing designer Bailey Prado, with her self-named brand, posted on Instagram that Shein had stolen 45 of her designs. After this public post, Shein took down 10 of the 45 designs stolen from Prado. The brand still neglected to take down the rest of the stolen designs or even contact Prado about it.

“I convinced myself it was not a big deal, but now my designs, what has been my whole life for the last [three] years, is now sold to millions of Shein’s consumers that will never know about me,” Prado said in her Instagram post.  

This instance of stolen designs is among many other substantiated claims from small artists over having their designs stolen by Shein and other fast-fashion brands. 

Shein, as well as other fast-fashion brands, have proven to be problematic because of ethical issues like these.