Ultra-fast fashion company Shein is ‘even worse than you thought’

Appetites for fast and ultra-fast fashion continue to grow. Statista recently published this chart forecasting the growth of the worldwide fast fashion market through 2026. In 2021 the market value was 91 billion USD; this is expected to grow to over 133 billion USD by 2026. Rachel Monroe, writing for The Atlantic, explains that Americans buy a piece of clothing every five days. Clearly, consumers can’t get enough cheap, throw-away textiles. And Americans are definitely throwing them away. Monroe provides these statistics about textile waste:

It doesn’t seem to matter to most folks that the fast and ultra-fast fashion industries are terrible for the environment. Because what happens to the clothes we discard? Monroe explains:

Manufacturing the clothes is also awful for the environment:

Fast fashion is also terrible for workers who assemble the clothes, as the industry is notorious for awful—and even deadly—working conditions and pitiful wages. 

Given this history and context, it comes as no surprise that one of the biggest ultra-fast fashion companies, Shein, is “even worse than you thought,” according to a new investigation by UK’s Channel 4. Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz, writing for The Cut, explains:

A new investigation by the U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 has uncovered details about the business practices of the Chinese fast-fashion company Shein. The outlet sent an undercover worker to film inside two factories in Guangzhou that supply clothes to the fast fashion giant.In one factory, Channel 4 found that workers receive a base salary of 4,000 yuan per month — roughly $556 — to make 500 pieces of clothing per day and that their first month’s pay is withheld from them; in another factory, workers received the equivalent of four cents per item. Workers in both factories were working up to 18-hour days and were given only one day off a month. In one factory, the outlet found women washing their hair during lunch breaks, and workers were penalized two-thirds of their daily wage if they made a mistake on a clothing item.

You can read the rest of the article here. And please, I’m begging you, stop buying fast and ultra-fast fashion! Instead, you can seek out more sustainable clothing brands. Here’s a website that analyzes fashion brands and grades them based on their impact on the environment, workers, and animals. Better yet, shop in your own closet and practice minimizing your consumption. Remember the old “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” slogan? It’s been expanded to help you think of better ways to act more sustainably. Check out this chart, provided by the University of Colorado, that expands the 3Rs to 7Rs: Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Re-gift, and Recycle.

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