It’s Time to Find Ethical Alternatives to Fast Fashion Giant SHEIN…

SHEIN is praised for its trendy styles, cheap prices, and huge product selection. As an entirely digital e-commerce company, SHEIN generates about $10 billion in annual revenue.

What SHEIN doesn’t tell you is that despite their massive profits, they steal styles from designers, pay their clothing makers below a living wage to work in sweatshop conditions, and produce huge amounts of waste while creating their excessive variety of styles. 

In fact, they add 6,000 styles to their site every single day. Let’s be clear about one thing: this level of hyper consumption can never be sustainable.

SHEIN is the definition of fast fashion. 

Millennials mock the brand on Twitter for culturally appropriating styles, including a Swastika necklace, Islamic prayer mats as Greek rugs, and traditional South Asian clothing as pant sets.

Meanwhile, they continue to grow with the help of influencers and Generation Z ‘zoomers’, unboxing $1,000 SHEIN hauls on TikTok–string bikini sets for just a few dollars, knockoffs of the trendiest handbags, shoes, and jackets for $20 or less, and cheap crop top options for nights out on the town. 

SHEIN may be an easy option to look stylish, but their company is the epitome of the phrase ‘cheaper is not better.’ After getting hit with claims of unethical production practices, they have hid behind greenwashed claims. 

SHEIN needs to be canceled, and this time for good!

Remake, Eco-Stylist’s partner, looked further into SHEIN’s practices and policies, including their greenwashed claims. Their findings prove SHEIN is not better quality, not better for the environment, not better for the makers—simply not better for anyone.

Remake’s criteria is based on transparency & traceability, maker well-being, environmental sustainability, sustainable raw materials, leadership, and diversity & inclusion. They create a transparency report that gives the brand a score for each of these categories. 

So how did SHEIN score? Their original evaluation yielded 0 points—yikes! Their most recent evaluation, based on Remake’s 2021 Accountability Report, yielded 5 points​​—still yikes! Remake’s analysis drew several conclusions about the problems with SHEIN.

The Details

First and foremost, SHEIN doesn’t make it easy to find out who their suppliers are. This is a key factor in traceability and transparency, two values SHEIN does not have.

SHEIN’s own claims prove this as they offer fluffy statements and empty promises, without evidence or accountability.

SHEIN likes to say it treats “employees like family by providing industry-leading working conditions. From offering above-average salaries and benefits to building state-of-the-art factories and offices, we make sure everyone can work in a safe, clean, happy and productive environment.” 

Not only does SHEIN lack supporting evidence of fair working conditions, but recent research proves that it is a lie, with SHEIN factory workers clocking in up to 75 hours per week!

Let’s look at the sustainability of their materials. Dangerous levels of lead and other toxic chemicals have been found in SHEIN clothing. These chemicals are bad for workers, bad for the planet, and bad for the consumers who purchase SHEIN’s clothes, whether new or second hand.

SHEIN claims to be environmentally conscious. Their website says, “When selecting fabrics, we do our best to source recycled fabric, such as recycled polyester, a non-virgin fibre that has little impact on the environment and reduces damage to the original material.” 

But how much of this recycled polyester are they ‘doing their best’ to use? What is their environmental impact to begin with? 

The best brands measure their impact and offer tangible goals for improvement. SHEIN, of course, provides us with only greenwashing

TL;DR

It is pretty obvious SHEIN has some serious work to do to put any truth behind their bold claims of sustainability efforts.

Lucky for them, without many realistic and enforceable transparency, fair labor, and sustainability policies they only have room to improve.

Ethical Alternatives to SHEIN

While we are usually optimistic that brands can improve, it is hard to imagine a brand this far off the mark, that drops 6,000 styles in a day, can ever be sustainable. Of course, we hope we’re wrong.

The good news: there are brands that offer similar styles as SHEIN, but actually have truth behind their sustainability claims. These brands offer higher quality clothes, at a more responsible rate of production, made better for people and the planet.

Reformation Eco-Stylist Certified Brand

Reformation, an Eco-Stylist Certified brand, does just this. As a climate neutral company and Fair Labor Association member, Reformation is where sexy meets sustainable.

Groceries Apparel Eco-Stylist Certified Brand

Groceries Apparel is another Eco-Stylist Certified alternative to SHEIN. Click through to see how they rated on Transparency, Fair Labor, and Sustainably Made.

Groceries Apparel specializes in active and casual wear that is made out of 100% organic recycled fabrics. They know how to do business without compromising values.

Girlfriend Collective Eco-Stylist Certified Brand

Girlfriend Collective is Eco-Stylist Certified (of course), includes models of all body types and identities, has great color selection for their lounge wear products, and is designed with comfort in mind.

On Affording Alternatives to SHEIN

SHEIN’s prices are powered by un-sustainable practices and sweatshop labor. Any alternative is going to be more expensive per piece, but that doesn’t mean it’s more expensive for you. Here’s some tips to shop ethically and still beat SHEIN’s ridiculously low prices:

  • Buy less but buy better 
  • Only buy what you need
  • Supplement your wardrobe with thrift shopping
  • Restyling and layering basics can create endless outfit options 

To find other Eco-Stylist Certified brands that value looking and feeling good in your clothes, shoes, and accessories, head to our sustainable brand guide!

Which brands would you like us to review next?

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11 thoughts on “It’s Time to Find Ethical Alternatives to Fast Fashion Giant SHEIN…”

  1. Priscilla Ann Christensen

    Everytime I go through this website I learn something new. Keep up the great work you are doing. Its making an impact!

  2. That’s is crazy! I was thinking about ordering something from shein the other day and I heard someone mention of shein uses sweat shops and child labor. And I never heard that before and I was so shocked! So then I look in to it and find your article. Thank you for exposing this to us, because many people out there like me don’t even know that shein is like this and just sees it like and a “good” or “convenient” place to shop. But now I know and will not shop from here but genuine places instead I will try to tell anyone I can about this. Thanks again also for giving other places instead to shop from!

  3. People will knock cheap china clothing, and then blindly buy unethically sourced china made clothing because of a brand name and there favourite influencer told them to

  4. I have always wanted to buy from SHEIN ever since I saw people making shein haul on tiktok, thank God I decided to do some research into it and found this article. Sweatshops are supposed to be of non-existent but sigh, guess it will never end right My heart is heavy for those unfair labor who work with shein and other sweatshops..

    1. Right? We’re shocked too that this sort of practice still continues in 2022. The public awareness regarding fast fashion is starting to build and if we keep sharing and spreading the word we can make this a thing of the past. Thanks for reading our article!

  5. I understand that sustainable alternatives are going to cost more and I’m not saying we should buy from shein but a lot of people use it because it’s basically thrift store prices. I don’t think it’s helpful to link to ‘shein alternatives’ that are that expensive. The shopping tips also feel a little insulting- I think it’s common sense to anyone hurting for money that we can go to thrift stores or buy less. I appreciate the information on shein being unsustainable and corrupt but it’s a shop for lower income people who want to look pretty and I just don’t think the recommendations are necessary if it’s gonna be either expensive stuff or common sense money saving tips.

    1. Hi V – thanks for your comments.

      First off, I’m sorry if you felt insulted by the shopping tips, that certainly was not our intention. I want to clarify one point about those tips: they aren’t directed at a specific group of people, those tips are for everyone. I also practice buying less and thrifting, and these two tips are essential practices for fashion to be more sustainable for the planet. Over 100 billion new garments are made every year (and growing) and most of those will end up in a landfill or incinerated. So when we recommend thrifting it’s not just because it’s more affordable, it’s because it’s also an important part of the solution that we believe in. So while I totally hear what you’re saying about buying less, thrifting, and outfit repeating seeming like common sense, these are actually radical things to do in today’s society and going against the norm.

      Regarding SHEIN being a shop for lower income people I realize it might seem that way, but that isn’t actually the case. SHEIN is currently valued at $100 Billion, making it one of the richest private companies on the planet. They didn’t get there by targeting a lower income consumer-their main consumer is middle class. Just like Zara and H&M, SHEIN is a money making engine that exploits people and the environment in order to make the executives and CEOs extremely wealthy. The CEO of Zara, H&M, and SHEIN all have a personal net worth over $1 billion.

      Their CEO will claim they are making “fashion more accessible”, just as the CEO of Zara and H&M will also claim, but this is a lie. You can’t exploit lower income women of color (the majority of clothing makers are) in order to make fashion more affordable for lower income people in countries like America. That math just doesn’t add up.

      At the end of the day we’re not judging or assessing anyone’s personal situation. We are urging anyone and everyone who can and are able, to think twice about supporting fast fashion. While the prices are low the costs are extremely high.

      Source:https://pitchbook.com/news/articles/esg-investor-test-fast-fashion-100b-shein

  6. Corissa Wonson

    I really appreciate your article and won’t be ordering from Shein again, but really I wish there was some alternative that was affordable. As a mom of 3, I never get to splurge on myself. I wear my shoes and clothes until they fall apart. I was really excited to order a few pieces from them to spruce up my wardrobe without breaking the bank. But at what cost to others? Also, I realize the 3 companies you listed was to compare practices, but they’re apples to oranges cost wise as well. I shouldn’t have to shell out $50 for a plain tank or $300 for a simple cute dress. There’s got to be affordable clothes that use good practices as well.

    1. Hey Corissa,

      Thanks for your comment. I hear what you’re saying and this is one of the most frustrating things about fast fashion. You can only achieve prices that low by exploiting people and the planet, and by manufacturing clothes in ridiculously large and un-sustainable quantities (thereby saving costs). So if we compare anything to fast fashion, pretty much everything else seems expensive in comparison. And that’s what fast fashion has done over the last decade or two: they’ve shaped our perception of what’s affordable.

      That’s why it’s essential to not compare prices to fast fashion but instead anchor the idea of what’s a fair price for clothing in something that’s made the right way (like the brands listed below). Some commonly known brands like Haggar (found at Kohl’s) haven’t increased their prices in decades. Logically clothing should be slowing increasing in price over time but it’s fast fashion that’s driven prices down (and caused some brands to keep price constant) and that’s dangerous when it means brands are cutting corners and turning to un-sustainable practices in order to achieve this.

      That being said, the 3 brands we picked here as swaps were picked mostly for their style. In our brand directory we list a price range next to each brand from $-$$$ so for the more affordable options you can select the $ brands. Here’s a few I’d recommend looking at:

    2. Known Supply
    3. United by Blue
    4. People Tree
    5. Tonle
    6. Wolven
    7. Pact
    8. And you can find more brands here. I hope that helps!

      -Garik

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