In a since-deleted TikTok, influencer Dani Carbonari (@itsdanidmc) posted a vlog about the SHEIN-sponsored brand trip she took. Carbonari and the other influencers on this trip were brought to the SHEIN manufacturing house in China, where Carbonari praises the working conditions that SHEIN creates after seeing how much machinery is used compared to human labor and the hours employees work. “They’re not even sweating,” said Carbonari.
The TikTok implies that everything said about SHEIN’s unethical practices are rumors. Carbonari prides herself on being an independent thinker, saying, “I’m one that always likes to be open-minded and seek the truth.” Unfortunately, the issues with SHEIN are not just rumors. Reports have found that workers in other manufacturing houses work over 75 hours a week, the workers are not contracted, and they are paid per item rather than by hour.
One of the main critiques Carbonari received was the lack of acknowledgment of the other manufacturing buildings. “Did you actually think they were going to take you to the factory with child labor… where they make four cents a garment… where they actually break a sweat?” said fashion influencer Emma Ford (@funmiford) in a TikTok. She cites Channel 4’s inside look at the factories, which found that employees were making roughly $556 a month. Ford explains how money gets in the way of critical thinking and causes influencers to throw away ethics for the sake of getting paid.
It’s possible that SHEIN preys on vulnerable influencers. In Carbonari’s follow-up (which has also been deleted), she talks about how frequently she is underpaid and how SHEIN has taken “great care” of her. It goes back to the comment on how influencers ignore the ethics of a brand when they are in need of money. Suddenly, all money is good money.
A couple more pieces of information were fed to Carbonari for this follow-up post. She claims that SHEIN has a lower carbon footprint compared to most fast-fashion brands, which Karishma Porwal (@karishmaclimategirl) refutes. Most of SHEIN’s clothes are made from polyester, thus plastic, thus fossil fuels. Carbonari also states that SHEIN’s goal is to have wasteless production, yet the graph shown above depicts a different story. With polyester being a cheaper material, SHEIN’s clothes tear quickly, causing a large amount of clothes to end up in landfills.
There are a multitude of issues with fast fashion, SHEIN just happens to be the biggest contributor. People sometimes argue that fast fashion is cheaper and the only way lower-income folks can enjoy trendier clothes. My advice is to watch your consumption. Fast fashion has become the large problem that it is today when people are buying in bulk frequently. Over-consumption is what is dangerous to the planet, not a couple of t-shirts bought here and there. Before buying something, ask yourself how long you’ll wear it. Brands like SHEIN take advantage of microtrends, so whatever you buy, make sure it won’t go out of style a few weeks after it arrives in the mail.