Shein - Everything you need to know about Shein

A picture of a phone with the SHEIN logo at its center.

A picture of a phone with the SHEIN logo at its center.

If you've spent even a small amount of time on the popular social media app TikTok, you'll have no doubt run into a handful of Gen-Z influencers talking about Shein.

Shein is a fast-fashion retailer that prides itself on selling the hottest, most fashionable clothes to date. What's more, the price for such clothes is significantly less than its competitors like H&M and Zara and, thanks to how it runs things, Shein's clothes are at first limited, only to be mass produced later if they become popular.

But what is this app exactly, and what makes it stand out amongst the variety of other apps like CINDER, Amazon and Vinted? We answer all your questions about everything you need to know about Shein.

What is Shein?

As mentioned above, Shein is an online fast-fashion retailer. Originally launched in October 2008 as ZZKKO by entrepreneur Chris Xu, the app rebranded as Shein in 2015 in order for the name to become more memorable.

Before its rebrand, Shein was known as a retailer that focused on general women's wear, as well as wedding dresses. It's marketplace products soon took a turn in direction, changing into more of what Shein is today by selling cosmetics, shoes, purses, jewellery, and general fashionwear for both men and women.

As of 2016, the direction of Shein took a turn again where Xu gathered designers and prototypers to manufacture Shein's very own branded clothing. It also began to exclude vendors who provided low-quality goods.

As of 2022, Shein claimed 28% of the fast fashion market in the US. However, make no mistake: Shein is one of the most globally used apps, and even now has physical stores which customers can visit and purchase items from.

Now, in 2024, it is offering merchants even more ways to sell their items via the Shein Marketplace.

Is Shein legit?

Shein is a legitimate app through and through, and is available to be accessed via mobile platforms as well as its official website.

Via it's Trustpilot rating, we can see that it has a largely positive rating, with 65% of its rating being 5-stars. In comparison, it's 1-stars score is 21%. That being said, it's 4, 3, and 2 stars score are all well below 10%, giving the impression that with Shein, you either love or hate it.

Having looked at the difference in between those reviews, the major hurdle for customers who have left 1-star reviews seems to be with shipping and customer service, with the latter reportedly often dispatching the wrong item, or their orders being split into two and receiving one, but not the other.

On the other hand, 5-star reviews have applauded Shein for its low prices and overall affordability in comparison to its competitors.

Why is Shein so popular?

Outside of being a fashion brand that sells everything at a price that's accessible for most, Shein has had collaborations with several celebrities. To name a few: Haley Bieber, Katy Perry, James Charles, and more.

Shein also relies on marketing via influencers across multiple social media platforms, such as TikTok, X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram, and even Facebook.

Why is Shein so cheap?

One of the reasons why Shein is so popular is that it sells fashionable, wearable clothes for prices that are well below its competitors. A shirt from Zara could cost $50, but from Shein the price could be as low as $5, which begs the question: how can the fashion brand afford to set its prices so low?

There are several reasons for this. One reason is that Shein does not mass-produce its clothes unless they are considered popular. For example, they will produce 50 shirts, and if they end up being bought quickly, they will then begin to create more. This helps prevent them from earning a loss by having leftover clothes that they are unable to sell, and is the complete opposite of the standard set by other retailers, who often create a ton of items first without knowing if they'll sell well or not.

An image of the Shein website, where clothes are sold for as low as £1.
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Credit: Shein

There's also the fact that Shein is a fast-fashion brand, meaning that they do not use as many expensive materials to create their clothes and, with them using an on-demand model, they are able to benefit from earning so little by simply spending less.

However, it is not so simple as using inexpensive materials and cutting out the middleman by shipping directly to customers. Which leads to our next question.

Does Shein have physical stores?

As a fast-fashion brand, Shein's whole schtick is for its customers to get its clothes ASAP without having to fret about the middleman. So in it's early days, physical stores were certainly not something thought about, instead prioritizing profit.

However, Shein has previously opened up pop-up stores around the world, from London, UK to Mumbai, India. These stores didn't last forever, however, and as such, it'd be more accurate to say that Shein doesn't have physical stores.

That being said: this could change in the future. Shein announced in May 2023 that they planned to open up 30 physical stores in the UK in an effort to challenge rivals such as Primark and New Look.

What is Shein Curve?

Like most marketplaces - online or not -- Shein offers a selection of clothes for plus-size individuals. This is known as Shein Curve, or Shein Plus. Shein offers this for both men and women.

Is Shein ethical?

In 2021, the Public Eye released a report that accused the fashion brand of violating Chinese labour laws. In the report, readers can see that a lot of the 'production sites' for Shein were, in fact, residential areas that have been transformed into sweatshops, all unsafe and crowded. On a poster at one of the workshops (where over 200 work), it claims that they work as a main supplier for Shein's parent company, Zoetop, and that they produce 1.2 million articles of clothing a day.

Furthermore, in 2022, the UK's Channel 4 sent undercover cameras in to film the factory workers making the clothes that have become so beloved by the world. What the documentary revealed was chilling: employees working 75-hour shifts, with little pay, and almost no time off. Eventually, Shein admitted to these breaches and violations, pledging £12 million to improve workplace sites.

Shein has since released a memo addressing concerns about its alleged violations to labor law, stating that "all suppliers would be required to comply with a code of conduct based on conventions by the International Labour Organization."

The brand has also confirmed they have build an in-house team to monitor supply-chain partners and vendors, all to ensure regular audits of suppliers.

However, that isn't the end of the conversation surrounding Shein's ethics. While Shein has continued to dominate the fashion industry, it's popularity has also raised questions about the brand's commitment to ensuring their environmental impact is minimal. For one thing, as Eco-Stylist points out, there are major environmental issues when it comes to fast-fashion brands like Shein. To name a few: greenhouse gas emissions, exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive textile waste, and water pollution.

Attractive as Shein's business model may be, and despite the brand's alleged implementation of decarbonization programs, its fast-fashion model is still actively harming the planet by "producing the same amount of CO2 as approximately 180 coal-fired power plants."

That's all you need to know about Shein. Despite its cons, for which there are many, the fast-fashion brand continues to be one of the most popular apps in the world.

To find out more about Shein's competitors, check out our guide on everything you need to know about Temu.

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