Shein Responds to Fast Fashion Criticism: Advocates for "Smart Fashion"

Written by Camilla Jessen

Mar.14 - 2024 9:52 AM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Shein, the Chinese fashion brand, has come under fire for its business practices.

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Shein, the Chinese fashion brand, has come under fire for its business practices, which critics say contribute to environmental degradation and excessive waste.

In a recent interview on BFMTV, Marion Bouchut, the Communications Director of Shein Europe, vehemently denied allegations of the brand being a major player in the ultra-fast fashion industry. She argued that Shein's approach to fashion is misunderstood and misrepresented, instead pointing to the company's innovative business model as a solution to overproduction.

Facing Legislative Challenges

European lawmakers are setting their sights on the low-cost clothing industry, which is notorious for its environmental footprint.

With a new proposal on the table, measures are being considered that would impose an environmental "penalty" ranging from 5 to 10 euros per item, capped at 50% of the sale price. Additionally, the proposal seeks to ban advertising for aggressively discounted clothing sales, directly targeting business models similar to Shein's. These measures aim to mitigate the environmental impact of fast fashion, an industry that has long been criticized for its unsustainable practices.

“I Call It Smart Fashion”

During her interview, Bouchut offered a robust defense of Shein, disputing the claim that the brand produces "up to 7,200 new clothing models per day" on average—a figure that has been used to criticize the brand's contribution to waste and environmental damage. Most of these new models flood second-hand sellers, often without finding buyers due to the poor quality of the products, and eventually end up in landfills.

“In terms of this bill, even if the interest and the objective are entirely laudable, there are many flaws and a lack of definition of what fast fashion is. I call it smart fashion which solves the problem of overproduction,” Marion Bouchut stated.

She also claims that the figures cited are inaccurate.

According to her, what we see on the site is not necessarily produced. “I often hear a figure of more than 7,000 copies per day. There is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding about [our] business model.”

Shein's strategy, according to Bouchut, focuses on minimal production and stock levels, aiming to produce items only based on consumer demand. This approach allegedly results in an unsold rate of merely 2 to 7%, significantly lower than the 25% to 40% unsold rate reported among traditional fashion retailers.

Bouchut contends that Shein's model, which she terms "smart fashion," effectively addresses the issue of overproduction by adapting production rates based on real-time consumer feedback.

Economic Model and Environmental Concerns

Shein's business model, which involves producing clothing in countries like China, Turkey, and Brazil, has been scrutinized for its sustainability and ethical implications. Critics question how the brand can maintain such low prices, ranging from one to five euros per item, without compromising on the costs of production and transportation.

Bouchut insists that Shein's lean inventory and absence of physical stores allow the company to operate on thin margins without sacrificing quality or ethics.

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