Ethical Alternatives to Shein
On a recent trip to Goodwill, I was horrified to discover that almost their entire “boutique” section was full of Shein. While Shein is undeniably popular, it is anything but boutique. A history of labor abuses and a business model that encourages mass overconsumption makes Shein an all-around bad choice. Thus, the need for ethical alternatives to Shein.
Shein (pronounced She-In) is the reigning queen of e-commerce. Founded in 2008, Shein originally purchased its hyper-trendy clothing from the markets in Guangzhou, China. The founder, Chris Xu, has no formal training in fashion. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, he has a background in SEO optimization.
Shein purchased Romwe in 2014, and acquired the team to start producing its own branded garments. After making significant supply chain improvements, Shein now adds thousands of new products to their site each week (1,000 per day!).
Shein is Fast Fashion
Fast Fashion: an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers (Source).
Shein’s business model is focuses on identifying trends and micro-trends as soon as possible in order to capture a significant share of the market.
One articles states that the brand can produce a new garment, from identification to finishing, in only 3 days! Once the item is produced, Shein works with influencers to market their products. Since fashion-conscious, Gen-Z consumers are their target market, TikTok has been a major source of revenue.
Of course, once consumers have actually made a purchase, these items are only weeks away from losing their cultural significance. While trend cycles used to occur in 5-10 year blocks, fast fashion has created a monster! Now, there are at least 52 trend cycles per year, with more popping up spontaneously.
This creates a cycle of throwaway fashion that is environmentally unsustainable. Producing even one garment involves a huge amount of resources, from growing cotton to weaving to manufacturing. Plus, since many of Shein’s products are made with polyester, they are shedding microfibers into our waterways and likely impacting human health.
We cannot afford for fashion to be single-use.
Is Shein Ethical?
In addition to encouraging an unsustainable, fast fashion model, Shein has come under fire for all sorts of other issues related to ethical design, labor, and customer interactions.
1 | Shein is known to steal from other designers, including from small businesses and BIPOC designers.
2 | Workers at Shein’s factories have reported working for 12 hours a day and 75 hours a week, often in crowded, residential buildings with poor safety regulations.
3 | Wages are lower in Shein’s factories than in comparable factories in China.
4 | Some Shein products contain offensive symbols and images associated with hate crimes.
5 | The Shein app has come under fire for intrusive data tracking.
It’s safe to say that Shein is neither sustainable nor ethical.
Ethical and Sustainable Alternatives to Shein
Fortunately, there are ethical alternatives. The very best one is shopping secondhand! Try Poshmark, Depop, Mercari, or Ebay online, or shop at local thrift and consignment stores.
But if that’s not your thing, the below brands offer similar, forward-thinking styles, but with ethics and sustainability in mind. They’re more expensive, but that’s a good thing. It forces us to slow our consumption for a more sustainable lifestyle.
This post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
Featuring bold, feminine silhouettes and made with super sustainable Lenzing Ecovero fabric, which is drapey and lightweight. Each collection features beautiful new prints and color stories. Woman owned.
Sexy and daring silhouettes with a clear point of view. Made with sustainable, recycled, and deadstock fabrics, Reformation carries dresses, blouses, skirts, denim, sweaters, and more.
Sizes XS-XL and 14-24
Big Bud Press
Made in the US with organic cotton and US-woven cotton. Big Bud Press offers a range of t-shirts, jackets, pants, jumpsuits and more, all with their signature bright colors and sense of fun. Unisex sizing.
Featuring vintage and upcycled streetwear, Frankie Collective uses recycled and outdated garments to create something fresh and one-of-a-kind. They also sell vintage varsity sweatshirts.
Sizes vary by product.
Target Fair Trade Certified
A growing number of Target’s clothing collection is fair trade certified and/or made in a certified factory. Shop in store or online for fashion-forward denim, tops, and more with ethics in mind.
Tonle is a zero waste fashion brand that uses deadstock and overstock fabric from the Cambodian garment industry, and then sews and weaves every last scrap into new products. Unisex sizing.
Lucy and Yak
Focusing on organic and recycled materials, Lucy & Yak carry dungarees (overalls), pants, jackets, and t-shirts that put fun first. Limited edition prints and designer collaborations make this brand stand out.