Most people know that Shein, the Chinese fast fashion brand that you can’t escape when using the internet, is terrible for the planet.
Now a British investigation has confirmed that its suppliers have people working in sweatshop-like conditions with low wages and exploitative working hours.
In a recent episode of the Channel 4 documentary series Untold, host Iman Amani takes viewers through the experience of an undercover journalist who went to work at a Shein supplier factory in China. Shein owns none of these manufacturing facilities, despite being today’s fastest growing fashion brand.
Enter: the Shein Machine.
“You can’t finish SHEIN like you can’t finish TikTok.”
— Channel 4 (@Channel4) October 18, 2022
Known only as “Mei,” the undercover journalist takes viewers behind the scenes in a factory. She uses a secret camera and microphone to collect evidence of the inhumane treatment of workers, who are forced to toil away for up to 17 hours a day and take pay cuts if they make mistakes.
“There’s no such thing as a Sunday here,” one worker can be heard saying in the documentary’s trailer.
China’s lax labor laws also allow factories to get away with paying meager wages to workers for hard work.
One factory featured in the episode pays workers about ¥4,000 a month — that’s just over $750 Canadian. This allows the brand to price their items – often low quality – at a very low cost.
Human rights advocates and climate change activists have been sounding the alarm about the brand for centuries.
Sometimes I just think about how there is absolutely no silver lining to Shein. The clothes are full of lead. The clothes are made in exploitative conditions. The clothes contribute to pollution and global warming. The clothing designs are stolen. And the clothes fall apart.
— Cora Harrington (@lingerie_addict) October 20, 2022
In the past, Shein’s clothing has tested positive for dangerous amounts of lead. Last year, Health Canada recalled a certain Shein dress made for toddlers because it contained lead.
People have also found bug infestations in their packages.
@lucifersdaughter #disneyplusvoices @SHEIN please explain this because wtf ????? INFECTS STRAIGHT OUT OF THE PACKAGE #fyp #sheinbugs #helpme #SpotifyWrapped ♬ original sound – Luci 🖤
The brand has been accused of stealing designs from creators, especially artists from marginalized communities.
I am SO over these big brands stealing from black designers. @SHEIN_official STOLE me @opregte riaxo designs to a T. They couldn’t change even ONE thing and it is now one of their best selling items. They even stole the brand aesthetic. Like Come on pic.twitter.com/ose8DiM9hK
– Mariama Diallo ✨ (@MariamaDiallo__) June 11, 2021
— mare van boscombe (@fernm8) December 8, 2020
@SHEIN_official just ripped off and stole one of my designs
— Ana ❤️🔥 (@MoontripMarket) December 30, 2020
I don’t even know how to express how I feel. My chest feels hollow. I see this happen all the time with designers here. @SHEIN_Official stole my design clear as day. It’s really something like a small brand that makes it rare, to see your HANDMADE work being sold like this. pic.twitter.com/ViwJrJ0bFR
— Moonlight 🌕 (@Thefirejem) May 18, 2022