Fast fashion poses moral dilemma for consumers

An undercover investigation from the U.K Broadcaster Channel 4 “Inside the Shein Machine: UNTOLD” goes behind the scenes and finally exposes the online international e-commerce fast fashion platform known as Shein. The fast fashion company is facing backlash for harsh working environments, which raises ethical shopping concerns to consumers of the fast fashion industry.

Shein is well known for being cheap and quickly distributing the most up-to-date trendy clothes. Shein’s Chief Marketing Officer, Molly Miao, reveals that the company drops “700-1,000 new styles daily.” The e-commerce company keeps prices at an insanely low cost which implies sketchy labor practices and they remain silent in regards to Shein’s working conditions. There is a clear scandal that needs to be unpacked and the company is at fault for barely addressing the situation.

Social media platforms such as TikTok feature viral videos with hashtags such as #sheinhauls with over 7 billion views that attract more consumers to buy Shein products. As a result, Shein generated an annual revenue of $10 billion. Shein is able to influence buyers to purchase frequently, which worsens the global rise in textile wastes.

TikTok users also reveal phrases such as “Need Your Help” written on or sewn into many, but not all, Shein garments, which is outrageous and raises a bigger concern about how ethical the fast fashion industry is.

According to the Channel 4 documentary, women employed by Shein were washing their hair during their lunch breaks because they did not have time outside of their job. The factory workers had one day off per month which gives them no freedom at all.

Behind the fast fashion factories are exhausted workers who spend their entire lives in these factories with little to no personal life. The factory workers typically worked for 18-hour shifts each day, 4 cents per item, with a total of 4,000 Yuan per month — which equals to $556. Each worker made 500 garments per day and if they were caught making a mistake they were penalized two thirds of their daily wage. This is not a fair way of living, and there needs to be an end to this.

Despite the cheap trendy items, Shein is a place you should not shop at. Cheaper clothes are not necessarily better. They contribute to textile waste which is a cause of concern for our environment. What consumers are not fully aware of is the environmental issue fast fashion produces and the rough working conditions that the factory workers are suffering from as well as child labor.

Fast fashion is a huge environmental concern. Since fast fashion is cheap clothing with very poor quality, more clothes are being thrown away. The U.S. throws away up to 11.3 million tons of textile waste each year.

Furthermore, fast fashion companies like Shein use synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon and acrylic, which take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Harmful chemicals such as CO2 emissions are in the clothing. It’s a hazard to consumer’s health and today’s environment.

Although Shein is at fault for their unethical values, other common brands such as Zara, Victoria’s Secret, UNIQLO, H&M, among other well-known brands also play similar roles in the fast fashion industry.

The alternative solution to fast fashion is slow fashion. Slow fashion is a sustainable and ethical approach with high quality pieces which will last a long time. Slow fashion is worth it because it creates a safer working environment and consumers can trust that they are maintaining a positive impact on the environment.

It’s not ethical to purchase from brands that portray unsafe behavior to their employees and to their consumers.

Fast fashion retailers, such as Shein, have created a huge consumption dilemma. Poor quality, unsafe working conditions and exploiting the environment is not the ethical approach as a consumer. It’s our duty to react and transform our fashion into slower fashion for a safer and healthier life.

Photo courtesy of Tom Fisk, Pexels.