Controversy and lack of transparencyShein’s website, shein.com, has reached unprecedented levels of both online traffic and app downloads in 2022. Following Shein’s rebranding in 2015, its rise to mainstream fame and financial success has direct connections with the growth of social media, as well as social media as a source of product inspiration, in the last several years. Shein’s clothes are notoriously cheap, and as a fast fashion brand, are guaranteed to follow the latest trends popular with shoppers looking to keep up with what’s popular. TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube were integral in the viral sharing of ‘Shein haul’ videos, in which influencers would bulk purchase clothing from Shein to showcase for content—a win for both creators and the brand alike.
With sustainable shopping becoming a relevant criterion for online shoppers when deciding on brands to spend on, such controversies surrounding Shein have since surfaced and now remain a relevant topic of interest among the public. As a private company, Shein has thus far not disclosed official financial statements, as well as information regarding their supply chain and working conditions, and is only recently being targeted by law that mandates this information to be publicized in countries like the United Kingdom. On top of that, the debate on fast fashion and its harm towards the environment has never been more relevant. As Shein continues to grow in popularity, such low levels of transparency from the company will only allow for suspicions of unsavory practices to continue.
Popularity in the States and beyondIn the United States, Shein benefits from relatively relaxed import taxes on their low-priced clothing. This has ultimately led for the fast fashion e-tailer to become extensively popular for consumers, even when buying in bulk. In the U.S., Shein is the biggest fast fashion retailer and the second-biggest online apparel retailer, only trailing behind Macy’s in e-commerce net sales.
On both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, the Shein app ranked second in downloads in the country in 2021, spanning over 31 million downloads total across the two stores. The downloads speak for Shein’s popularity among U.S. Americans, but it doesn’t end there. Shein was also the most downloaded fashion app across Europe in 2022. In all, despite all of the controversy surrounding the brand, Shein’s growth has only exceeded that of its competitors and shows no signs of slowing down in the near future.