Shein’s Influencer Brand Trip Results in Backlash
With nearly 30 million Instagram followers and dominating the fast fashion market in the U.S., Shein enjoys a large fan base. However, the retail giant has faced criticism over alleged environmental harm and exploitative labor practices. In an attempt to improve its public image, Shein took a surprising step byinviting social media influencers on a tour of a model factory in Guangzhou, China, named the Innovation Factory. The influencer’s visit has sparked controversy as they face backlash for promoting a brand notorious for ethical concerns.
Multiple news investigations and documentaries have highlighted poor working conditions in Guangzhou factories used by Shein and devolved into Shein scandals. Some reports have revealed employees working exhausting 75-hour weeks, earning meager wages. Additionally, the brand faced criticism for sourcing cotton from Xinjiang, an area where human rights abuses have been reported. Moreover, Shein has faced environmental and health concerns, such as selling jackets for toddlers containing excessive amounts of lead, which added to the list of Shein scandals. Perhaps the most significant criticism revolves around its high-consumption business model, driven by low clothing prices. This Shein scandal led to the production of an enormous number of garments, releasing a substantial amount of carbon emissions.
In an unprecedented move, Shein invited a group of influencers to visit its Innovation Factory. The trip aimed to showcase the company’s transparency and address concerns about its supply chain. However, many have criticized the influencers for participating in what appears to be a PR stunt, given Shein’s questionable practices and list of Shein scandals. The influencers visited the factory and interacted with workers. They filmed videos of the factory’s automated processes and clean working conditions.
Controversy and backlash
The influencer trip has sparked significant backlash on social media, particularly within the sustainable fashion community, with many calling it an influencer scam. Many are appalled by the participation of the influencers, considering Shein’s track record with human rights issues in garment factories. One influencer highlighted the irony of Shein targeting plus-size and POC influencers while being one of the worst abusers in the garment worker factory space. The involvement of the influencers in the trip has raised questions about their lack of skepticism and thoroughness in investigating Shein’s operations.
In response to the backlash, Shein stated that the trip was part of its commitment to transparency. The company believes that the videos from the influencers and their commentary are authentic, respecting their perspectives and voices. While some consider the factory tour a mere PR stunt and influencer scam, others find hope in the fact that Shein acknowledged consumer pressure and addressed sustainability concerns. However, advocates emphasize the need for continued consumer vigilance to hold Shein accountable for its practices.
Amid the criticisms and Shein scandals, the brand seems to have acknowledged the concerns of its consumers regarding sustainability and ethical practices. The brand launched evoluSHEIN last year, a clothing line partially made with recycled polyester. Donald Tang, Shein’s executive vice president, emphasized the company’s commitment to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices.