3 Things to Know Before Buying Clothes from SHEIN

3 Things to Know Before Buying Clothes from SHEIN


Fast Fashion Collage

Are you unintentionally supporting forced labor (i.e. slave labor) practices? 

Would a company like SHEIN allow slave labor in order to give you the cheapest price possible?  If you believe “ignorance is bliss,” don’t read any further.  

Here’s what you need to know before you shop from a company like SHEIN.  (SPOILER: a company that’s not addressing human rights issues in their supply chains, is clue #1)

"How can this shirt be so cheap?” 

Green Blouse from SHEIN.COM

This is a question that lingers when you shop based on convictions (and the answer to that question is what inspired me to open Kin Trading Post).

In a recent deep-dive into my store’s Google Analytics (something every ecommerce store owner obsesses over), a company named SHEIN popped up as my top competitor.  This was a David versus Goliath moment.  How was it possible for my start-up, ethical fashion, on-line boutique (emphasizing American Made Apparel and Fair Trade Jewelry) to be ranked with SHEIN, the world's largest online fast fashion company? 

Who is SHEIN?

After a week of researching, a documentary
and a meeting with an SEO expert, this is what I learned:

SHEIN is a legitimate Chinese company, delivering world-wide from China, and uploading up to 6,000 new pieces of fashion to their website. DAILY. 
There’s a new term for companies like this, ULTRA Fast-Fashion. 

Owner, Chris Xu, is considered the “secret billionaire” of China, leading the largest online-only fast fashion company, head-quartered in China.  Mr. Xu is not a fashion designer, but an SEO (search engine optimization) expert and ecommerce entrepreneur.  He’s really good at getting Google to show you his products when you search “cute fall outfit” online.

Why is he a "secret" in China? 
SHEIN is one of the biggest exporting companies in China, shipping orders primarily to American shoppers.

Social media micro-influencers and famous artists promote their clothes, targeting women 16-35 years old.  Prices?  CHEAP.  I found an evening gown at an unbelievable, $27. 

What’s the big deal?  Sounds like a smart businessman.

Making new apparel is a lengthy process.  Farmers plant and grow cotton, laborers pick cotton to have it processed into threads, spinning into rolls of fabric, to then be artistically-designed, cut, and sewn into your next favorite t-shirt, shipped to your front door. 

Cotton Field .           Thread Spinning to Form Fabric.           
Women sewing garment

A complex process made easy, but at what cost?  Unregulated labor often leads to cheap and forced labor, including child labor. 

Lack of accountability allows companies to increase (or maintain) profit margins without raising the price for the consumer.  Ignorance is bliss, right? All a company has to do is NOT look into it.  Unless, of course, their customers speak up.  

Here are the 3 Things to Know Before Buying Clothes from SHEIN 

1.  “SHEIN is the worst of the worst”

Good on You is the world’s leading source for rating brands based on how they impact Planet, People, & Animals. They research and determine if brands meet certain expectations for ethical and sustainable business practices, helping consumers make informed shopping choices.

Here is an excerpt from Good on You regrading SHEIN’s rating:

“Its labour rating is 'very poor'. None of its supply chain is certified by labour standards which ensure worker health and safety, living wages or other labour rights. It received a score of 0-10% in the 2021 Fashion Transparency Index. There is no evidence it implements practices to encourage diversity and inclusion in its direct operations or supply chain. There is no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain…” updated January 2022, Good On You

If Good on You says SHEIN is “the worst of the worst”, that might be a good enough reason to avoid shopping from them.


China is constantly under global watchdog radars because of their poor adherence to labor rights of workers.  In 2021, the US Department of State issued a release regarding the Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory:

“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) government continues its horrific abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) and elsewhere in China, targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and ethnic Kyrgyz who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.  These abuses include widespread, state-sponsored forced labor and intrusive surveillance, forced population control measures and separation of children from families, mass detention, and other human rights abuses amidst ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity.”

The new law, which went into effect June of 2022, bans all imports from the Xinjiang region.  This means companies must ensure that NOTHING in that product is made or comes from Xinjiang.  Simply put, every time you read "Made in China", it will also mean "Not Made in Xinjiang".  

However, SHEIN, and other foreign direct to consumer retailers, have a loophole.  It doesn't import from China. They are an exporting company that ships from China to the USA directly.  

American based companies must prove "Made in China'' imported apparel meets the new requirements.  However, foreign companies who sell directly to US consumers don’t technically have to comply.  Lawmakers are on to it though, so let’s see what their next step is.

We can use our purchasing power.  Who we spend our money on has an impact on who succeeds and who doesn't.  Spending at SHEIN is essentially giving more power to a company with an unethical business model.  Money talks.

3. Better Business Bureau GIVES SHEIN AN “F” RATING

 The Better Business Bureau  gives SHEIN its lowest rating because of the numerous complaints.  If you’re still tempted to buy from SHEIN, do a quick search before you load up your cart.  You'll find that the majority of consumers are unhappy with their "cheap" products - especially the timeliness of shipping!  Most products are still being shipped directly from mainland China.  

Keep in mind that the BBB (Better Business Bureau) is unable to help with consumer complaints about SHEIN because BBB does not have any authority over foreign companies.  

Shop American based companies to ensure you’ll get the support and follow-up you need.  Visit the About Page/Contact Us page of an online store to find their headquarters.  Just because they popped up on your search results, doesn’t mean they're an American-based company! 

In conclusion, if an ad of a cute top pops up as you're scrolling through Facebook or Instagram...and it entices you to click...
ask "How can this be so cheap?"
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes at the expense of human rights.  

Do you have an experience with SHEIN, or other fast-fashion brand?  
Drop a comment or question below! 

We believe in Trendsetting Compassion through Fashion.
We are here to help you do just that! 

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