Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Analysis: Conversations with students reveal that Shein is not she-out

Some students see pros of shopping with Shein outweigh ethical concerns

Fast fashion: quick, cheap, and trendy. In 2023, this longstanding issue is only a bigger threat to the planet and the health of its people. But if fast fashion is allegedly so bad, why has it only soared in popularity? 

With newcomers like Shein and familiar foes like H&M, the clothing landscape has been dominated by companies often deemed ethically and environmentally dubious threat, producing trend items for dollars apiece for decades. 

Dollars apiece? Sounds convenient, especially for those looking for cute clothes on a budget, like college students. Shops like Shein are beloved on campuses around the country, and it is hard to avoid a flood of hauls, promotions and outfit showcases on social media: all fueled by this company. 

Despite its popularity, the retailer and several others like it have been under intense scrutiny, with accusations ranging from using slave labor to paying influencers to post propaganda. Despite this, what keeps the brand in the mainstream? How can it withstand such controversy? 

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Here, BW students share their thoughts on the pros and cons of fast fashion and what makes them shop or stop. 

Amalee Mohammad, a junior and education student said she shops at Shein and said that there are a few specific reasons for doing so.  

“Just because I buy their clothes doesn’t mean I support their practices directly,” Mohammad said. 

She said she finds a particular aspect of the store appealing through their modest options.  

“I’m Muslim and finding modest clothes that are stylish and modest can be difficult,” Mohammad said.  

Nonetheless, Mohammad said that she does try to limit how often she utilizes fast fashion.  

“I keep my consumption of fast fashion limited,” Mohammad said. “I don’t shop at other websites. So, although I buy from Shein and Forever21, I don’t purchase from every company that offers me a deal.” 

Finding Shein to be an accessible option is the main reasons Mohammad said she chooses to purchase from them, but she finds that the clothing is not always high quality and said that she often has to return her purchases after receiving a different product than was advertised.  

“I often have to send back half of what I buy because it just isn’t like what I thought I was ordering,” Mohammad said. 

Other students find different options for shopping, like Emily May, a freshman hospitality student who said that while she believes the companies should do more to help the environment, she avoids fast fashion simply because she prefers other options.  

“I love to thrift,” May said. “I’ve never bought from Shein, but I don’t avoid it on purpose. I think thrift shopping is much more fun.” 

Some students refrain from neutrality and choose to oppose the brand and the industry completely, like Nikki Johnson, a sophomore psychology student who said that people need to be more aware of the poor conditions involved in producing cheap clothing.  

“I completely avoid fast fashion,” Johnson said. “I think these companies need to be held accountable for their unethical practices.” 

Johnson, like May, said she finds her style in secondhand shopping.  

“Thrifting is my favorite. If you really want a piece from one of these brands, try to find it secondhand,” Johnson said. “You can have it without creating demand for more throwaway clothes.” 

“I think shoppers should be aware of how their clothes are made,” Nikki said. “And what kind of working conditions those who made the clothes endure.” 

One more student and fashion lover pitches in, Loren Denman, a junior marketing student, said that despite all of that, she loves the affordability and ease involved in shopping with Shein.  

“I think Shein’s online only approach is helpful for me,” Denman said, “It’s much easier to see all options laid out on a screen rather than searching a rack in a store.” 

Denman added her opinions on the ethics of shopping with Shein.  

“I think these companies could be doing a lot more for their workers and the environment,” Denman said. “But there’s the problem, although it’s great for consumers by being cheap and reliable, it still has a negative impact on our planet.” 

The weight of dealing with the exploitation of workers and climate change is not meant to rest on college students. Although there have been calls to boycott Shein specifically and fast fashion all together, it’s clear that these boycotts rarely work- there will always be a group of people that find the brand to be worth purchasing from.  

Shoppers, specifically students and young adults, will always have their reasons to buy cheap, cute clothes. It is unlikely that this will ever change. However, what can change is legislation- regulations around the fashion industry and how workers are treated in the Global South. 

If students are looking to change their closets in an ethical way, the first step is limiting consumption and thinking before purchasing. Instead of browsing the mall for clothes, try looking for a new outfit at a local secondhand store, like Common Threads in Brook Park. 

For more education on the topic of fast fashion, the 2015 documentary The True Cost is an eye-opening watch.

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