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The Rapid Evolution of Fast Fashion: Shein’s Dominance and Controversy

Ashley Waithira



The fashion industry moves quickly, and it has changed a lot lately. This is especially true when you look at the new wave of fast-fashion stores that have come onto the scene. Chinese brands like Shein and their competitor Temu, which operates a lot like Amazon’s marketplace, are taking over. The latest State of Fashion report by Business of Fashion and McKinsey and Company says this part of the market is growing fast and making a big impact.

  • First Generation: Before 2000, stores like Zara and H&M started offering fancy clothes on regular shopping streets.
  • Second Generation: Up until around 2010, companies such as Boohoo and Asos took the fast fashion trend to the internet.
  • Third Generation: Now, Shein and Temu are the front runners. They’re cranking out clothes quickly and they’re super competitive about it.

Shein and Temu are completely changing the game. They’re launching tons of new clothes faster than ever before. Last year, it got out that Shein was putting up between 2,000 to 10,000 new products every single day. That’s way more than any of the older brands could do. Because of this, they’ve been sending out over a million packages each day.

Price Wars and Market Dynamics

Today’s fast fashion trend is all about super cheap price tags. You can snag something from Shein for just $14 on average, which is a steal compared to Zara’s $34 and H&M’s $26. Temu kicks it up a notch, slashing prices by up to 40% less than what you’d find at Shein. This approach to pricing is key to their winning game plan—it pulls in loads of shoppers who want the latest looks without breaking the bank.

The Dark Side of Fast Fashion

The relentless pace and low-cost approach of this industry segment have raised serious concerns:

  • Intellectual Property: Rampant issues with design plagiarism, as fashion is challenging to copyright.
  • Labor Practices: Reports of underpaid garment workers and poor working conditions.
  • Environmental Impact: High levels of waste, with many products ending up in landfills or polluting regions like Ghana and Chile.
  • Health Concerns: Clothing from these fast fashion brands has been found to contain harmful chemicals, including lead.

In an attempt to address these issues, Shein conducted a controversial influencer tour of its Chinese factories to showcase its operations.

Shein’s Controversial Expansion in Canada

Shein’s expansion into Canada has not been without its challenges. The brand’s Canadian headquarters in Markham faced scrutiny over labor law violations and environmental concerns. Despite these controversies, Shein opened a pop-up store in Toronto, leading to a shopping frenzy and further highlighting the brand’s influence.

  • Government Response: The Canadian government, recognizing these issues, has pledged legislation to eliminate forced labor from domestic supply chains.
  • Activism: Local student activism and protests demanding transparency and sustainability from Shein have gained attention.
  • Strategic Partnerships: Shein’s partnership with Forever 21 in August indicates the sustained demand for budget-friendly fashion.

Financial Moves and Future Prospects

Despite the drama, Shein secretly submitted papers for an IPO in the US, priced at $66 billion. They’re making big moves to cement their spot at the top of quick style and to grow worldwide.

  • Market Trends: Shein is on a path to rule the quick fashion scene, even with all the concerns about ethics and the environment.


Brands such as Shein and Temu have ushered in a fresh chapter for quick-style clothing. They’re known for their rapid production, competitive prices, and substantial sway over the market. Yet, with this expansion comes a greater focus on whether they’re fair and green – a tough act of juggling bottom-line gains with eco-friendly operations. For the scoop on fast fashion’s latest waves and their ripple effects, check out the State of Fashion 2024 report.

Image Source: Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Scalable Grid EngineCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Common

Ashley is a creative and adventurous Journalism graduate with a vibrant personality. Her love for exploring new places fuels her passion for travelling, allowing her to uncover captivating stories and diverse cultures. With a kind and fun-loving nature, she radiates positivity and enjoys connecting with people from all walks of life. Ashley's belief in a supreme being serves as a moral compass, guiding her to always strive for what is right and just. In her spare time, she immerses herself in the pages of books, seeking inspiration and expanding her knowledge. Ashley's zest for life and unwavering dedication to her values make her remarkable.