Your Favorite Online Shop is Worse Than You Think


Emyly Lara-Torres

The popular shopping company known as SHEIN was recently exposed for its poor working conditions, questionable morals, and use of dangerous chemicals. Although SHEIN has been in the spotlight due to controversy in the past, it seems the company has always managed to escape actual repercussions. In fact, in an undercover investigation by U.K. broadcaster, Channel 4, it was revealed that SHEIN is still operating with the same questionable standards. Channel 4 sent an undercover worker to report on the conditions of the factories that produce SHEIN’s products.


It was reported that employees work in unsafe buildings subcontracted from SHEIN in order to cut down on manufacturing costs. These buildings are nicknamed “handshake buildings” because they are so close that people from neighboring buildings could reach out a window and shake hands. Not only is this a fire hazard, but the inside is also poorly conditioned, and workers are expected to work in intense heat. Unfortunately, poor working conditions seem to be a running pattern among fast fashion manufacturers, but what is out of the ordinary are the shockingly low prices at which SHEIN sells its products. SHEIN’s immense popularity stems from its thousands of clothing options and freakishly affordable prices. Tops can cost as little as $4.00, and even less if they’re on sale! But just how is this company able to mass-produce clothing and sell them at these prices? Well, the answer is despairing; the employees that are subjected to intense labor barely see any profit from their hard work.


It was noted that the employees making the clothing items worked long, intense hours for very little pay. In fact, most employees worked 18-hour shifts for roughly 4 cents per clothing item. Not only are they penalized 2/3 of their wage for any errors that are produced in their clothing, but they are also expected to meet an incredibly high quota each day. Workshop owners employ “temporary workers” because they have fewer working rights than permanent staff and can avoid making social security payments. These working conditions are a clear violation of China’s labor laws, yet SHIEN’s spokespeople actively claim that their factories operate legally and that this was just an incident that slipped their notice.


SHEIN employees are also responsible for creating hundreds of new designs to fit the company’s standards. The issue here is that some of these designs are blatant knockoffs or flat-out stolen designs. Many small business owners and even large name-brand companies have accused SHEIN of stealing their designs. In fact, in 2021, AirWar (the company that produces Dr. Martens) filed a suit against SHEIN for IP infringement. Similarly, Ralph Lauren sued SHEIN for using an image that was deemed “confusingly similar” to the iconic polo player of Ralph Lauren. In November of 2021, Tracy Garcia (a small business owner who goes by the name Transformations by Tracy) discovered that SHEIN had blatantly copied her original design. Once she decided to take action, SHEIN responded by simply removing the listing from their site. She did not receive an apology, compensation, or any profit from the sales made.


  • Clothing items produced by SHEIN have been studied and shown to contain high levels of lead, phthalates, and other chemicals linked to health problems. These chemicals can seep into the pores of the skin and cause kidney damage, asthma, and other health issues. Being exposed to these chemicals for a prolonged amount of time can increase the risk of health issues.
  • The ultra-fast fashion model that SHEIN models itself after is incredibly wasteful. Truckloads of clothing and textiles are thrown into landfills or incinerated.
  • Cheap clothing = cheap quality. Clothing that is ripped or torn gets thrown away and replaced with another low-quality item. Less than 1% of textiles are recycled and end up as waste in landfills.

Even with all of this, SHEIN has had incredible success. The company has a higher valuation than H&M and ZARA combined, sales are never-ending, and people will continue to flock for the low prices.  Online shoppers cannot refuse a low price, regardless of what had to happen during production. But the question still remains; is it worth it?