If you’ve been anywhere near social media or the internet in the past 18 months you’ll likely have come across Shein (pronounced she-in) the online fashion juggernaut.
What makes Shein different?
Unlike many of his contemporaries at globally known brands such as H&M and Zara – whose founders started out in fashion – Xu Yangtian, the founder of Shein, got his start in search engine optimisation.
This factor goes some way to explaining how Shein became the most downloaded shopping app in America this year and why it’s well on course to surpass $20 billion in gross merchandise value for 2021.
How does Shein do it?
Two words: volume and pace. As The Economist notes, whereas Zara launches about 10,000 new products a year, Shein operates in warp speed. It releases a staggering 6,000 new units a day, some of which are older units, but with new colours. Log on and you can browse from about 600,000 items, if you have the time or inclination.
Shein also has the advantage of being cheaper than other fashion outlets such as Zara, H&M and Japanese retailer UniQlo.
Its success is, in many ways, predicated on the internet and constantly monitoring social media for tastes and trends. From here designers come up with new garments, which are produced in small batches, released online and then the company can, in real time, discern what’s working and what’s not, before deciding which new product lines will resonate with consumers.
Shein has also raced ahead with production and can mass produce new lines in as little as 30 days, compared with an industry average of 150 days.
Shein understands only too well that your product is nothing unless you have the right pusher, or influencer, which is why it has created tie-ups with influencers and fashionistas around the world.
They also partner with local designers around the world, who also help the brand break into local markets, especially through social media. All told, the company has around 250 million followers across the major social media platforms.
The cost of fast fashion
However, amidst the oceans of choice that consumers have thanks to fast fashion giants such as Shein and Zara, the trade off is that it is an unsustainable part of the clothing industry.
The fashion industry is responsible for 10 per cent of annual global carbon emissions. Those emissions are expected to increase by 2030.