Posted on June 20, 2024 in Technology

You Don’t Need Cheap Stuff From Temu

The myth that you can buy almost anything direct from the manufacturer at wholesale prices has led to a number of online stores popping up selling garbage hoping to trick users with deals too good to be true. Sure, the prices are low, because there are fewer middle men when you buy from Temu, Alibaba, Shein, etc. – but the company is still taking a profit from somewhere, and in most cases it’s at the expense of the workers and the item’s quality. Fast fashion is the easiest facet of this grand machine to look at, so to describe the steps of this market, let’s describe the life cycle of a simple corset top on social media today.  

First, a better-known fashion brand decides corsets are back in and makes one for a show. If this idea is accepted, then other fashion houses get in on the trend and start bringing corsets out to the runway to compete. Eventually, celebrities wear them, and because celebrities are wearing them, ordinary people want to wear them too. The catch is that not all of them have designer money, and other companies profit off of that by making cheaper ‘dupes’ of the initial design. Not close enough to get sued over, but clearly inspired. Many people go this route, but some are looking for an even cheaper product – they may want to keep up with the trends on a student budget, for example, and know they don’t need high or even medium quality clothing.

Less reputable stores sense the demand via a number of channels and start producing a corset top that might or might not be just like one of the fashion brand ones if it were made of polyester and had plastic bones instead of metal ones, producing absurd amounts at a time using underpaid labor. Eventually, demand runs out, the item is no longer trendy, and instead of recycling the fabric or trying to time the end of the line better, all of the remainder of the product that didn’t sell now goes to a landfill, and production of the next item begins. And there’s always a next item! There is no gap. Social media has made it easier than ever for things to trend off of a whisper of a hint from an influencer, and because the products are so cheap, it’s easy to buy and then dump entire wardrobes’ worth of clothing on the consumer side, which keeps the ball rolling. The same is true of the factory.

This is happening all of the time with all manner of products, mostly made of plastic, and the machine continues to profit because even when something manages to survive four or five trips through the washing machine or dishwasher without disintegrating, it’ll get tossed anyway to make room for the next product. The textiles are dirt-cheap, the labor is dirt-cheap, the shipping and the disposal are both wasteful without consequence. The final result is a market fueled by demand for things that can be let go as garbage with the least friction possible. Social media has created a vicious cycle that is always creating demand and always generating more and more waste.

The invention of “Shein Hauls” is one of the worse things to come out of TikTok. The clothing itself is so cheap to buy that it doesn’t make sense to spend the gas to return it once it’s arrived. Take a picture in it, and then throw it away. This is the nature of the clothing haul.