Posted on February 20, 2024 in Technology

You Don’t Need New Clothes From Shein

The fast fashion and consumer gadget industries are pumping out literal tons of cheap products for insanely low prices. While having the ability to order a super cheap pair of corduroy pants for a costume would ordinarily be cool, it’s costing more than money to make and buy these clothes, and consumers have been relying on this industry for content instead the actual clothing, which is making it worse.

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 because they’re used to this routine. They know something new will pop up on social media before they really put it to the test. It just needs to look good now.

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 from a different market. These are much closer, at least on paper, to the original piece of clothing – Shein has been caught multiple times outright stealing designs. 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. There’s always a next item! There’s usually multiple. 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 every two months on the consumer side, which keeps the ball rolling. 

Temu sells other consumer goods like plastic strainers or desk knickknacks, and Alibaba, which has been around for longer than either Temu or Shein, seems to sell everything under the sun, some more legit than the rest. 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 but 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.  

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. None of it looks very good off camera. As long as we show interest in online content buying huge amounts of clothes or trying cheap gadgets, these sites have a market.