Shein’s rise: The wildly popular and became the most feared fast-fashion retailer in the world

Shein’s rise: The wildly popular and became the most feared fast-fashion retailer in the world

Shein took less than a decade to emerge from relative obscurity to become the dominant player in fast fashion and a favourite online shopping destination for Gen Z. Still, the company is as famous for its controversies as for the trendy, super-cheap clothing that it churns out to the delight of TikTokers everywhere.

In its latest PR stunt, Shein invited influencers to visit its innovation centre in China. After posting glowing reviews of their trips, the influencers faced much backlash for ignoring mounting allegations of questionable labour ethics and concerns about Shein’s role in climate pollution.

For those unfamiliar with the brand, here’s how it chartered a meteoric rise.

Shein sold wedding dresses before it became a fast-fashion retailer

billionaire founder and CEO Chris Xu started the business in 2008 as an e-commerce site selling wedding dresses that were made in China, later adopting the name SheInside.

In 2015, Xu shifted the business to focus on fast-fashion apparel and rebranded as Shein, pronounced “she-in.” But the company’s rise didn’t come until 2020 when quarantined shoppers gave a boon to e-commerce.

Xu’s background in SEO and marketing has benefitted the company’s digital-first approach. Not much is known about Xu, who is even more private than the company he built.

Shein’s AI technology creates new clothing at a record pace

In the last few years, Shein has quickly become the world’s biggest player in fast fashion. The company sells clothing that is cheaply and rapidly produced, then sold at incredibly low prices — many items are under $10.

Shein gave fast fashion a whole new meaning by using AI technology to identify trends and an online-only model to churn out thousands of garments in record time.

Vox reported that analysts have dubbed Shein’s business model “real-time retail” because new designs can take as little as three days to produce. Because of this, there are as many as 600,000 items listed on the site at any given time, according to BBC.

Analysts say Shein could continue to grab market share

Despite the bad press, UBS analysts suggest that Shein could continue to take major market share from US apparel companies. In a recent report, they attributed much of the company’s success to its marketing prowess. Shein’s loyal customers are not only driven by its low prices but also by a strong community bolstered by in-person events.