SHEIN’s Opening a Permanent Store That Won’t Sell Anything


Ultra-fast-fashion retailer SHEIN can’t be stopped. You can publish as many reports about heinous working conditions or climate change-hastening production as you like, the Chinese retailer will only grow bigger on the strength of its shockingly cheap clothing.

SHEIN may be a digital-first proposition but the Chinese fast-fashion juggernaut occasionally tested the waters with pop-up retail events across America, Asia, and Europe, never wedding itself to a permanent location. However, like its cut-price competitors Dolls Kill and Boohoo, SHEIN has finally settled upon a home for its first physical store, opening the doors to a space on Cat Street in Tokyo’s once-hip Harajuku neighborhood on November 13.

Harajuku’s relevance in the legacy of Japanese fashion has by now been dissected to death. Especially with the spread of social media, there’s no one singular place to experience Japanese clothing culture nor is there a singular place that stylish people gather — it’s everywhere!

Since its heyday in the ’90s, Harajuku has lost much of its famous verve but still hosts plenty of local stores peddling cheap wares for the fast-fashion crowd. In fact, SHEIN Tokyo is right down the street from the local Allsaints.

SHEIN’s store won’t actually sell any of its unsustainable clothing, though. There’ll be plenty of extraordinarily cheap womenswear, menswear, accessories, beauty products, pet supplies, and home goods, but customers will only be able to buy them through the SHEIN app, which they can access by scanning attached QR codes.

It’s a bizarre plan for a company that’s built its bones on instant gratification shopping.

Still, if the scheme proves profitable, expect SHEIN stores to slowly pop up across the globe except, perhaps, for China — though it’s based in Nanjing, SHEIN doesn’t really sell much domestically; Amrica is its biggest client base.

With estimated annual revenue of $16 billion in 2021, SHEIN is making money either way, despite frequent reports about the heinous working conditions inside its partner factories.

One report, published in mid-October by Britain’s Channel 4, went viral for asserting that SHEIN workers were forced to work 18 hours days, making about 3p (about $3.50) for each piece of clothing they produced.

SHEIN, for its part, refuted the report, which also claimed that workers, prohibited from taking more than one day off per month, were washing their hair in the factory bathrooms to save time.

Remember that SHEIN is famously obtuse about its inner workings, though, and that fast-fashion can only exist within an inherently exploitative system. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

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