Fast fashion activists could launch further protests over worker exploitation and environmental concerns at Chinese clothing brand SHEIN, as the company plans more global pop-up shops this year.
Activists protested outside of SHEIN’s limited time shop on London’s Oxford Street last weekend, led by fair fashion activist Venitia La Manna and sustainability leader Ronaé Fagon.
SHEIN, which has been accused of human and environmental rights abuses, has confirmed it is planning more pop-up stores across Europe, the Middle East and Africa this year, although it has chosen to keep the exact locations and dates secret.
Maddie Pope, 23, who co-organised the London protest, said more disruption is “definitely on the cards in the future.”
Pope, who works as a media executive at a strategic communications company, said the protesters aim to “punch up as opposed to punching down, and hold SHEIN as a brand accountable.”
She said: “We are not targeting consumers, it’s the billionaire CEO of brands like SHEIN who we are trying to get this message to and we’re hoping to get more people on board with that to realise just how exploitative these brands are.”
SHEIN workers that make the clothes in China are allegedly paid as little as 3p per item of clothing for 18 hour work days, with frequent late payments and wage deductions for mistakes. A shirt on SHEIN can cost as little as £3.99.
Responding to cost of living concerns and the expense of more ethical clothing, Pope said: “I am affected by that cost of living crisis myself, but I think the real issue is that it is not a human right to be able to buy clothes as cheaply as possible, but it is a human right for people to have decent living and working conditions.”
Last year, Bloomberg reported the cotton used in SHEIN’s manufacturing has been tied to Uyghur labour camps in China’s Xinjiang region.
Zainab Mahmood, 27, another co-organiser of the London protest, said the brand’s participation in Uyghur forced labour is “one of the most concerning human rights issues of our time.”
A Channel 4 investigation last year reported SHEIN employees in China are not allowed weekend breaks and given just one day off per month.
Workers are allegedly forced to wash their hair during their half an hour lunch breaks, in violation of Chinese labour laws as well as SHEIN’s own codes of conduct.
SHEIN has been accused of containing toxic chemicals in their clothes, polluting the environment and overwhelming landfill sites.
Sophie Kendall, 25, who helped coordinate the London protest, said garment workers and the planet “deserve better”.
She said: “We have power in our purchases, we can send messages with our shopping habits, we can demand change from brands.”
The protesters also dropped QR code cards inside the pockets of SHEIN clothing, linking to a website which uses similar branding to SHEIN and supplies information on their concerns with the brand.
SHEIN has yet to respond to the London protests, but did send an automated reply to protesters when they complained on social media:
Despite SHEIN claiming they will respond to Maddie within 24 hours [screenshot above], she has not received any updated response.
The Londoners has reached out to SHEIN for comment.
Featured Image credit: Venitia La Manna