Ripped off by China's fast fashion vultures

Ripped off by China’s fast fashion vultures: It’s the multi-billion-pound Chinese website beloved by UK teenagers (and their mums). But as these pictures reveal, Shein now stands accused of stealing British designerscottage industry creations

For Deborah Breen, creating her own underwear brand hadn’t just been any old way to make money.

She had put her heart and soul into every element of her business, Wilde Mode: from the font used for her company logo, which was a homage to her late grandfather’s signature, to the prints she designed to adorn her bra and pants sets.

So to say she was furious when she discovered a blue leopard-print lingerie set she had designed on a Chinese shopping website is an understatement.

しかしながら, while fashion copycats abound in the dodgier corners of the internet, this was no random knock-off fashion website one might struggle to come across.

むしろ, Deborah found her designs in the hands of a company who are the undoubted emperors of fast fashion. Forget BooHoo, or even Primark: this company is Shein (pronounced She-in), whose recorded revenue in 2020 was an astronomical £7 billion.

For Deborah Breen, creating her own underwear brand hadn’t just been any old way to make money

For Deborah Breen, creating her own underwear brand hadn’t just been any old way to make money

Shein — which ships to 220 countries — has had a pandemic-busting year that in June led to it toppling Amazon as the most-downloaded shopping app on iOS and Android in the U.S.

And it’s snapping at Amazon’s heels in the UK, あまりにも. どうやって? Collaborations with British ‘influencersand reality TV stars such as Love Island’s Lucie Donlan and Made In Chelsea’s Georgia Toffolo, have turbocharged its dominance, helping it rack up more than 21 百万人のInstagramフォロワー.

So while you may not have heard of it, any teenager or 20-something in your family certainly will have, attracted by their pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap philosophy. Want a new swimsuit? Shein has them priced from £2.49. And of the dozens of dresses on the first page of results on the UK store yesterday, none was priced above £15.

As for Deborah’s design, it was on sale for just £6. That’s quite a bit less than the £38 a top and £18 for bottoms charged for the same swimwear set, designed, made and sold by her.

‘I couldn’t believe it when I looked,’ says Deborah, a 41-year-old mother-of-two. ‘It was the first time I’d even heard of the site.

While fashion copycats abound in the dodgier corners of the internet, this was no random knock-off fashion website one might struggle to come across

While fashion copycats abound in the dodgier corners of the internet, this was no random knock-off fashion website one might struggle to come across

そして, as she saw, the font she had modelled on her grandfather’s handwriting was now declared ‘Shein Curve’, while the material looked saggy and poor quality.

It is estimated that Shein places anything from 500 以上に 1,000 new items on its online shopfront every day. But how does the company, which shot to prominence as a shock contender to buy Topshop before Asos struck a deal, churn out stock at such an alarming rate?

Therein lies one of many worrying questions that have been raised about the way this brand operates.

にとって, メールが今週発見したように, an ever-growing number of independent designers and businesses have found their own designs — work into which they have poured time, effort and money — have been copied, finding their way on to Shein’s website.

It was in June 2020 that Deborah Breen began to receive messages from her global client base, sharing images of a two-piece underwear set they had seen on Shein. She soon realised she wasn’t alone. ‘I shared what had happened on Instagram and soon other people started contacting me saying ‘they did it to me too’.

‘They get away with it as, 「評議員会は、ブレグジットの問題がトラストに重大な影響を与えるとは考えていません。, the people behind small brands don’t have the knowledge or the finances to do anything about it.

しかしながら, デボラ, who knew enough about intellectual property rights to know Shein was in the wrong, was established enough as a business to have a solicitor.

Shein

元の

‘As soon as Shein were approached, they tried to claim they had no idea the design had been copied,’ 彼女が言います.

‘They said they employ people to find them the designs and tried to distance themselves from it.But for Deborah, who is based in Dundee, the fact Shein has acknowledged copyright issues speaks volumes about the scale of the issue.

They state on their website: ‘If you believe your work has been copied in a way that constitutes trademark or copyright infringement, please submit your complaint by report to copyright@shein.com. We will respond to the rights of owners with any concerns they may have about alleged IP [intellectual property] disputes.We found evidence of brands being copied in every corner of the globe, including Australian label Salte Designs and U.S. brand Sincerely Ria.

先月, Nigerian brand Elexiay posted on social media accusing Shein of copying its hand-crocheted £237 pink and green jumper, sharing an image of it next to a remarkably similar design sold on Shein for £13. It since appears to have been taken down from Shein’s website.

In Deborah’s case, Shein did remove the item from its website. But Deborah, who has European and UK trademarks, wanted recompense. ‘They said they had only sold six sets,’ she laughs. ‘They offered me £100, which as a small business is a punch in the eye.

She fought back and Shein eventually settled for a four-figure sum, これ, given Deborah had solicitor’s fees to pay, was paltry. But as she says: ‘It’s the principle. My intellectual property, my design, you can’t just use it. They are nothing more than vultures taking designs off independent traders and selling them at a fraction of the cost.

As a businesswoman, デボラ, who started sewing as a hobby to help with her depression, prides herself not just on a business that promotes inclusivity but also on quality and sustainability.

Shein copy

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‘No mass production, no picking off a shelf, less excess waste,’ 彼女がそれを置くように. She employs five people whom she pays a living wage.

‘We have an incredibly small profit margin, because of how expensive it is as a small brand, buying in small volumes.Can Shein say the same?

One doubts it. 7月に, Fashion Revolution, a global campaign to promote more transparent and sustainable fashion, published its sixth Fashion Transparency Index, analysing and ranking 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers based on their public disclosure of human rights and environmental policies, practices and impacts in their operations and supply chains.

Shein scored an average of just one per cent. As for quality, Sarah Vaughan, 36, can attest to the differences between Shein’s product and her own.

サラ, a mother of two from Lancashire who started her fabric business Little Legs Fabrics in 2018, was stunned when she discovered one of the designs she had exclusively purchased and printed on to a high-quality, cotton-based fabric was being sold as a child’s set of dungarees on Shein last year.

She was alerted by a customer on social media. There could be no doubt it was a copy because the dinosaur print is one of Sarah’s most popular and it looked identical.

‘I’d heard of it happening, but when it happens to you, you feel violated,’ says Sarah. ‘But I felt worse for my customers. My business is based on work-at-home mums trying to make a living by making clothing. They are the ones who suffer if somebody can go on Shein and buy an outfit for £5 which they are making at home for £20.

Sarah did two things: she ordered Shein’s garment and emailed their copyright team.

When it arrived, she discovered that while her clothing is a soft, 95 per cent cotton, 5 per cent elastane blend, made at the factory of a trusted supplier in Poland using carefully tested fabric dyes, Shein’s offering was the polar opposite: low-quality polyester, but emblazoned with the same design.

As for the email, it was only when she shared her fury via social media — ‘it isn’t even a replica, it’s a clear steal of the design’, she wrote — that Shein responded.

‘We sincerely apologise for what happened. The product has already been removed from our site. Shein holds every designer’s copyright should be respected,’ said the brand. 皮肉なことに, a section of Shein’s website is dedicated to ‘product design’.

'初めの頃, before our designs became popular, we arranged for our designers to further their study of fashion design and invited senior designers to help us build our brand,’ it declares. 「今、, over a decade later, we have established a huge team of professional designers. Every one of our designers has his or her own unique sense of fashion . . .’

Independent designer Jade Clark certainly prides herself on her unique sense of fashion. など, そうみたいです, does Shein.

Around this time last year, 翡翠, 30, discovered one of her T-shirts was being sold by Shein, a flame-adorned design made distinctive by her name on the sleeve.

For Jade, who had already gone into battle with the retailer over a swimsuit she designed, it wasn’t surprising, but still demoralising.

‘The name on the sleeve was just blatant,’ 彼女が言います.

‘It’s horrible because it had happened to me before, the first time was more soul destroying.

翡翠, who set up her eponymous business six years ago and works alone doing her own design, fabric printing, production and marketing, had a straightforward approach to tackling the copycatting. She recruited her huge social media following to go in to bat for her. 結果? ‘I never contacted them directly, but within six hours it was taken down.

A small victory, but one free of penalty for Shein.

に 2018, 我ら. jeans brand Levi Strauss accused Shein of copying a stitch pattern in the back pockets of trademarked Levi’s jeans, in a suit that was later settled.

Companies and designers, including AirWair International, the maker of Dr Martens boots, have taken legal action against Shein for allegedly copying designs and infringing trademarks.

But when recompense is small, or starting a fight prohibitively expensive, it’s unsurprising so many don’t act. Little wonder, その後, that copied designs keep appearing.

How these copies find themselves on Shein’s marketplace and who is responsible is unclear.

A juggernaut (‘like Zara on steroidsas one blogger put it) Shein seems to be motoring its way to ultra-fast fashion supremacy, with little known about the company.

Mainly based in China, Singapore and Hong Kong, the company was founded in 2008 by Chris Xu, also known as Yangtian Xu or Sky Xu, who is apparently an American-born graduate of Washington University. With no interviews on public record, he remains as much of a mystery as his brand’s workings.

Back then it was called SheInside and sold only women’s clothing. しかし、 2015, he renamed the company Shein, and focused on overseas markets.

As for its supply chain, that’s anyone’s guess. But we know Shein’s popularity stems from its use of data analytics to turn emerging fashion trends into cheap products, sometimes in a matter of days.

Analysts and critics alike have long observed that Shein’s attentions have been poured not into transparency, but into building influence using social media.

Emily Salter, a senior analyst with GlobalData, 言う: ‘Until recently, it had gone unseen apart from by its Gen-Z shoppers who are digitally savvy and bargain-conscious, despite this generation also being one that cares more about sustainability and ethics.

‘Social media is a huge contributor to Shein’s success, with paid partnerships with celebrities boosting brand-awareness among its target shoppers.

‘Fans clamour to share their ‘hauls— a feature of fast fashion in which shoppers buy a pile of bikinis, or whatever the item, then share it with an online audience, in the hope Shein might send them free merchandise to promote.

A quick search of the #sheinhaul hashtag on the social media site TikTok shows videos made with this hashtag have 3.1 適切な場所でメイクを輝かせるために…私はいつもそれを持っています.

しかしながら, the internet is also awash with complaints about everything from quality to service, including the apparent difficulty of reaching anyone at the company. When the Mail tried to contact Shein for comment via members of their PR team and customer service, we received no response.

And as Ciara Barry, policy and research co-ordinator for Fashion Revolution, 言う: ‘The clothes may be cheap but that comes at a social and environmental cost.

Not to mention, as Deborah Breen and others have discovered, the personal cost of finding that your unique design — funded, slaved over and perfected by you — has been copied by a faceless fashion behemoth.

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