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Opinion
Adam Minter

Shein’s Fast-Fashion Waste Problem Won’t Be Fixed by Resale

The hugely popular Chinese online retailer’s new business to recirculate its ultra-cheap clothing isn’t likely to appeal to many customers.

Shein, the fast-fashion e-commerce retailer, is trying something new with resales.

Shein, the fast-fashion e-commerce retailer, is trying something new with resales.

Photographer: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg

Allegations of labor abuses, environmental destruction, copyright theft — all of these and more have been leveled against Shein, the outrageously successful fast-fashion company that has seduced young consumers with its ultra-cheap apparel. On the surface, Shein has little reason to worry. In 2022, revenues are estimated to hit $24 billion, closing in on H&M and Zara for the global fast-fashion crown. But even as young consumers pile into Shein's disposable clothes, they're telling consumer researchers that they prioritize sustainability and ethical companies, too.

So the company recently launched a service on its app that enables the buying and selling of used Shein fashion. It's an explicit nod to Generation Z's desire for more sustainable fashion. It's also something more pragmatic: an effort to grab a piece of a resale market for apparel, footwear and accessories that's tripled in value since 2020 to as much as $120 billion. Unfortunately for Shein, the effort likely won't pay off.