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POV: you are browsing Shein for the first time

What the ultra fast-fashion brand's shop hides

POV: you are browsing Shein for the first time What the ultra fast-fashion brand's shop hides

If you have happened to take a tour of fashion public opinion you will have realized that Shein is the villain of the moment, the Hannibal Lecter of the fashion system who scares everyone with his unorthodox production methods - to put it mildly - and his idea of ultra-fast fashion. But whether we like it or not, Shein sells, even a lot according to reports, and its idea of fashion, let's call it that, seems to have struck a chord with a certain segment of the public fascinated by a business model that has as its main pillar the website, online purchase from desktop or mobile, which in Shein's case almost deserves a separate discussion given its uniqueness. If competitors such as Zara, H&M, and Pull and Bear have now espoused minimalism on their websites, that of the Chinese company is a riot of images, banners, and pop-ups in which every single free space is filled with invitations to purchase through any kind of discounting: there is the ever-present free shipping, 70 percent for Black Friday (even though it is still a month away) and then there is the flash sale, discounted items accompanied by a countdown that alerts us how much time we have to buy a striped pant for just over 6€.

@maxkanner15 The bathing suit was leaving a yellow stain on towel #badreview #sheingonewrong #dontorderfromshein #epicfail #badquality original sound - Maxkanner15

Having passed the barrier of the home page, once you get inside the individual categories things get even more interesting. The photos are perhaps the biggest mystery: the items in some cases are worn by ever-changing models with backgrounds that are never the same, others are simple still lifes against a gray background, while other times they are photomontages in which the item is "tacked" onto the flat image of a table or a beach. The depiction of the products on sale, and in some cases the difference between what is seen online and what arrives at home, is one of the focal points of the shopping experience on Shein, so much so that comparison videos between online and real-life abound on TikTok. With about 600 thousand products for sale, it is the variety that impresses Shein. The site is divided mainly into the classic Men's, Women's, and Children's categories, to which Curvy, Home+Animals, and Beauty are added, while the home page extends into an almost endless scroll in which photos and banners peep out about brands and collaborations. There is one with Cartoon Network, but also one with Frida Kahlo, just what the Mexican painter would have wanted.

According to a report published by BBC, on average an item stays in stock on the site for up to 90 days before disappearing in favor of a new one, created within 25 days thanks to a team of 200 designers thus giving shoppers the feeling, and therefore the need, to always be able to buy something new. But what can one buy on Shein? In addition to a wide selection of wigs and fake beards, clothing is the category of greatest interest thanks in part to a well below-average price point. A hoodie, for example, costs on average 17€, compared to 30€ at Zara and 35€ at H&M, while in their respective Basic lines Nike and adidas respond with 40€ and 55€. Prices that correspond to a quality that in the case of Shein means 100% Polyester, with the total absence of cotton in the composition, contrary to what happens in the labels of the other brands mentioned, where, with percentages ranging from 60% to even 100%, it always remains the dominant material.

The same happens with sweaters, in which except in rare cases materials such as acrylic, described in the search filter as "wool-like fabric," and the aforementioned polyester, the absolute protagonist in items such as the "Single-color sweater with round neck" presented to us by a series of grainy photos taken in what looks like the balcony of someone's house, prevail. The tour, of course, can only end in the most eagerly awaited section: that of accessories, particularly bags and boots, the real final test in which we decided to rely mostly on the opinions of those who bought the item in question. The first one my eye falls on is the "Studded Hobo Bag," a 9.25€ 100% polyester Cagole by Balenciaga with an average of 4.84 out of 5 and described by one of the reviews as «Beautiful, but with a strange smell.» Common sentiment about many "leather-like" items such as the "Minimalist side-zip combat boots," 23€ with the usual average of 4.83, where the strange smell comes back overbearingly as a protagonist of the reviews, along with many complaints about the material.

@itss_akiraaa I guess you really get what you pay for

«Writing the review after a few months of use, all I can say is that I had to throw the shoes away since they got ruined, especially the soles,» writes someone leaving two out of five stars. Despite the many negative reviews, however, what is striking are the positive ones in which, in the face of complaints about comfort or the materials used, high marks are often left. «They are not very comfortable in fact if you have to go out and walk a lot I don't recommend them because after a while your feet will hurt,» reads the feedback left by someone who nevertheless decided to award the boot with maximum stars despite its flaws. While such a comment may seem nonsensical, it is the perfect picture of why Shein is successful: the possibility of being able to "throw" one's money away, spending it on items that cost little without thus having remorse for a possible wrong purchase, aware of wearing a shoe that might come apart after a few weeks of use but also of the possibility of buying another -perhaps the same- the next day, perhaps at a discount. If the term "investment piece" has become commonly used to talk about items purchased for high sums of money with the idea of being able to use them for years, the Chinese company has unwittingly coined the term "exploited piece," items to be purchased to exploit them as much as possible in their short life cycle with the idea of buying another one in the very short term. But at what cost?