Hundreds of people line up for Shein’s pop-up store in Vancouver

Hundreds line up for a Shein pop-up shop in downtown Vancouver, but not everybody is excited about the fast fashion retailer setting up shop in Vancouver.

Hundreds of people lined up on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver on Thursday for a pop-up retail store of a contentious fashion brand.

The Shein pop-up store opened this week, the first in Vancouver.

Hundreds of people were lining up and waiting outside Shein's downtown Vancouver store front on Thursday.
Hundreds of people were lining up and waiting outside Shein’s downtown Vancouver storefront on Thursday. (CityNews Image)

The brand is well known for its reduced prices, however, it has faced allegations of forced-labour, unsafe working conditions, design theft, and received backlash for its environmental impact.

Fossil Free Fashion Scorecard, a ranking system by Stand.Earth, an environmental advocacy group, says on its website that Shein received “failing marks” in all categories.

“As an ultra-fast fashion brand, Shein’s raw materials have a huge negative impact, and production is a major issue,” the scorecard reads.

“Shein has not demonstrated any progress in the areas of materials use or circularity, renewable energy advocacy, and clean transportation, and provides extremely limited transparency into its operations.”

The scorecard says the company needs to disclose the breakdown of its supply chain emissions, phase out coal fire boilers, and move towards renewable energy in manufacturing.

However, the brand has denied the allegations to CityNews in an email.

Shein says it has reimagined its supply chain to empower thousands of small and medium-sized businesses.

“Our digitalized supply chain equips supply chain partners with the insight and tools they need to succeed, supporting their business ambitions, so that they can grow along with us,” it said.

“We build long-term relationships with our supply chain partners, and hold our supply chain partners accountable to our stringent standards.”

It says, all suppliers working with Shein have to abide by its Code of Conduct. It says the code of conduct is a “rigorous” set of standards that promote safe working conditions throughout its supply chain.

“Aligned with International Labor Organization core conventions, this Code details SHEIN’s compliance requirements,” it said.

“It outlines clear requirements, including the payment of wages as well as workplace health and safety and environmental standards.”

Shein tells CityNews that infringement is a serious issue and it does not intend to steal anyone’s intellectual property.

“Shein suppliers are required to comply with company policy and certify their products do not infringe third-party IP. We continue to invest in and improve our product review process,” it said.

The company says to address its environmental impact, it has moved towards an automated feature where it launches smaller batches of 100 to 200 items.

“This highly automated process ensures our supplier partners make what our customers want while minimizing overproduction. This means much more affordable prices for our customers —and less waste,” it said.

Shein says it reduces production waste “at the source” by producing only what its customers want, which puts them “far below” the industry average in waste.

“This means that we do not over-purchase raw materials and any production waste is capped to actual in-demand products,” it said.

“With our small batch production and accurate forecasting, we are able to significantly reduce instances of excess inventory, maintaining a consistently low, single-digit percentage of production waste.”

The staff at Shein's pop-store in Vancouver are seen working at the counter.
The staff at Shein’s pop-store in Vancouver are seen working at the counter. (CityNews Image)

However, Erdene Batzorig, a digital campaigner at Stand.Earth says Shein is undoubtedly the biggest fast fashion brand and is responsible for 90 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.

“To put that in perspective, that’s more than the annual emissions of Paraguay, a whole country,” she said.

“Most of Shein’s stuff, if not all, is fossil fuel fabrics.”

Batzorig says Shein uses large amounts of polyester and hasn’t been open about exactly how much it uses.

“At a time when we’re experiencing extreme climate changes, climate chaos, heat waves, we can’t afford to have brands like Shein,” she said.

She also says Shein is being investigated for labour law violations. She says Shein reportedly puts their factory workers in unsafe conditions.

“(Workers) putting in over 17 hours to produce these cheap clothes that people are currently lining up to go and buy,” she said.

Batzorig says knowing about labour violations and how the brand’s garments are being made could help people decide to stop buying their products.

But she says, it’s mainly the company’s responsibility to change its business model and produce less.

“Phasing out fossil fuels like coal and transitioning its supply chain where 90% of its emissions are produced to renewable energy. We cannot afford the price of Shein at this point in time,” she said.

Batzorig says people don’t need Shein to create 10,000 items every day.

“We know we’re producing way too much. We have clothes on right now today that can last us for generations and generations to come,” she said.

“So what happens to all of these products that aren’t sold? Where is it going? We don’t talk about that often because it usually is sent to the global south.”

She says marginalized communities are experiencing huge volumes of clothing waste, and having to deal with the impacts of fast fashion brands like Shein.

Batzorig says it’s important for consumers to research the brands and the fabrics they are using and says polyester and nylon are unhealthy for the environment.

“You and me were putting on oil on our bodies. Shein has had many issues with their clothes smelling like chemicals where it’s giving people rashes,” she said.

“So if your clothes are not gonna last you for a long time, if they’re not made with materials that feel good on your body, that are breathable, I think those are personal choices we can make.”

She says there are many resources online that consumers can look at to know what they are wearing is good for them and the environment.

-With files from Angela Bower.

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