Fast fashion giants Shein and Forever 21 are teaming up in a strategic partnership that will enhance their position in the retail industry. Shein, an online fashion retailer, will acquire a one-third stake in Sparc Group, the operator of Forever 21, while Sparc Group will obtain a minority stake in Shein. As part of the deal, Shein will sell select Forever 21 products on its platform, expanding the reach of both companies. However, the environmental impact of the fast fashion industry remains a significant concern, with the production of cheaply made, disposable clothing contributing to carbon emissions and waste.
The fashion industry as a whole is responsible for approximately 8% of global carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater production, making it one of the most polluting industries worldwide. Shein, in particular, has faced criticism for its fast fashion practices, offering clothes as cheap as $2. The company has received a low rating from Good on You, a nonprofit organization that assesses the environmental and social responsibility of fashion brands. Furthermore, Shein has been accused of sourcing cotton from the Xinjiang region, where allegations of forced labor and genocide against Uyghur Muslims have arisen. While Shein denies these claims, sustainability and labor practices remain major concerns.
Forever 21, although slightly higher priced than Shein, also received a poor rating from Good on You for its sustainability efforts and labor practices. The rise of more sustainable fashion brands and the popularity of buying second-hand clothing indicate a shift towards ethical practices in the industry. However, fast fashion brands continue to entice consumers with their low prices, making it challenging for more ethical alternatives to compete. Despite efforts to promote sustainability, the allure of cheap clothing remains strong, particularly among budget-conscious young consumers.