SHEIN, the prominent online fast-fashion platform, has announced its commitment to invest a whopping US$85 million over the next half-decade to uplift communities worldwide. This move aligns with the brand’s “equitable empowerment” initiative, aiming to enhance the lives of pivotal communities and foster opportunities for their growth.
Empowerment Initiative: SHEIN’s “equitable empowerment” strategy is designed to uplift communities integral to the brand. The focus is on nurturing aspiring designers, fortifying SHEIN’s supplier network, and supporting women, the youth, and the disadvantaged. This new commitment follows the US$70 million the brand allocated in April for similar endeavors.
Designer Incubator Program: Launched in January 2021, SHEIN’s program has since garnered interest from over 3,000 designers and artists spanning more than 20 countries, aiding them in establishing their brands. The fresh funds will further bolster this initiative, aiding suppliers in nations like Brazil, China, and Turkey in worker training, upskilling, and enhancing production technology.
SHEIN’s Vision: Molly Miao, SHEIN’s Chief Operating Officer, emphasized the brand’s objective to equip its stakeholders with the necessary tools, skills, and funds to bring about positive change. She envisions this investment as a step towards a harmonious future, with communities growing in tandem with SHEIN.
Controversy Surrounding SHEIN: Despite its empowerment endeavors, SHEIN has recently been under scrutiny for allegedly plagiarizing designs and offering them at significantly reduced prices. A lawsuit filed in July by designers Krista Perry, Larissa Martinez, and Jay Baron claimed damages of US$66 billion, accusing SHEIN of replicating independent artists’ work. The suit suggests that SHEIN’s design algorithm heavily relies on mimicking original designs, potentially jeopardizing the careers of independent designers. The lawsuit further alleges that SHEIN’s advanced AI capabilities enable it to cherry-pick designs with the highest commercial viability, infringing upon the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) – a law initially targeted at the American Mafia. The designers are seeking a jury trial, asserting that SHEIN’s alleged misconduct involves a collective of entities, making RICO pertinent to their case.
SHEIN’s recent investment pledge showcases its commitment to fostering global communities. However, the looming lawsuit underscores the challenges the brand faces in balancing its rapid growth with ethical business practices. As the case unfolds, it will be crucial for SHEIN to address these concerns transparently, ensuring that its empowerment initiatives genuinely benefit the communities they aim to serve.