Concerns grow after Shein announces agreement with major company — here are the details on the worrisome relationship

A disturbing partnership is expanding the reach of fast-fashion giants, causing major concern for human health and the planet.

The parent company of shopping mall staple Forever 21, Sparc Group, recently announced an alliance with mega e-retailer Shein to put fast fashion’s mass production on hyperdrive.

What’s happening?

The two biggest names in fast fashion recently announced an agreement that could see Shein products sold in Forever 21 stores worldwide as well as Forever 21 items available on Shein’s website, according to a CNN report. The New York Times notes that the partnership also includes mutual investments in the other from each brand.

The fast-fashion model allows companies to mass produce cheap, trendy clothing quickly and at the lowest cost possible to the detriment of people and the environment.

An investigation by the Los Angeles Times in 2017 revealed a worker making products for Forever 21 would produce up to 700 pieces daily, inciting inquiries into questionable practices regarding wages and worker safety in addition to concerns for the planet.

Shein’s production far exceeds Forever 21, even rivaling Amazon as the top shopping app in the U.S. in 2021. As a result, fast-fashion companies have been called out for unethical business and sustainability practices numerous times over the past several years.

Why is this partnership concerning?

This worrisome relationship brings together two colossal fast-fashion brands, sparking concern among workers’ rights and sustainability advocates. The amount of clothing produced by these enormous retailers is a huge drain on valuable resources like water and energy.

Many of the items are made from plastic materials like polyester and nylon and use toxic dyes and other dangerous materials in their production, including lead, which is especially damaging to children.

Designed to be disposable, much of the clothing quickly finds its way to the landfill, contributing to harmful carbon pollution, water crises, and poor air quality. These companies prioritize speed and cost over quality and safety.

What can I do to stop fast fashion?

Consumers can fight fast fashion by making ethical, sustainable choices while shaping their wardrobes.

Shopping secondhand at local thrift stores or online resellers like thredUp gives clothing a new life. Selecting brands that use natural fabrics and are transparent about their practices regarding working conditions, wages, and sustainability shows companies that you value these policies.

Learning how to perform simple repairs like hemming jeans or mending minor tears can extend the life of your clothing and keep it out of the trash. Once an item is no longer usable, make sure it is properly recycled to support a circular clothing stream, helping to counteract the damaging effects of fast fashion.

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