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Shein’s new resale marketplace won’t mollify critics of its fast-fashion model

The news: Shein has launched a resale marketplace, Shein Exchange, that allows US customers to buy and sell previously owned items in the fast-fashion retailer’s mobile app.

  • The launch appears to have two purposes: to mollify critics of the retailer’s fast-fashion model and to capture a share of the rapidly growing recommerce market.
  • We expect fashion online resale marketplace sales will grow 46.6% this year to reach $15.5 billion.

Is Shein’s resale marketplace greenwashing? The launch is aimed at addressing the “ongoing issues of textile waste” and building a “future of fashion that is more circular,” Shein noted in a press release.

  • However, it's unlikely that message will resonate with critics given that fast fashion is synonymous with inexpensive, relatively disposable clothing that is unlikely to stand up to repeated wearings.
  • The launch also comes at a time when Shein is under the microscope for its harsh labor practices. Workers at factories in China that supply clothes to Shein regularly work up to 18 hours a day with just one day off per month, per an undercover investigation from the UK’s Channel 4 and The i newspaper.

The big takeaway: There are signs that fast fashion’s environmental toll is turning off younger consumers who are increasingly attuned to sustainability issues. For example, Shein only has a 44% approval rating among Gen Z consumers, and an even worse 22% approval rating among all adults, per Morning Consult Brand Intelligence.

  • While a resale marketplace is an acknowledgement of fast fashion’s environmental impact, there’s little sign that Shein is seeking to address the broader issues that are endemic to its model.

Go further: For more resale insights, read our US Online Fashion Resale report.

This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Retail & Ecommerce Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the retail industry. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.