Fashion retailer Shein has shot up in popularity over the last few years; I myself have shopped with them many times before and have always loved the affordability, cute prints and good quality items. But I and many others will not shop with them again until they take a hard look at their approach to other cultures.
The brand has recently received a lot of criticism after shoppers discovered they were selling a necklace with a charm resembling the Swastika symbol. The brand responded by claiming the necklace represented spirituality and divinity, drawing on the origins of the Swastika symbol in the Hindu and Buddhist religions. Though the brand claims they were not trying to cause any offence by selling the product, their apology, frankly, falls short. Customers are asking why they are selling this religious symbol for-profit, accusing Shein of cultural appropriation.
As a Jewish person, I would personally never feel comfortable buying from them again; not only because I cannot believe they sold a necklace bearing a symbol that brought such pain upon my ancestors, but also because of the way Shein does not seem to care about various other cultures. The brand has been accused of selling Muslim prayer mats described as “decorative” – just another example of the brand not understanding how members of different communities might be offended and hurt by their appropriating of such items. Members of the Muslim community have attacked the brand for making their culture a selling point and exploiting it.
Shein has tried to apologise, but in 2020 their actions simply aren’t good enough. In so many areas of life we are trying hard to create an accepting and understanding society that celebrates diversity, and Shein’s actions feel like a step backwards. What is even worse is that these products passed a quality check and were sold online. If people had not noticed, reported the issue, and criticised the brand, these offensive products would still be being sold today.
Many influencers, Tik-Tokkers and YouTubers are still supporting the brand, I hope because they are yet to read about Shein and their lack of respect towards other cultures. Maybe this is a lesson that we – but especially influencers with a platform to use – need to do more research about the brands we are buying from, ensuring we support companies that promote more positive messages.