Chinese fast-fashion app Shein and American fashion chain Forever 21 have entered into a remarkable strategic partnership. A win-win for the companies involved, but not necessarily for the fashion industry or the planet, critics say.
Shein will take a one-third stake in Sparc Group, which owns Forever 21 since the fashion chain’s relaunch in 2020. In turn, Sparc Group will also become a minority shareholder in Shein. The companies plan to work closely together to expand their reach in the fashion market – with a first test in the United States, American media report.
Specifically, Shein will start using Forever 21’s physical stores as hubs for delivering and taking back online orders. The Chinese app will also open shop-in-shop departments in the fast-fashion chain’s stores. In turn, Forever 21’s collections will become available in the app: a clear win for both partners.
Shein did previously sell some third-party brands – including Skechers – and experimented with physical pop-up stores, but this deal seems to herald a new phase in the conquest of the Chinese fashion app, which now claims to have 150 million users worldwide. The online player will soon have access to more than 400 physical stores in the US, mainly located in popular shopping malls.
Both fashion players target a similar audience of young and price-conscious fashion shoppers. Together, they could potentially drive down prices even further. That is why observers are also critical of this deal, as fast-fashion has a huge impact on the environment: Shein releases as many as 1,000 new pieces every day, which also creates an inevitable mountain of waste. The ultra-cheap clothes are often produced in questionable working conditions. Moreover, the Chinese app is embroiled in a series of copyright lawsuits.