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The backstory: If you’re someone who’s always on the lookout for a good online deal for women’s clothes, chances are, you’ve come across Shein. Founded in China in 2008, the fast fashion brand has skyrocketed in sales and popularity, so much so that, in 2021, it overtook Amazon in the US on the Apple App Store and the Android store for the first time. Then, late last year, the e-commerce giant submitted an application to regulators in the US for an initial public offering (IPO) this year, with the company saying that it was hoping for a valuation of up to US$90 billion.
Raking in billions of dollars in sales and shipping millions of packages out every single day, the brand is everywhere on social media, pushing its name even more by partnering with the likes of celebrities like Katy Perry and securing sponsorship deals with influencers like Addison Rae. According to web tracking platforms, it’s also the most visited fashion and apparel website in the world.
Cheap and fast, you could get your whole outfit from this platform, including the shoes, for US$30. Specifically, a recent report by Business of Fashion said that a Zara item on average costs US$34 and H&M’s average is US$26, but at Shein it’s US$14. On top of that, the company produces a whopping 2,000 to 10,000 items every day, which compares to Zara at an average of 20, and Boohoo at 50.
More recently: Shein’s rise has been controversial. Last year, numerous lawsuits had been filed against the fashion behemoth in the US alone, with plaintiffs citing intellectual property (IP) violations, a common theme for the past few years. For example, last year, H&M sued Shein in Hong Kong for copyright infringement. Some lawyers also say that Shein's way of doing business involves stealing ideas from designers as a core part of its strategy, which it then resolves by offering a small amount of money to the impacted designers.
The development: You know those shoulder bags from Uniqlo that are hugely popular? Well, they’re one of the brand’s best-selling items, with fashion trend-spotting sites calling it one of the hottest crossbody bags of 2023. But now, Fast Retailing (the parent company of Uniqlo) has filed a lawsuit against Shein in Japan, saying that it copied its Round Mini Shoulder Bag and asking for compensation for the damage caused. Fast Retailing’s stance is that the copycat bag "significantly undermines the high level of customer confidence in the quality of the Uniqlo brand and its products."
“The UNIQLO brand … filed this complaint because it has determined that the form of the imitation products sold by SHEIN closely resembles that of its own product, and that the sale of the imitation products by SHEIN significantly undermines the high level of customer confidence in the quality of the UNIQLO brand and its products,” wrote Fast Retailing, operator of Uniqlo, in a statement.
Shein hasn’t yet commented on the lawsuit.