Imagine you are at a conveyor belt restaurant, and in front of you is an endless train of food filled with delicious/eye-catching dishes. The urgency to make your plate tower higher and higher is undeniable, so you give in and grab those nice sushi rolls from the belt. Applying the same concept, the societal pressure of fitting into your surroundings and chasing the trends makes consumerism the endless conveyor belt of temptation, powered by microplastics and petroleum, operated by large oversea corporations, and run by overworked/underpaid sweatshop workers.
No matter which generation you are part of (Gen Z, Gen X, Millennial, etc.), you now have the ability to purchase things online. With that said, we see a repeated pattern of over-consumerism and the relentless culture of spending, but instead of physical stores, we now find ourselves on TikTok and Youtube. Amid this new era, a "star" was born, and its name is SHEIN (pronounced she-in), the ultra-fast fashion company. Even though the headquarters in China keep their identity entirely private, their marketing scheme has the whole buying generation in their hands. Have you ever come across an unpacking haul? If yes, then the algorithm has found you and is working hard to feed you inviting contents 1. And within the next 24 hours, your virtual shopping bag would be engorged with sales items, pushing their way into your life. Online retailers rely on patterns of 09personalization, optimism and recommendation engine to curate a unique algorithm per potential customer. With a new way of diverging their money from physical stores and staffing them, companies like Shein can invest more in predicting and targeting people via sponsored ads and haul video recommendations. A mixture of Tiktok and fashion is the ultimate recipe for overconsumption and fuel the hell hole that is… capitalism.According to UK Channel 4's documentary, The Shein Machine, the founder of Shein was not a fashion designer at all. He is a tech mogul who saw the future of consumption through his expertise in the comfort of one's home and through a screen 2. With no physical locations, Shein is technically everywhere and accessible to anyone with a working smart device. Moreover, ultra-fast fashion thrives on real-time retail, where all items are posted on Shein only hours after it has gone viral through Tiktok. Within this decade, clothes and food became more and more similar, where supplies are endless, cheap, and ultra-fast. The epitome of ultra-fast fashion coincides with micro trends 3. This term gives away the unsustainable outcome of what this means. Within the scope of microtrend, the clothes you buy are no longer fashionable; they are part of the public pressure based on the fear of missing out (FOMO).
Around 2021, Shein hauls became viral on all platforms, marking the brand's position above all the "traditional" fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara. These videos are sponsored by Shein, hoping their chosen army of influencers can bring in more sales from the initial 300 EUR haul video they invested in. The content creators now become the modern-day sales staff, and compared to the 1930s when salesmen needed to go door-to-door to pitch the product, the Internet reversed the equation and had the buyers coming towards the salesman instead. With their addictive algorithm, Internet retailers target our human imperfections as a marketing tool. They are also experts in orchestrating artificial joys of overconsumption, with owning the most outfit as the key to happiness and spending. On TikTok, Youtube, and Instagram, influencers sell their personality, consumers pay for the look, and in the end, the environment suffers.
Shein reverse-engineers how fast fashion operates by not making their products but waiting for orders to come in before making them. Initially, this tactic might sound effective and produce less waste, however, accounting for the cost of being ultra-fast, the person paying is not us (the consumers) but the workers making these items. There have been various reports on Shein for their unregulated and uncontracted relationship with garment factories in China, with each employee working 75 hours weekly. 10Moreover, they are paid per item of clothing they manage to make, thus, the actual cost that makes up for each item is fatigue, chemical exposure, and unbearable working conditions. Secrecy amongst the operation chain runs against the wellness of workers and profits off buyers, which ultimately runs in favor of the CEOs. The labor force of underpaid workers is the ones who spend the most for this industry, with their health, time, and life force. With that, we realize that in this chain, buyers consume clothes, and corporations consume their workers.
We encounter endless temptations the moment we wake up. The moving gears of capitalism feed the algorithms that work in our preference. As humans, our versatility helps us when we need to adapt and survive. Such an advantage turns us into malleable creatures deemed unpredictable by nature. However, at a certain point, e-commerce technology has taken over and decided which clothes we should wear to the movies we like and, ironically, who to hate and who to love. Microtrends subsidize the demands of ultra-fast retailers. As a result, our joyride expenditures are no longer controlled by us, but rather, they are controlled by the capitalistic venturing algorithm. There are no other ways to escape this "paradise" of consumerism, however, there is a way to co-exist. Your purchasing power is a significant deciding factor in ultra-fast fashion. In association with conscious consumerism, we might one day be able to sustain a life of more long-lasting items over short-lived ones. By creating your own identity, you automatically have an iron-clad immunity against the algorithmic prey of short-lived consumerism.