The French have a bone to pick with SHEIN, the fast fashion giant best known for selling abominably cheap clothing (and on occasion, melting shoes). In late April, a petition to ban the retailer in France began circulating online — and now, it boasts over 100,000 signatures.

Launched by an anonymous individual (or individuals), the petition cites SHEIN’s unsustainable business model and track record of exploiting its factory workers as reasons the brand should be banned.

“Its production methods and the disposable nature of its clothes are a threat to the environment, made possible by a system of human exploitation,” the petition reads, adding that SHEIN’s unbelievably low prices merit a review by France’s Commercial Code, which regulates the country’s anti-competition laws.

The petition also cites a Greenpeace report that found “hazardous chemicals that break EU regulatory limits,” such as phthalates and formaldehyde, in seven out of 47 SHEIN products it tested.

In May, the mega-retailer — founded by Chris Xu in 2008 — opened a pop-up shop in Paris’ Marais neighborhood. The three-day event came just two months after the brand, which initially operated on a DTC model, ventured to Lyon to unveil a similar retail experience. In 2022, it set up shop in Toulouse and Montpellier.

Upon reaching one million signatures, the petition aims to trigger a citizens’ initiative referendum to requesting that France prohibit SHEIN from opening permanent and temporary physical retail locations in the country, as well as ban French citizens from accessing its e-commerce site.

At the time of publishing, the page amassed 109,119 signatures — an impressive figure, but a long way from one million.

While SHEIN’s environmental impact and labor practices are certainly worth casting a critical eye on, it’s worth noting that luxury brands aren’t necessarily more sustainable or ethical. “The opposite of fast fashion is sustainable fashion,” fashion writer Cora Harrington told Business of Fashion in February. “[But] the opposite of exploitative fashion is not luxury.”


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