Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Sustainability advocate raises alarm as fast-fashion giant Shein set to open pop-up shop in Vancouver | CBC News

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Controversial online retailer Shein is set to open a temporary brick-and-mortar shop in downtown Vancouver for four days in April.

Signage at 804 Granville St., a storefront that has been mostly vacant for years, says the company will have a pop-up shop at the location April 11-14. 

The fast-fashion giant — a Chinese company based in Singapore — operates in a similar way to Amazon Marketplace, selling clothing, accessories, appliances and more from third-party vendors.

Shein, a fast fashion clothing company, is pictured prior to their pop-up store opening later this month near Granville and Robson streets in Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The company has seen its popularity explode on social media for its inexpensive prices and huge range of options — but the brand has also made headlines for its environmental impact and harsh working conditions

A CBC Marketplace investigation found high levels of chemicals in Shein clothing, including a jacket for toddlers with almost 20 times the amount of lead that Health Canada says is safe for children. 

WATCH | Undercover footage of conditions at Shein suppliers: 

Undercover footage reveals harsh working conditions at two Shein suppliers | Inside the Shein Machine

An undercover investigation reveals the very long working hours at clothing manufacturers that supply online retailer Shein. From docking pay for mistakes, to withholding pay, this undercover reporter poses as a worker to discover if if the rumours were true. Watch Inside the Shein Machine on CBC Gem.

Sara Blenkhorn, who works with B.C. companies to improve their social and environmental impact, says fast-fashion companies like Shein design low-quality clothing that are often worn a few times and end up in landfill. 

“I feel appalled … why would you come to Vancouver?” said Blenkhorn, the CEO and founder of sustainability consultant Leverage Lab. 

“I would be stunned if this pop-up Shein market is successful.” 

According to research by Leverage Lab, 22,000 tonnes of apparel is sent to landfill in the Greater Vancouver area every year — 95 per cent of which is repairable, reusable or recyclable.

In addition to its negative environmental impact, Blenkhorn says the company has a “horrible” record of treating its workers, providing poor working conditions and low pay. 

When consumers shop at multinational companies like Shein, it takes money away from local brands, she adds. 

“I believe that as conscious consumers in Vancouver, we will … show them that there’s no interest here,” said Blenkhorn. 

“We get a vote every time we spend our money and that we should be thinking about supporting companies that are local to keep the dollars circulating locally.”

WATCH | Shein pop-up in Montreal:

Montrealers line up for Shein retail pop-up

People lined up Thursday for a retail pop-up hosted by Shein in Montreal. The company’s popularity has exploded among young shoppers on social media for its $3 tops and $5 dresses.

CBC News has contacted Shein Canada for comment. 

The company opened pop-up shops last year in Montreal, Toronto and Mississauga, Ont.

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