How the Industrial Revolution lead to your Shein Haul

How the Industrial Revolution lead to your Shein Haul

It’s no secret that the society we live in is completely run by capitalism. You can’t open TikTok without seeing a £500 Shien haul of cheap clothing that will likely be worn a handful of times if at all, before ending up in a landfill. But how did we go from purchasing our garments handmade with lavish fabrics over several months in the 18th century, to the estimated 92 million tones of textiles dumped in landfills every year of the 21st century?

let’s start with a bit of backstory on the 18th century “good old days.” Well… good if you were rich, if you read last weeks blog you’ll already know a bit about Sociologist Thornstien Veblen’s theory of the leisure class, but if you missed it it’s basically the theory that bored rich people of the 19th century decided to start throwing extravagant parties to fill their time and buying more and more extravagant garments to wear to these parties, made by the workers of the factories they likely owned that we’re becoming more and more common in western countries meaning clothing was becoming more and more accessible. Despite the obvious exploitation and terrible work conditions we all associate with 19th century factory workers (that unfortunately haven’t improved all too much with the average Shein worker making just 3 pence per garment and averaging 18 hour days with many of their clothing containing lead????) the fashion game in the late 19th century was booming, leading to the era becoming known as the gilded age, due to its rapid economical growth. 

“It isn’t the man who does the work that makes the money. It’s the man who gets other men to do it” sounds like something you’d read on one of those ‘Alpha Male’ Jordan Belford wannabes motivational instagram accounts right? Well it’s actually a quote from Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest people of the 19th century proving despite it having such a fancy name and even a met gala themed after it the gilded age is shockingly similar to the society we are currently buying our Balenziaga bags in today. however unlike the 19th century we as a chronically online generation, have the resources to understand the terrible conditions much of our clothing is made in and the consequences overconsumption has yet we continue to add items to our basket the second we get a discount code, but why?

Now more than ever young people are exposed to such a large amount of media at such a young age and one of the consequences of this is feeling an increased amount of pressure to conform with the current fashion trends their favourite influencers are adorning and with our need to constantly be ahead of the curve and unique this has created a scary phenomenon of the ‘Micro Trend’ what was once “oh that’s so last season” is now “oh that’s so last week” a great example is that pair of patchwork jeans you probably have deep in your wardrobe gathering dust, we all went absolutely wild for them in January with searches being over 22,200 then when we stopped seeing them on Pinterest and starting seeing those hibiscus dresses that we had when we were 8 start making a comeback searches for patchwork jeans dropped to 5,400 and stayed there meanwhile searches for ‘hibiscus print’ rose from 30 in January to 590 in June then back down to 90 just 3 months later. So in order to keep up with these trends without bankrupting ourselves we’re having to find the absolute cheapest option possible. This is how conglomerates such as Shein who is now the worlds largest fashion retailer are able to make their millions, or in this case 100billion valuation as of 2022 since it’s start in 2015 and with the agarage selling price being just a fiver and an estimated 6,000 SKUs of products produced every single day Shein can definitely keep up.

I bet Andrew Carnegie would bloody love it.

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