A wave of discontent has swept across the student body of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), leading to the creation of a Change.org petition. The bone of contention is FIDM’s partnership with SHEIN, a global e-retailer of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle products.
The petition calls for an end to this alliance, citing SHEIN’s reputation as a significant contributor to fast fashion pollution and its alleged human rights violations. SHEIN, a Chinese company that launched in 2008, has grown exponentially over the years, becoming the largest online-only retailer globally by 2021.
“All students at Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) and anyone in the fashion industry should be appalled at FIDM’s partnership with SHEIN, the largest fast fashion company on the planet. SHEIN overproduces cheap disposable clothing and has been accused of shocking human rights violations in sweatshops,” says Lexy Silverstein in a statement.
“By signing this petition, you are asking FIDM to end their partnership with SHEIN and to partner with a sustainable fashion brand for scholarships to help students learn about the future of sustainable fashion.”
The company’s business model revolves around mass-producing clothes and selling them at low prices, a practice known as fast fashion. This approach has raised concerns about its environmental impact, as it requires substantial resources such as water, energy, and raw materials like cotton and synthetic fibers. The extraction and production processes associated with these resources contribute to pollution, deforestation, depletion of natural resources, and climate change.
The company’s practices have also been criticized for their human rights implications. Reports have revealed that SHEIN garment workers in Chinese factories work grueling 75-hour shifts in unsafe workshops that lack basic safety protocols. Furthermore, the company has been accused multiple times of stealing designs from independent artists and designers.
Despite these controversies, SHEIN announced a partnership with FIDM in May 2023, launching a new scholarship program and curriculum called SHEIN X Project Launchpad. Through this initiative, 12 students were selected to each receive a $40,000 scholarship provided by SHEIN. They were also given the opportunity to create a 5-10-piece collection to be sold on SHEIN’s platform as part of the company’s designer incubator program, SHEIN X.
“FIDM students are upset about this partnership because it suggests FIDM condones SHEIN’s polluting practices and shocking human rights violations. Reports have exposed that SHEIN garment workers in Chinese factories work 75-hour shifts, in unsafe workshops that lack basic safety protocols like windows and emergency exits.” said Lexy Silverstein in a statement.
“FIDM teaches courses on sustainability in fashion and then partners with one of the greatest fast fashion offenders? That makes no sense. How can any college or university teaching students about the future of fashion work with a company that is so negatively impacting our future?”
The petition urges FIDM to sever ties with SHEIN and instead partner with a sustainable fashion brand for scholarships. This move, they argue, would better align with FIDM’s mission of preparing students for the future of fashion and promoting a more sustainable and ethical industry. In addition, this week SHEIN has been hit with a lawsuit on RICO violations. As of July 14, 2023, the petition has 417 signatures, reflecting a concern about the environmental and social impacts of fast fashion. It remains to be seen how FIDM will respond to this call for action.