All I wanted from Shein Exchange was a plain black skirt. It was a simple enough desire, I thought, as I swiped around the fast-fashion giant’s newly launched resale platform. Scrolling through the offerings, I was bombarded with used neon crop tops, bedazzled pants and denim skirts—but my basic wardrobe staple was nowhere to be found.
When it was unveiled in October, Shein Exchange offered its young, cost-conscious customers the chance to resell their previously bought Shein items directly to other consumers via the e-retailer’s app. On its face, the marketplace seemed like a good idea, given the ongoing controversies over the wastefulness of Shein’s cheap, disposable, landfill-clogging fast fashion. But there was something off about the brand’s resale site, I soon discovered. And it wasn’t just the missing black skirt.
Launched this fall as part of a push to counter criticism about Shein’s environmental record, the resale marketplace had plenty of wind at its back. Shein, after all, has experienced enormous global growth this year, generating an expected $24 billion in sales and capturing a $100 billion valuation in April from General Atlantic, Tiger Global Management and Sequoia Capital China. The craze surrounding the company shows no sign of abating—the #shein tag on TikTok has netted over 44 billion views, and a Shein pop-up shop in Plano, Texas, drew a 700-person line this September. The store had to close four hours early due to low stock.