Considered by some to be the unacceptable face of fast fashion, the Chinese behemoth Shein is about to test its acceptability on Wall Street, said The Economist.
Its forthcoming float could be "one of the biggest New York listings in years". There's a lot at stake. The company, founded by Chris Xu (aka Sky Xu), was valued at $66bn in May (down by a third on a year ago), but it "will probably aim for a higher valuation" of $80-90bn – testing an IPO market "dampened by soaring inflation and high interest rates". Although Shein shifted its HQ to Singapore in 2021, the move is also a marker of broader Sino-US relations.
In little more than a decade, Shein has "disrupted the clothing industry with its on-trend $5 skirts and $9 jeans" to become "one of the largest fashion brands in the world", said Corrie Driebusch and Shen Lu in The Wall Street Journal.
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Having notched up "hundreds of millions of shoppers" – particularly in its largest market, the US – the online juggernaut pulled in record revenues of $23bn in 2022. Shein doesn't sell in China, but it has come "under intensifying scrutiny from Washington" over its supply chain there, with US lawmakers pressing the company over whether it sources cotton using forced Uyghur labour in the Xinjiang region, which it denies.
Those aren't the only complaints, said Helen Davidson in The Guardian. Shein has also been attacked for "alleged copyright infringement on independent artists' designs", its environmental impact, and for "building empires" by using loopholes to dodge taxes. "The No. 1 question for us is: are we adversaries or partners?" observed President Xi Jinping at an investment conference during his US visit in mid-November. Despite its attempts to internationalise, Shein may be a litmus test.
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