The Zara Vs Shein Row Is A Fast Fashion Race To The Bottom

What does it say about our shopping habits if fast fashion brands are copying each other?
The Zara Vs Shein hashtag is taking over TikTok.
The Zara Vs Shein hashtag is taking over TikTok.

Fast fashion brand Shein has found itself accused of duplicating designs from the popular high street clothes chain Zara.

Users on TikTok particularly have pointed out the similarities between dozens of designs from both brands, with #ZaravsShein reaching 34.6 million views and #ZaraDupe hitting 40 million.

This isn’t the first time Shein has been called out for copying designs. Brands such as Levi Strauss, AirWair International (producer of Dr Marten boots) and Ralph Lauren have already taken legal action against the brand over alleged copyright infringement.

In the past, Zara has separately been accused by independent designers of copying designs, leading to the company confirming some items had been taken off shelves.


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In response to the latest comparisons, a Shein spokesperson told the Guardian: “Shein suppliers are required to comply with the company’s code of conduct and certify their products do not infringe on third-party IP.”

HuffPost UK has also contacted the brand for comment.

The items in question have received mixed reviews on TikTok. While some shoppers are raving about their bargain buys, others are warning that fast fashion will “destroy the planet”. As one TikTokker points out, Zara is still considered a fast fashion brand, despite its higher price point to Shein.

Zara is part of the Inditex Group, whose brands include Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius and Oysho. As the sustainable fashion index Good On You highlights, Zara’s business model is based on an incredibly high turnover of the latest fashion items.

So what does it say about fast fashion if brands are borrowing designs from each other?

Michaela Leitz, a 28-year old fashion stylist and influencer from Germany, thinks copycat fashion fundamentally diminishes a brand’s identity and creativity.

“Shein is known for creating 700 to 1000 new designs a day. It’s not a creative process – you can’t even do that if you have a huge team of designers,” she tells HuffPost UK.

“And because they’re producing at that rate the clothes are usually bad quality. So after two or three washes your clothes are already falling part, which is destroying our planet because the clothes aren’t decaying.”

Shein is known for its cheap price point, which is why the brand has such a huge appeal to young people. So much so, the company’s revenue has quadrupled since 2019, according to the Business of Fashion website, with sales rising from $15.7bn (£12.1bn) to a huge $100bn.

But even though Zara has pricier items, its retail model tells a different story.

“Zara produces 52 sub-seasons a year whereas high quality designer brands have two main seasons a year, so it’s still a fast fashion brand,” Leitz says. That’s despite the fact, she adds, that “you’re able to go into a Zara store and see the designs [and] it feels more luxurious than Shein.”

When fast fashion brands start stocking similar designs, Leitz says it feeds into “micro trends” – which are bad news for the planet and your fashion sense.

Micro trends are when a fashion item or aesthetic become really popular quickly, but goes out of style equally quickly,. While macro trends can last from five to 10 years, micro trends can last as little as three – or an even shorter timeframe.

“Micro trends don’t allow you to have your own signature style,” says Leitz. “As a consumer you just keep buying all these clothes that you won’t wear again. Which is of course really bad for the environment.”

For Leitz, the Zara vs Shein hashtag highlights how fashion is losing its meaning. “Fashion is self-expression for clothing, it’s storytelling and showing who you are. These brands aren’t original in my opinion,” she says.

Leitz believes fast fashion dupes take away from creativity and individualism. “We’re seeing brands creating 700 designs today. There’s no innovation, so where does fashion go from here if brands are just copying each other?”

However, boycotting fast fashion brands is harder said than done. If you’re someone on a low income it can be challenging to shop sustainably, and for some people, there are added barriers.

“I specialise in plus-size fashion so I know how hard it is find clothes and understand that not everyone can afford the expensive price points,” Leitz says.

“When I was in my early 20s I also didn’t have the funds to shop at expensive brands but I recommend trying to shop vintage. Or save up some money and buy fewer items that you can rewear. That way you can create your own signature style that you can have for years.”