US Social Media ‘Influencers’ Under Fire Over Free Trip to Fast-Fashion Giant Shein’s China Factory

A group of American fashion influencers has come under fire for attending a fully paid trip to tour one of fast-fashion giant Shein’s factories based in Guangzhou, China. The influencers—Dani Carbonari, Destene Sudduth, Aujené, Fernanda Stephany Campuzano, Kenya Freeman, and Marina Saavedra—were flown out to China as part of a tour sponsored by Shein in June, according to multiple social media posts. The clothing giant, which has repeatedly faced scrutiny over its alleged connection to human rights abuses, unethical labor practices, and claims that it has stolen designs, referred to the influencers as “partners” and “designers” in one social media post. According to videos shared on Twitter and Instagram by both the company and the influencers, the women were able to see how Shein products are designed, made, and packaged when they visited the factory. In one video, Carbonari, who describes herself as a “confidence activist,” said that she is surprised to find that the factory is “less human run” and more about “technology and automation.” “Now I can go home, feeling reassured and feeling confident in my partnership with Shein, working for Shein and being a consumer of Shein, and I feel comfortable spreading that message to my community and to my family and friends,” she said. In the same video, Sudduth said that she enjoyed visiting the factory and having a “real” experience. “It wasn’t like we just got pictures and videos of these warehouses or facilities, we were actually there,” she said. In another video, shared by Carbonari on her personal Instagram account, which has since been deleted, she said she sees herself as an “investigative journalist” and that she spoke with a Shein factory worker who claimed to be “surprised by all the rumors that had been spread in the U.S.” According to Carbonari, the factory worker told her “honestly and authentically” about “her family, her lifestyle, her commute, her hours.” “I think my biggest takeaway from this trip is to be an independent thinker, get the facts, and see it with your own two eyes. There’s a narrative fed to us in the U.S.,” she said, adding that the trip had been in part to “seek the truth.” A worker makes clothes at a garment factory that supplies SHEIN, a cross-border fast-fashion e-commerce company in Guangzhou, in China’s southern Guangdong Province, on July 18, 2022. (Jade Gao/AFP via Getty Images) ‘Propaganda’ “I expected the facility to be so filled with people just slaving away, but I was actually pleasantly surprised that most of these things were robotic,” Sudduth said in another video posted to TikTok. “Honestly, everyone was just working like normal, like chill, sitting down, they weren’t even sweating.” She added that most of the Shein employees had told her they worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and only had to commute “10 to 15 minutes” to work every day “just like normal.” Other influencers insisted in various videos that the factory employees were earning a decent wage for their work and outright denied reports of child labor and inhumane conditions. Further videos show some of the influencers appearing to fly to China in business class for the trip and enjoying buffet-style dinners before being greeted at the airport by Shein representatives with flowers and other gifts. Another post by Campuzano shows her staying in the Four Seasons hotel in Guangzhou and enjoying massages and a 10-course meal. The group has been facing backlash on social media over the fully paid-for trip, which some described as Chinese “propaganda.” Singapore-based Shein made $24 billion in 2022, thanks in part to its low-priced items that have surged in popularity as fashion-conscious consumers are tightening their belts amid increased inflation. However, the fashion giant has also faced increased scrutiny following a 2022 undercover documentary by the UK’s Channel 4 that found factory employees working up to 18 hours a day with just one day off every month and earning next to nothing. A prior report published in 2021 by Public Eye found that some Shein workers in Guangzhou were working in “informal” workshops with no emergency exits and with barred windows and that others were working 75-hour work weeks with one day off a month, in violation of Shein’s Supplier Code of Conduct and Chinese labor law, which explicitly prohibits work weeks of more than 44 hours. The signage of cross-border fast-fashion e-commerce company Shein at a garment factory in Guangzhou, in China’s southern Guangdong Province, on July 18, 2022. (Jade Gao/AFP via Getty Images) Forced Labor, Copyright Lawsuits Child worker and forced labor rumors have also plagued the company, which serves customers in the United States, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East, and it has also been hit with multiple copyright lawsuits, including from fellow fashion house Levi Strauss. The company has repeatedly denied the various accusations. Following the backlash, one of the influence

US Social Media ‘Influencers’ Under Fire Over Free Trip to Fast-Fashion Giant Shein’s China Factory

A group of American fashion influencers has come under fire for attending a fully paid trip to tour one of fast-fashion giant Shein’s factories based in Guangzhou, China.

The influencers—Dani Carbonari, Destene Sudduth, Aujené, Fernanda Stephany Campuzano, Kenya Freeman, and Marina Saavedra—were flown out to China as part of a tour sponsored by Shein in June, according to multiple social media posts.

The clothing giant, which has repeatedly faced scrutiny over its alleged connection to human rights abuses, unethical labor practices, and claims that it has stolen designs, referred to the influencers as “partners” and “designers” in one social media post.

According to videos shared on Twitter and Instagram by both the company and the influencers, the women were able to see how Shein products are designed, made, and packaged when they visited the factory.

In one video, Carbonari, who describes herself as a “confidence activist,” said that she is surprised to find that the factory is “less human run” and more about “technology and automation.”

“Now I can go home, feeling reassured and feeling confident in my partnership with Shein, working for Shein and being a consumer of Shein, and I feel comfortable spreading that message to my community and to my family and friends,” she said.

In the same video, Sudduth said that she enjoyed visiting the factory and having a “real” experience. “It wasn’t like we just got pictures and videos of these warehouses or facilities, we were actually there,” she said.

In another video, shared by Carbonari on her personal Instagram account, which has since been deleted, she said she sees herself as an “investigative journalist” and that she spoke with a Shein factory worker who claimed to be “surprised by all the rumors that had been spread in the U.S.”

According to Carbonari, the factory worker told her “honestly and authentically” about “her family, her lifestyle, her commute, her hours.”

“I think my biggest takeaway from this trip is to be an independent thinker, get the facts, and see it with your own two eyes. There’s a narrative fed to us in the U.S.,” she said, adding that the trip had been in part to “seek the truth.”

Shein Garment Factory
A worker makes clothes at a garment factory that supplies SHEIN, a cross-border fast-fashion e-commerce company in Guangzhou, in China’s southern Guangdong Province, on July 18, 2022. (Jade Gao/AFP via Getty Images)

‘Propaganda’

“I expected the facility to be so filled with people just slaving away, but I was actually pleasantly surprised that most of these things were robotic,” Sudduth said in another video posted to TikTok. “Honestly, everyone was just working like normal, like chill, sitting down, they weren’t even sweating.”

She added that most of the Shein employees had told her they worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and only had to commute “10 to 15 minutes” to work every day “just like normal.”

Other influencers insisted in various videos that the factory employees were earning a decent wage for their work and outright denied reports of child labor and inhumane conditions.

Further videos show some of the influencers appearing to fly to China in business class for the trip and enjoying buffet-style dinners before being greeted at the airport by Shein representatives with flowers and other gifts.

Another post by Campuzano shows her staying in the Four Seasons hotel in Guangzhou and enjoying massages and a 10-course meal.

The group has been facing backlash on social media over the fully paid-for trip, which some described as Chinese “propaganda.”

Singapore-based Shein made $24 billion in 2022, thanks in part to its low-priced items that have surged in popularity as fashion-conscious consumers are tightening their belts amid increased inflation.

However, the fashion giant has also faced increased scrutiny following a 2022 undercover documentary by the UK’s Channel 4 that found factory employees working up to 18 hours a day with just one day off every month and earning next to nothing.

A prior report published in 2021 by Public Eye found that some Shein workers in Guangzhou were working in “informal” workshops with no emergency exits and with barred windows and that others were working 75-hour work weeks with one day off a month, in violation of Shein’s Supplier Code of Conduct and Chinese labor law, which explicitly prohibits work weeks of more than 44 hours.

Shein Garment Factory
The signage of cross-border fast-fashion e-commerce company Shein at a garment factory in Guangzhou, in China’s southern Guangdong Province, on July 18, 2022. (Jade Gao/AFP via Getty Images)

Forced Labor, Copyright Lawsuits

Child worker and forced labor rumors have also plagued the company, which serves customers in the United States, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East, and it has also been hit with multiple copyright lawsuits, including from fellow fashion house Levi Strauss.

The company has repeatedly denied the various accusations.

Following the backlash, one of the influencers, Freeman, told CNN that she has received an “unprecedented” amount of criticism online, which she said has affected her mental health.

“I couldn’t even go on to Instagram yesterday,” the Atlanta-based designer said, adding that she isn’t responsible for Shein’s actions.

Carbonari, meanwhile, posted a 12-minute video acknowledging she “should have done more research” before accepting the free trip.

“[Shein] brought this China trip to my attention, and they’re like, ‘You know, we’re aware of all these rumors and all this stuff that’s going on, and we want to put an end to it,'” Carbonari said in the video.

“This whole experience has caused me to reevaluate myself, my brand, and to fight even harder for sustainable options for plus-size people, and to just be so much more particular with who I’m working with.”

In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for Shein claimed that the social media videos posted online by the influencers were genuine and authentic.

“Shein is committed to transparency, and this trip reflects one way in which we are listening to feedback, providing an opportunity to show a group of influencers how Shein works through a visit to our innovation center and enabling them to share their own insights with their followers,” the spokesperson said.

The Epoch Times contacted Shein for further comment but had received none as of press time.