Ultra-fast fashion in the sights of French MPs

Ultra-fast fashion in the sights of French MPs

Polluting and not very careful about production conditions, “ultra-fast fashion”, often from China, floods the market with very low-cost clothing. A sector soon to be regulated?

Now I can go home reassured and confident about my partnership. The cry from the heart is unanimous among the six American influencers, invited in June 2023 by Shein. Everyone was convinced by the visit organized to a factory of the Chinese brand in Canton, almost 2,000 km from Beijing. Accused of being an environmental danger and a place of mistreatment of workers, this spearhead of “ultra-fast fashion” – ultra-fast fashion in French – valued at 66 billion dollars, is under fire from critics. To make us forget its model based on aggressive marketing with 7,000 new references offered every day, Shein is betting big on this communication campaign. But the indignation aroused by the publication of these promotional videos quickly brought the influencers down from their little cloud. And for good reason: it’s hard to believe that everything is going well within this very low-cost clothing giant. A year earlier, the British channel Channel 4 had revealed the underside of this new textile empire: employees forced to work up to eighteen hours a day for a salary of two to three cents per piece made.

The image of Shein, which refutes the criticism, may be lackluster, but resisting the temptation of a 10-euro sweater is not always easy. “When we are young, we are often conditioned by a need to change clothes often,” admits Marie, 23 years old. I realize that these products are of poor quality, but even if they wear out quickly, given their price, it is not so serious, because I can have a lot of them. » The young woman promises that today she shops less at Shein than during her high school years, which did not prevent her from ordering earrings three weeks ago for only 1 .30 euros. “It’s a simple model that I can find in other stores, but if I buy it at Zara, it’s 15 euros,” assures the student. Like many young women, she discovered the brand on social networks via “hauls”, a popular practice among influencers who share by video with their subscribers their latest finds purchased or received by package.

A bonus-malus system

Faced with this surge, French deputies decided to react. A world first. A bill from the Horizons group, affiliated with the presidential majority, was voted on at first reading on March 14 in the National Assembly. It provides for a ban on advertising and a penalty of up to 50% of the price. Antoine Vermorel-Marques, deputy for Les Républicains de la Loire, defends another proposal. But “the two have in common the idea of ​​market regulation through a bonus-malus”, argues the elected official.

Because the defenders of this measure intend to redistribute money to good students in the sector. But above all it would make less virtuous products less attractive. “It’s difficult to get out of this mode of consumption, because the brands that were accessible yesterday have increased their prices, which is why many of us are turning to these inexpensive newcomers,” confirms Married. If the name Shein comes up when we talk about “ultra-fast fashion”, other firms like the Chinese company Temu are contributing to this underlying trend. Every year, disposable ready-to-wear brands sell 100 billion items of clothing worldwide.

Unfair competition

“This phenomenon of excessive consumption and unbridled production is not new, it is the scale of this practice that has changed,” explains Gildas Minvielle, director of the Economic Observatory of the French Fashion Institute. The Spanish brand Zara produces 500 new items per week, not even a tenth of what a player like Shein creates every day. » This specialist points out that in France, products ordered on foreign sites are not subject to a customs duty below a threshold of 150 euros. Unfair competition, since a French player like Kiabi will have to pay VAT.

This ruthless competition is causing victims in city centers where many stores have closed. “I come from a territory which has outsourced a large part of its production and now, even the marketing is leaving France,” laments MP Antoine Vermorel-Marques. We must act quickly, because “ultra-fast fashion” is growing exponentially. » Go Sport, Camaïeu, Kookaï, Pimkie, André, San Marina… The list of brands in the ready-to-wear sector placed in receivership or closed in France in recent months is growing. The success of ultra-fast fashion and, at the other end of the market, luxury raises the question: is there still a sustainable place for the mid-range?

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