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NEW YORK – Chinese fast fashion brand Shein has claimed it is not a fast fashion business. The eyebrow-raising claim was made by Peter Pernot-Day, global head of strategy and corporate affairs at Shein, who was speaking at the Sourcing Journal’s Summit in New York. The executive was in conversation with Jessica Binns, managing editor and technology editor or the Sourcing Journal.

“I often take issue with the designation,” said Pernot-Day. “We’re much more of a test-and-learn model that I think is somewhat unique and innovative in the broader space.”

When we last checked in mid-2022, Shein was dropping almost 10,000 new lines a day on its website. We checked again in November 2023 and the website appears to have removed the ability to check new products by volume. This is perhaps in response to critiques of its business model.

Shein has previously claimed to be a technology company. Its attempts to recalibrate its image are likely because it has half an eye on an Initial Public Offering (IPO) at some stage in the future. Bloomberg reported recently that Shein is seeking a US$90bn valuation.

However, some investors are getting increasingly cold feet about the fast fashion space due to its poor track record on sustainability issues. Regulators are also looking closely at the sector, particularly around issues such as greenwashing.

Shein is not the first fashion company to gaslight the industry over this issue. A decade ago, Swedish clothing giant H&M claimed it was, “not a fast fashion company.” The claim came during an interview with the trade press in which H&M defended its business model, citing the long planning that goes into each of its clothing ranges.

This seemed an unusual position to take at the time and left the company open to ridicule, which was duly forthcoming. H&M; along with Zara, pretty much invented the fast fashion model.

Pernot-Day. also touched on the issue of consumption at the summit. He said: “I don’t know that overconsumption itself is something that should necessarily be prohibited,” after being asked if Shein’s low prices are fuelling impulse buys.

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