SHEIN X young designers program

The past year was a good time to be an online-only, fast-fashion company, and for further success in 2021, Shein is now looking to expand its offering through collaborations with young designers.

Through a new program dubbed Shein X, the China-based company, started more than a decade ago by Chris Xu, will be offering trendy apparel and accessories from those emerging in design. Shein will be taking care of manufacturing, taking place in China, marketing and retailing for all of the designs, with the creators getting a percentage of profits from sales while getting to keep ultimate ownership of the designs.

“It’s tough for emerging designers to break through and get noticed, mainly because they lack resources,” said Molly Miao, Shein’s chief marketing officer.

Partnerships with designers start at three months but can be extended, she said. The first crop of seven designers included in the program launching this month are Freak City L.A., which mainly offers apparel; Anglero, which sells a “dream hoodie”; Brianna Shae, who designs women’s wear; Nora Ink, an Los Angeles-based tattoo artist; David Mendez Alonso, an artist and designer based in Barcelona; Louise Yan, another tattoo artist, and Sveta, a fashion illustrator.

In selecting the inaugural group, Miao said the company looked internationally for creatives offering “fresh, unique and fun designs.” Most of the designers selected have websites showing designs that are very colorful and streetwear inspired.

But going forward, Shein will be accepting applications for the program. The company is looking to launch a capsule with about seven designers a month for the foreseeable future, Miao said. That may sound like quite a pace of new items to put out, but Shein has frequently said in public statements that it adds around 500 new items to its site daily. Such volume has led to issues with certain products, like a necklace featuring a swastika and decorative rugs made to look like Islamic prayer mats, which the company was forced to publicly apologize for. 

But Justin Romero and Valerie Campbell, founders of Freak City, said in a joint statement they’re “looking forward to a future of inclusion and collaboration” with Shein. “This is an extraordinary step in bridging the gap between mega e-comm and independent designers,” they added.

And Shein is gaining significant ground, at the very least, in the realm of “mega e-comm.” The company’s offerings have become popular with the younger set, ranking as American teens’ favorite site behind only Amazon, according to a fall survey from investment bank Piper Sandler. And the company now has just under 17 million followers on its main Instagram page, one loaded with reposts of social media influencers wearing its products.

In terms of revenue, Shein is privately held and Miao declined to discuss that aspect of the business. But South China Morning Post reported last year that the company’s 2019 revenue came in at $2.8 billion, citing a WeChat post from the company.

However, Miao said Shein “had a great 2020” and that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic “didn’t impact our sales,” adding “we continue to grow.” Although what people purchased shifted dramatically from things like sweater vests and straight leg pants to “cozy” essentials and athleisure wear.

Being at a generally affordable fast-fashion price point surely helped Shein remain steady last year, but Miao admitted the company is “predicting everyone in 2021 will be more conservative with their spending.”

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