Well. It finally happened.
They stole my design.
SHEIN STOLE MY DESIGN.
I wish I could say “I can’t believe it!!!” but actually, I can. I’ve seen numerous videos and articles written about Shein straight up robbing independent designer’s designs, but guess what? As much as the comments may show sympathy and anger, it’s the dollar that speaks the loudest in the end.
Shein is now worth over $100 BILLION, which to give you some perspective, is more than Zara and H&M COMBINED.
Yes, I am angry that Shein stole my design (numb actually), but I am 100 billion times angrier that a business that runs on robbery is being supported and rewarded like this. What confuses me is that Gen Z, the generation that comes off as very ethically conscious, sustainability-focused, and authenticity oriented, is also the group that is fueling this monster’s rise. Women under 25 is the target demographic of Shein…and also happens to be part of my audience’s demographic as well.
There’s so much I have to say on this topic, but let’s start with the design theft.
Last night I was relaxing on the couch with Sam after dinner, and then he says “omg”. I turn quickly and say “what? WHAT???”
He’s silent for a sec and doesn’t want to show me his phone. But then I see a hint of some black skirt on his screen. I demand him to give his phone to me.
And there it was.
The moment I knew would one day come, but the moment I hadn’t actually prepared for.
In my hand stood this DM from a fan:
Shein stole my Pirouette Skort design!!! In that moment my heart paused. I didn’t know how to feel. Because…
1) I knew this would happen one day.
2) But then it ACTUALLY happened and I wasn’t ready.
3) On the other hand, I was thinking, is this some twisted rite of fashion designer passage? Like should I be flattered??? But it’s kinda hard to be when you were just robbed in broad daylight.
So how do I feel? I feel like the things that happen in my life, happen for a reason, and as painful as it is – it is now my duty to do something about it.
Now, back to the POPFLEX Pirouette Skort. I had originally designed this back in 2021. Sketch below.
Original tech pack dated October 14, 2021:
We ran into numerous issues sourcing the perfect mesh for this skirt. It took months to find a fabric that would flow with the lightness I needed, but would still give that ballerina’s tutu feel. Finally, over 10 months later, the Pirouette Skort was released.
On August 15, 2022, I posted a video of me explaining how I came up with the Pirouette Skort. I had no idea if you guys would love it or hate it (I had never seen a workout skort like this before but selfishly needed it for myself). To my surprise, it went crazy viral (26 million views on YouTube!?) and completely sold out in a matter of days!
After that wild response, I knew I would bring the Pirouette Skort back, but I wanted to make some improvements first – like removing the front seam to prevent camel toe, lengthening the back of the skirt a tad for more booty coverage, and removing the elastic from the top waistband to prevent pinching. Even though it seems simple, any change to a design will delay its production as we are VERY thorough in our prototyping process! You guys know how serious I am about quality and fit. I don’t take shortcuts!
A lot of customers were frustrated with the wait, but it’s because fast fashion giants like Shein, Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Boohoo, ASOS etc have completely ruined a consumer’s perception of how long it actually takes quality clothing to be made.
On January 5, 2023 (over 5 months later) I was able to release the Pirouette Skort again with all the improvements my heart desired! BTW the black and white ones will be restocked in about 1.5 weeks.
And then just a few weeks later on January 28, 2023 Shein released their version. Ready for this? Here we go.
POPFLEX’S ORIGINAL DESIGN VS SHEIN’S COPYCAT:
Wait hold on. Not only did they copy the pocket…they also copied THE ENTIRE STYLING OF THAT PHOTO!!!
And then because they are Shein, a company that thrives by manufacturing fashion in “real time” (aka they see what is trending on social media and they legit just send it straight to their factories to copy within days, max 1 week), they even took that extra calculated step to casted an Asian model to emulate me.
SHEIN COPYING MODELS TOO
I already know some people are gonna read this and say that I am reaching. But trust me and read on, Shein is smart and calculated with their moves. They know exactly what they are doing. Every decision is one that is driven by sales, and I guarantee you that they chose an Asian model so that once one of their ads pop up, people will subliminally associate the Shein skort with me modeling the Pirouette Skort in my viral video and boom – add to cart. It’s so obvious.
Still don’t believe me?
Other times Shein has blatantly copied independent designer’s designs and ALSO copied the model and the styling:
Check out designer Mariama Diallo’s tweet below:
Not only does the dress look the same, but the model is also black. Don’t think it’s a coincidence?
How about this one? Check the full figured (hispanic, I think) model in Baiia’s photo vs the model Shein casted for their copycat swimsuit.
At it again with a copy of Loudbodies‘ checkered ruffle dress and a curvy model to match.
Shein stealing other designer’s designs is nothing new, but what REALLY surprises me is how long they have been allowed to go on like this. And not just GO ON like this, THRIVE like this. Become the NUMBER ONE fast fashion company in the world like this. How has Shein not been canceled yet?!
SHEIN PRETENDED TO CARE ABOUT INDEPENDENT DESIGNERS
Shein is so aware of what they are doing that they straight up tried to pretend like they cared about independent designers in a poorly produced low budget show called “Shein x 100k Challenge”…
…that no one watched. Like literally the entire 4 episode series hosted by THE Khloe Kardashian got 1,048,000 views total.
According to a PR release: “The online series program is one of many large philanthropic initiatives from the brand in 2021, and aims to bring people together in celebration of fashion.”
I have so many problems with that statement and this entire show. First off, after episode 1, the footage just straight up cuts off to this screen. I have no idea why the text doesn’t even end up spelling out SheinX100K but ends at 1…it’s like they stopped paying their editor so they just stopped editing and uploaded whatever. I mean, totally on brand I guess??
Secondly, did they REALLY say this show was “PHILANTHROPIC”??!!!! OMGGGGGGG.
There is nothing philanthropic about this show. SheinX100K is basically a job interview where candidates fight for money and then help Shein make even more money. Philanthropy is about giving for the sake of others, not for yourself.
You can’t pretend you’re all about GIVING when you built your business off of TAKING – especially from those who have soooooooo much less than you!
Oh and thirdly, I don’t know how much they paid Khloe to barely be in the show but I would bet you it was more than the $100,000 those 30 designers were fighting for.
So who really benefited in the end?
The truth is Shein plays the game and they know how to win. They KNOW they can sell you a cute dress for a FRACTION of the price of the original one.
But how can the price be so low? Good question. I’ll tell you.
You see, my stolen Pirouette Skort sells for $60 on popflexactive.com and the counterfeit version sells for only $13 on Shein.com. Though I don’t have their version on my hands (yet), I can tell you exactly what they are not paying for that I am paying for:
COST OF PRE-PRODUCTION:
They stole my design, so they didn’t have to pay me for the trend prediction, the idea, or the viral videos I made. They didn’t have to take any risk.
They didn’t have to pay my technical designers who made the tech pack and who graded all the sizes. I did.
They didn’t pay my patternmaker to figure out how to make the pattern. I did.
They didn’t pay my samplemaker to make the the numerous samples we tested over a course of several months. I did.
They didn’t pay my fit models to attend fittings 2x a week for several months to test out all of the samples coming in until we perfected the fit. I did.
They didn’t pay my product development and design team to run those fittings and make adjustments to the garments. I did. (Which btw, our design team consists of 5 people including me. Shein has 800 designers/thieves.)
COST OF WORKING CONDITIONS:
I can’t be certain what Shein actually pays their workers, but I did find this:
Workers who make clothes sold on Shein get as little as 4 cents for each item they make.
Workers work seven days a week, 18-hour days with one day off per month.
Workers are expected to sew 500 garments per day.
Some workers even wash their hair on their lunch breaks because they have so little time left after work. (MSN)
Workers are hit with a fine amounting to two-thirds of their daily wages if they make even one mistake. (Insider)
Looks like human rights violations on top of human rights violations.
But does POPFLEX do better?
In a recent audit of our factory by BSCI, the Business Social Compliance Initiative, which is an industry-driven movement that aims to monitor and assess workplace standards across the global supply chain, our working conditions are as follows:
The regular working times are 8 hours per day, 5 days per week.
During peaks, workers may work up to 10 hours a day from Monday to Saturday however, overtime is paid at 150%-200% the normal rate of other factories.
Workers are paid by an hourly rate not a per piece rate.
The hourly wages are equivalent to local minimum wage.
All workers are at least 18 years old or older.
Can we do better? Always. But this is where we are right now, and let me tell you – I will never sacrifice human rights and human happiness for the sake of fashion.
COST OF PRODUCTION:
I don’t have the Shein copycat skort in my hands (yet) but I can already tell you how they got their price lower in addition to paying their workers next to nothing.
Shein is not using the quality fabric that we took months to source. I can guarantee you that my price per yard of fabric is much more expensive than theirs. Fabric is the bulk of the cost of a garment.
Shein is most likely not using as much fabric as we are for the skirt. I bet you their’s is not a full circle skirt. Will confirm when I get theirs.
Shein is not using customized trims like we are. In fact, I can tell that their drawsting is literally a shoe string.
Shein is not using an activewear-appropriate flatlock stitch like we’re using. The single and double needle stitches are not sturdy enough for the movement and performance of a workout skort and will break with usage.
Shein took out the flatlock accents on the waistband to cut costs.
Shein most likely did not remove the front seam from their skort as this significantly makes the price go up. I will confirm once I get their copycat skort.
Combined with the complicated craftsmanship that goes into the making of this specific design, the raw price per Pirouette skort without counting steps 1-6 and without counting freight, duties, taxes etc. is already beyond $13 a piece.
But wait, there’s more.
COST OF SELLING:
Once I put this on social media, and once it went viral, it was like putting a big ole target on my back. Shein isn’t just fast fashion, they call themselves “real time fashion” because when they see trends on social media, they can manufacture it and sell it faster than any company has been able to do in the history of EVER. Oh and get this, Shein releases 6,000 new styles a DAY on their website. (Fast Company)
So yeah, as you can see, Shein can sell things for super cheap because they’re not paying for the product development process and then on top of that, they skimp on quality materials and construction. What you pay for on Shein is stolen goods from other designers.
SHEIN’S UNSTOPPABLE RISE
And you know what? Unfortunately for me and pretty much every other clothing brand out there, Shein’s unethical business model has only rewarded them with massive growth.
Here is Shein’s site visits since over the past 6 years. They are currently sitting at over 163 million site visits a month. (Data via Semrush)
For perspective, this is how many visits their competitors (Zara, H&M, Forever 21 and ASOS) are getting over the past 1 year. Shein is on top AND GROWING.
Oh and just for funsies I wanted to check how POPFLEX compares in site traffic to Shein.
It’s not even a comparison. Shein likes to take from smaller brands because they know we don’t have the power or the money to fight them.
In July 2021 designer Elexiay tweeted how heartbroken she was to have Shein steal her sweater design. This went super viral with over 103.9k retweets. Hmmm….
Kinda weird that their “philanthropic” YouTube design competition show came out a month later on August 22, 2021. Perfect timing to try to “rewrite” their narrative.
Anyway, there is it is. All the tea with all the receipts.
I have 3 big hopes with this blog post:
That Shein removes my Pirouette Skort OFF of their website and NEVER steals any of my designs or other independent designer’s designs again.
That I can help shed some light onto this completely messed up excuse of a business, and help you find better ways to spend your hard earned money. I am not saying you have to buy my stuff, but I am just saying that you shouldn’t support a business that robs from hard working people and then sells it back to you for profit.
That you stop buying from Shein.
Remember, in the end, the only language Shein understands is money. And if we stop giving them our dollars, we will begin to take the power back into our own hands. #boycottshein