How Shein beat Amazon at its own game – and reinvented fast fashion

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By connecting China’s garment factories with western gen-Z customers, Shein ushered in a new era of ‘ultra-fast’ shopping

Last year, Julia King, a 20-year-old art student and influencer from Texas, noticed that a particular kind of sweater vest was taking over the internet. Celebrities including Bella Hadid had been photographed wearing shrunken, argyle-patterned styles, channelling classic 1990s movies like Clueless during a wave of millennium-era nostalgia. Soon, King found the perfect example in a secondhand shop: a child-sized pink-and-red knitted vest that fit tightly and cropped on an adult. Using herself as a model, King paired it with jeans and a Dior bag, snapped a picture, and listed it for $22 on Depop, an eBay-like resellers’ app favoured by gen Z.

The vest sold instantly, and she quickly forgot about it. But a month or so later, King received a message from one of her Instagram followers. They alerted her to the fact that an obscure, now defunct Chinese shopping site called Preguy was using her photo to sell its own cheap reproduction of the thrift-store vest. “Seeing the pictures of me up on some random fast-fashion website I’d never heard of before made me really upset,” King said.

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