A new investigation by the U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 has uncovered details about the business practices of the Chinese fast-fashion company Shein. The outlet sent an undercover worker to film inside two factories in Guangzhou that supply clothes to the fast fashion giant.
In one factory, Channel 4 found that workers receive a base salary of 4,000 yuan per month — roughly $556 — to make 500 pieces of clothing per day and that their first month’s pay is withheld from them; in another factory, workers received the equivalent of four cents per item. Workers in both factories were working up to 18-hour days and were given only one day off a month. In one factory, the outlet found women washing their hair during lunch breaks, and workers were penalized two-thirds of their daily wage if they made a mistake on a clothing item.
The reported hours and working conditions violate China’s labor laws. Shein did not immediately respond to the Cut’s request for comment but told Business Insider, “Any non-compliance with this code is dealt with swiftly, and we will terminate partnerships that do not meet our standards,” which is what it has said when it has been accused of illegal labor practices in previous years.
Shein has repeatedly come under fire for just about everything you can do wrong with a company, including poor working conditions, high levels of toxic chemicals in its clothing, copying independent designers’ items, and mishandling customer data.
Still, the brand’s low prices and incredibly fast production have cemented it as a Gen-Z favorite. It remains one of the biggest fast-fashion companies in the world with a valuation greater than that of Zara and H&M combined.
The footage has been made into a documentary produced by Zandland Films that will be available to stream in the U.K. starting October 17 on Channel 4’s streaming service, All4.