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What Controversial Fashion Brand Is Most Googled?

Shein, the China-based fast fashion purveyor with no permanent storefronts, has raced into the lead of most popular international fashion brands, surpassing Zara for the top spot, according to a study released this week by money.co.uk.

The report, based entirely on Google searches in each country, found that Shein is now the No. 1 brand in a whopping 113 locales, easily outpacing Spanish-based Zara at 26 and Germany-based Zalando in third with 18.

Nike was fourth by topping 10 countries, which didn’t include its home base of the United States. In the U.S., that title went to Macy’s, which moved up 11 spots on the list year-over-year.

The study did not indicate where Shein ranked in U.S. Google searches, but its pop-up locations have appeared in major cities coast-to-coast and the company set up its first American distribution center in Indiana and revealed plans to put in another north of the border in the Toronto area.

Lululemon was searched most in Canada, but the No. 1 spot in the rest of North and Central America belonged to Shein.

“For over a decade, Shein has provided accessible and affordable apparel and lifestyle products to Americans across the country. We’re proudly expanding our business and operations in the U.S., adding roughly 1,000 new jobs this year alone,” a Shein spokesperson told Sourcing Journal last month.

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Shein’s surge on this list is particularly impressive given it wasn’t among the leaders at all in 2021.

Experts agree Shein’s rise is due in part to extremely low manufacturing, shipping and real estate expenses, as well as a strong social media presence and a heavily downloaded app.

In addition, the company excels because of its ability to use algorithms to predict coming fashion trends.

“Each new design is basically a bet because Shein can estimate how well a product is going to do, but it doesn’t know for sure until it sells,” Matthew Brennan, a journalist based in China told vox.com. “Compared to its fast fashion competitors, Shein is able to take more bets, but at a lower risk. It’s able to place very small initial orders with these factories, about 100 or even smaller.” 

These tactics have caused Shein to be vilified in the media for environmental destruction, labor abuses and trademark infringements, which have resulted in dozens and dozens of lawsuits.

“Shein is a next-generation fast fashion company,” Susan Scafidi, founder and director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School in New York City told the Sourcing Journal in November. “It doesn’t simply rely on human designers. It’s watching runway shows and uses an algorithm to determine what is popular in fashion.”

The Rolling Stones on Thursday called for an end to their merchandising deal with Shein, as part of a collection celebrating the rock band’s 60th anniversary.

“We do not want to be associated with Shein, having been made aware of the recent revelations about the treatment of workers in its supply chain, and have requested the line be terminated,” the band said in a statement.

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