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Shein’s attempts to provide scholarships to design school met with backlash

By Rachel Douglass


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Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). Credits: Arizona State University.

Fast fashion giant Shein has been met with protests and backlash against its attempts to send 40,000 dollar scholarships to a design school in Los Angeles.

The company had set out to supply the funding to students at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), offering to pay the full-tuition for 12 of the attendees.

Those selected were provided with the opportunity to create a five to 10 piece collection to be sold on Shein’s website as part of the company’s Shein X incubator programme.

In response to the move, Lexy Silverstein, a student of the school, launched a petition calling to put an end to the partnership between Shein and FIDM, in which she called Shein “one of the worst fast fashion polluters”.

As elaborated in the petition, which has currently garnered nearly 4,300 signatures, Silverston noted that FIDM’s decision to partner with the Chinese e-tailer conflicted with the school’s stance on sustainability.

Financial support clashes with ethical sustainability

FIDM was named one of the Top Ten Sustainable Fashion Schools in the World, according to University Network, with its Business of Denim programme and series of experienced faculty helping it to secure a place on the list.

Meanwhile, Shein has also come under increased scrutiny in regards to accusations that it has copied and stolen designs of brands and small designers.

Such claims were brought further to the forefront as part of an infringement case filed by three US designers in July.

Despite Silverstein’s efforts, however, it appears that the partnership with Shein was something that was more of a need for the “cash-strapped” school, as stated by Barbara Bundy.

FIDM’s vice president of education told Vogue that the 480,000 dollars was the biggest cash offer for a single year that the school, which took a financial hit during the pandemic, had received.

Bundy continued: “We discuss it all the time because it’s a push-pull. If you just limit yourself to working with somebody that is like Patagonia or others that are so sustainable, that’s not fair, either – because we can't make that decision for our students or alumni, [about] what they’re going to do after they graduate.”

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