“Too hot, too classy!”, quips on TikTok Antoine Vermorel-Marques, LR deputy, presenting shoes from an alleged Shein order [pronounced chi' ine], “treated with phthalate, a substance which is an endocrine disruptor which can make us all sterile.

In this video posted on young people's favorite social network, Antoine Vermorel-Marques parodies "haul", very common videos on the accounts of fashion and beauty influencers in which the latter unpack their freshly delivered packages and present to their community the items purchased (or offered free of charge by the brand), to promote them. The objective of the Loire MP's video: to introduce the bill he has just tabled in the National Assembly to combat "fast fashion".

The text, which will be debated next spring in Parliament, aims to support the French textile industry in the face of the threat of "fast fashion" and provides for this to impose a penalty of 5 euros for any item purchased on sites featuring online more than 1,000 models per day.

A very widespread trend in the fashion industry, “fast fashion” (“rapid fashion”, in French) is based on an ultra-rapid renewal of collections based on a frantic pace of production. Produced at a lower cost – average price of an item sold by Shein: 7 euros – this “disposable” fashion has, as Oxfam France points out, “disastrous social and environmental consequences”.

If many brands are concerned, Antoine Vermorel-Marques is specifically targeting the Asian group Shein, (created in China and based in Singapore) which, with 6,000 to 11,000 new models added daily to its online catalog, is even flying in the category of “ultra-fast fashion”, regularly singled out for the environmental, climatic and social consequences of its economic model, and for “destroying the French textile industry”.

@elvisbonnet42 #duet with @antoinevermorel #shein ♬ original sound - antoinevermorel

However, barely tabled, the bill has provoked the ire of many consumers, for whom this penalty system would be just another tax put in place by France, penalizing above all small budgets fond of the proposed service. by the world leader in low-cost ready-to-wear online.

“Another step towards injustice”

"If a French MP doesn't invent a tax, does he have a guarantee?" mocks a user of 'dress and there's a clean sweep', we can still read.

By offering skirts, tops, pants and accessories of all kinds for less than 10 euros, Shein – and others Temu, Boohoo, etc. – seduces and fills the cupboards of more and more consumers each year.

“In France, there is a gap between our convictions, the awareness that we must make efforts, and the acceptability of the measures taken in the name of these issues”, analyzes Cécile Désaunay, director of studies for Futuribles, a consultancy firm. prospective where it analyzes transformations in society, lifestyles and consumption.

In this logic, she says, reactions to the proposal to introduce a "tax" on the purchase of products from "fast fashion" sites seem skin deep "because it affects what is considered freedom to consume, and overall you should not touch it.

However, recalls the analyst, there is a “bonus” dimension to this measure which is to make sustainable clothing accessible.

In an interview with Usbek&Rica, Antoine Vermorel-Marques explained how this bonus works. While a penalty of 5 euros would be added to the purchase of an item on a "fast fashion" site, "on the contrary, [if] you buy a T-shirt respectful of our environment, produced in France or in Europe, you have a bonus of 5 euros maximum,” he explains. "The key is that it's not an additional tax. We're not coming to take money from you. We're just coming to tell you: 'If you pollute, you pay. If you don't pollute, you earn .' As a result, it’s a win-win for both the consumer and the planet.”

"You don't even understand that it's not a 'tax', Shein, Ali[Express], etc. products are already taxed, here we're talking about a penalty to penalize those who take part in 'fast fashion' ", and by extension to human overexploitation and the increase in waste", we can read in this sense on the account of a user of X.

“This is not the first time that we have used this type of lever,” explains Cécile Désaunay, evoking in particular the bonus system applied to the automobile sector in France, but also the reduction in VAT applied by Sweden for repairing objects.

Also, if the analyst admits the need to dress, she points out the extreme posture adopted by many consumers (especially young people) who buy many more clothes than necessary, with low prices encouraging overconsumption.

A worker making clothes in a factory that supplies the Shein brand, a Chinese online "fast fashion" company, in Guangzhou, in the southern province of Guangdong in China, July 18, 2022. © Jade Gao, AFP

“I am poor, but I have values”

“Before, the norm was to have fewer clothes, but which lasted longer. We paid more for them, but we made them last,” she explains. “Today, we have moved away from this logic: we have less sturdy clothes, which last less long, and we are getting used to always having more because they cost less.”

If some people say on social networks: “Fast fashion for some, the only way to dress for others”, other consumers do not see it that way. “I am poor, but as I have values ​​I do not order from these sites! You can be poor and have values!!”.

On this point, Cécile Désaunay evokes a sort of “enclosure which would consist of thinking that to be able to dress cheaply, one must necessarily buy clothes made in China, as if there were no alternative”, she says. , evoking in particular the second-hand market, to which she devoted an article on the Futuribles website.

“The challenge in the textile field is rather that associations and other recycling centers are drowning in clothing,” points out the specialist. “Given the volume of clothing that there is already on the planet, if we stop making clothes, we can still clothe humanity for a hundred years,” she continues. A phenomenon already mentioned by Catherine Dauriac and Isabelle Brokman in the book “Fashion, fake or not?”, which deciphers the polluting industry of the fashion sector.

However, "paradoxically, buying second-hand can still be frowned upon, or even rejected by the poorest categories" notes Cécile Désaunay, who evokes the social stigma that this market can generate.

At the end of 2023, Shein had a 13% market share in value in its sector in France, ahead of Vinted, a famous brand selling second-hand clothing, which occupies first place among the French's favorite fashion brands, according to a report from the Joko shopping application created for LSA magazine.

"We are reaching the end of the logic of 'fast fashion'", believes Cécile Désaunay. The bonus-malus proposal must still be debated; and whether it is adopted or not, it is, according to the analyst, "a pretext to re-examine the value of the objects we buy." Indeed, she says, "if it's not expensive, it's because there is a trade-off. In this case, the trade-off is environmental."

“Fast fashion” brands are regularly singled out for the environmental (consumption of water, oil, chemical pollutants for dyes), climatic (CO2 emissions) and social consequences of their economic model. The Friends of the Earth association, which deciphered its operation, estimated the brand's production at 1 million garments produced per day, or between 15,000 and 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emitted.

Far from only targeting the Chinese company, the association explains that physical brands such as Zara, H&M, Primark and Uniqlo are not left out. What they "do not do in terms of the quantity of models offered, they make up for in quantities produced, as well as in the exploitation of human rights", she specifies, while these brands have all been accused of profiting or of having profited in particular from the forced labor of Uighurs in China.

Read alsoTen years after the Rana Plaza tragedy, fast fashion still guilty

In 2022, Shein will record some $23 billion in revenue, reports the Wall Street Journal. For 2023, its turnover is estimated at nearly 32 billion.

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