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Chinese fashion giant’s EPR cash

E-commerce platform Shein offers critical organisation millions of dollars to support second-hand clothing trade in Africa.

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The market situation over the last few months has remained relatively stable but still difficult. Orders from Africa continue to remain firm but with a strong downward pressure on the prices that wholesalers are willing to pay.

It is unrealistic to expect to receive haut couture clothing if one is only prepared to pay for cheaper clothing but this is what some do and they then complain bitterly about quality and prices. Wholesalers need to work collaboratively to deliver a sustainable business model at sustainable prices that works for everyone.

It is still proving very difficult to recruit staff into European sorting operations. With unemployment rates very low and the number of vacancies very high, it is an employee’s market at the moment. Textile collectors and sorters are competing with bigger national and multi-national companies who can afford to attract staff for largely manual tasks by paying inflation-busting rates.

The war in Ukraine looks likely to go on for some time so we could be facing disruption in this market for several years. We hope for the people of Ukraine that this is not the case and that their country can return to being at peace and free as soon as possible. Of course, this has to be the main driver, but we still have to deal with the consequences for our sector.

Interesting partners

An interesting recent development is a partnership between the Chinese online fast fashion giant Shein and an US/Ghanaian organisation, the OR Foundation. Shein was founded in 2008 by Chris Xu in Nanjing, China.

In May, Fortune Magazine described the company as catering to Gen Z while using big data and rapid Chinese manufacturing to design clothing quickly at a lower price point. It has rapidly risen to become one of the world’s fast fashion giants and is currently valued at US$ 100 billion (EUR 950 billion).

The OR Foundation rose to prominence in 2020 with claims that fast fashion was feeding through to the second-hand clothing trade with much of it was ending up as waste. This was despite the figures they were quoting not being based on any published or peer-reviewed research.

Shein is providing US$5 million annually for three years from its own voluntary extended producer responsibility fund to enable the Or Foundation to expand a Mabilgu (sisterhood) Apprenticeship Program for young women carrying bales of second-hand clothing on their heads.

The aim is to incubate community businesses transforming textile waste into new products, pilot fibre-to-fibre initiatives with Ghanaian textile manufacturers and to update Kantamanto Market to ensure that the world’s largest second-hand clothing market is a safe and dignified place to work. The Or Foundation will also redistribute a portion of the initial grant to allied organisations in Ghana.

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