SHEIN, an online retailer of fashion and lifestyle products, is advancing its adoption of digital thermal transfer printing with the goal of accelerating its efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of textile manufacturing in its supply chain.
Since the start of this initiative in December of 2018, SHEIN has converted over 50% of its directly sourced prints to use digital thermal transfer printing technology, in which dyes are printed onto thermal transfer paper before being transferred into the fabric to form a pattern. While conventional screen printing uses 0.49 tons of water to produce 100 meters of fabric, SHEIN’s digital thermal transfer printing technology is completely dry, improving operational efficiency and reducing each garment’s water footprint.
Over the course of the past four years, the implementation of this model has enabled SHEIN to save 590,000 tons of water, equivalent to roughly 1.18 billion standard 500-mL bottles of water.
Since its founding, SHEIN’s supply chain model has allowed the company to quickly produce small orders on demand. The adoption of this new printing technology supplements the company’s small batch model, enabling more textile designs and patterns to be printed efficiently, making it an ideal option for producing a variety of items before deciding whether to raise output or cease production based on market feedback.
Digital textile printing also cuts down on fabric waste by improving print quality. The technology can detect any flaws or blemishes created from complex designs or creating patterns, and remove them before transferring the patterns to the fabric. The quality of printing is thereby enhanced, resulting in an increased percentage of high-quality finished clothes, in turn reducing overproduction and resource waste at the source.
Digital textile printing is taking hold as an efficient and sustainable technology that will continue to support SHEIN’s “scope 3” impact-reduction goals. Earlier this year, the company committed to reducing absolute GHG emissions across its entire value chain by 25% by 2030.
According to the Hurun Research Institute’s “Global Unicorn Index 2022 Half-Year Report,” SHEIN now ranks fifth in the world with its 400 billion yuan of value, following TikTok and Ant Group. The retailer is now facing competition from Pinduoduo‘s cross-border e-commerce platform Temu. It recently introduced Jessica Liu as VP of Global Brands Operations, responsible for global brand partnerships. Liu will bring rich experience in the e-commerce sector across global markets.