China’s Fashion Unicorn Shein Accused of Copyright Infringement

Fashion brands including Dr. Martens’ owner AirWair International and independent designers have accused e-commerce platform Shein of trademark infringements.

The footwear giant says Shein has a “clear intent to sell counterfeits” in a complaint filed in California, pointing out the Chinese company puts genuine Dr. Martens footwear pictures on its website to mislead and entice customers.

California-based designer brand Kikay also claimed that the company steals intellectual property, with an Instagram post comparing the almost identical earrings from two companies.

“They took the listing down yet haven’t reached out to us at all for any updates or apologies…they keep getting away with it and taking no accountability”, the post reads.

Shein denied the charge from AirWair International, and the court will start the hearing later this year.

Established in 2008, the platform aims to become a fashion e-commerce platform for Generation Z. Focusing exclusively on fast-fashion clothes, it adds more than 200 new items every day and only needs two weeks from sample to finished product, according to the company’s WeChat blog. The trending designs and surprisingly affordable prices have attracted many young customers around the globe.

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YouTubers, TikTokers and other influencers are also increasing the brand exposure and attracting new young followers to purchase the less than ten dollar T-shirts and jeans. A recent report shows that Shein was the most mentioned brand on TikTok in 2020.

Like many online retailers, Shein’s sales skyrocketed during the global pandemic. The company reportedly gained nearly 30 billion yuan in sales last year, almost equivalent to one-seventh of Zara. In mid-May, the unicorn surpassed the world’s biggest e-commerce platform Amazon, becoming the No.1 downloaded shopping app in the US.

Relying on the advantages of China’s supply chain, the company has established a complete supply chain system from design and development to fabric procurement and garment manufacturing in the country. Like Tiktok, Shein has the ambition to step into the global market. It has six logistics centers in Europe and the US and a delivery network spreading across many other countries including India and Russia.

The overall value of the company is over 15 billion dollars, and speculation has it that the company might soon launch a listing.