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A Brief History of SHEIN

Fashion is an enduring passion we can't help but embrace. As the digital era advances, fashion has made its way onto our mobile devices, computers, and tablets, previously exclusively found in physical retail stores and shopping centers.

Nowadays, we can conveniently purchase our favorite shirts, t-shirts, jeans, pants, shoes, and more through user-friendly eCommerce websites and apps. These platforms offer a wide range of products in various categories and ensure doorstep delivery at affordable rates. 

SHEIN, often stylized in all caps as "SHEIN," is a globally renowned and highly influential B2C e-commerce platform that has redefined the landscape of fashion retail. Founded in China in 2008, SHEIN offers top-notch fashion items, encompassing women's and men's attire, kids' clothing, stylish accessories, and various trendy products and embellishments. 

SHEIN has rapidly evolved from a small domestic retailer into a dominant force in the world of online fashion. With its emphasis on affordable yet stylish clothing and accessories, SHEIN has captured the attention of fashion-forward individuals worldwide.

SHEIN's success can be attributed to its ability to seamlessly fuse the fast-paced world of fashion with the convenience of e-commerce. The company operates on a digital-first model, using cutting-edge technology to stay at the forefront of the latest trends and deliver them to a vast and diverse customer base. From its early beginnings to its current status as a global fashion giant, SHEIN's journey is a testament to the power of digital innovation and adaptability in an ever-evolving fashion industry.

The company's operations are mainly centered around its digital presence, website, and app, which allow customers to shop for clothing and accessories online. SHEIN's business model revolves around a vast and efficient supply chain, which includes numerous warehouses and distribution centers in different locations to facilitate quick and cost-effective shipping to customers worldwide.

The History Behind the Building of SHEIN

SHEIN stands as a leading global fast-fashion brand, with its headquarters located in China. Chris Xu is the founder and CEO of the company. It was in 2008 that the concept for the company initially struck Chris Xu when he discovered the global demand for Chinese products with commercial appeal. At the time, Chris was employed at Nanjing Aodao Information Technology Co. However, he decided to part ways with the company to pursue the creation of an online retail outlet specializing in affordable fashion clothing.

Upon further investigation, he learned that women's wedding dresses were among the most highly desired garments worldwide. Additionally, he realized that the primary obstacle preventing international consumers from accessing Chinese products was the currency disparity and the associated complications. Subsequently, he established ZZKKO and commenced the sale of wedding dresses.

The company later expanded its product range to include women's clothing and rebranded itself as "SheInside." In the early 2010s, they further diversified their offerings to include cosmetics, jewelry, footwear, handbags, and various accessories.

By 2013, SheInside had approximately 100 employees. They overhauled their marketing approaches, evolving into a fully integrated retailer. In 2015, the company underwent another name change to "Shein," aimed at enhancing name recognition. By 2016, the Shein team had grown to 800 members.

Shein is famous for selling affordable clothing, and its triumph is often linked to its popularity among Generation Z buyers. Initially, the company was likened to a dropshipping operation, as it didn't design or produce items but sourced them from the wholesale clothing market in Guangzhou. However, in 2012, Shein started building its system for supplying products, turning into a complete retailer. As of 2022, the company has set up a supply network in Guangzhou that involves over 3,000 suppliers.


2008–2012: The Establishment And Initial Business Approach

  • Shein, originally named ZZKKO, was founded in China in 2008 by Chris Xu. 
  • The domain SheInside.com was registered in March 2011, presenting itself as a global leader in wedding dresses but also offering a range of women's clothing.
  • The company sources its products from Guangzhou's wholesale clothing market, a significant center for numerous garment manufacturers and markets used by the company.
  • During that period, Shein had no role in creating or manufacturing the clothing, it operated much like a dropshipping company, selling products from third-party wholesalers directly to customers around the world.
  • In the early 2010s, Shein expanded its product offerings to include cosmetics, footwear, handbags, jewelry, and women's clothing. They also entered markets in Spain, France, Russia, Italy, and Germany.

2012–2019: Rebranding And Transformation Into A Retail Company

  • In 2012, the company launched its present website and initiated its social media marketing efforts by partnering with fashion bloggers.
  • In 2014, Shein completed the acquisition of Romwe, a Chinese e-commerce retailer, transforming itself into a fully integrated retail company.
  • In 2015, the company underwent another name change, switching from Sheinside to Shein. They stated that they wanted a name that was more straightforward to remember and locate on the internet.
  • By 2016, the company had a staff of 100 and had already set up its main office in Guangzhou.
  • In 2016, Chris Xu assembled a team of 800 designers and prototype creators who produced clothing under the Shein brand.
  • In 2019, its products were showcased on daytime TV programs in the United States alongside other online businesses.
  • In 2019, Chris Xu was identified as a representative for Roadget Business Pte, which is registered in Singapore.


  • In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates SHEIN's growth as online shopping becomes more prevalent due to lockdowns and social distancing measures.
  • In 2021, SHEIN continued to expand its product offerings to include not only clothing but also accessories, beauty products, and home goods and became the world's largest online-only fashion brand. 
  • In 2021, Shein's valuation doubled from $15 billion to $30 billion. 
  • As reported by Ernest Analytics, Shein assumed the title of the largest fast-fashion retailer in the United States in 2021, and they also introduced their online presence in Mexico.
  • In 2022, Shein relocated its main office to Singapore.
  • In 2022, The Wall Street Journal disclosed that Shein achieved approximately $24 billion in revenue in 2022, positioning it as a company of comparable size to Zara and H&M.

Products and Services

SHEIN offers a wide range of products and services primarily focused on fashion and accessories. Here's an overview of the products and services provided by SHEIN:

  • Apparel: SHEIN is known for its extensive collection of clothing, including tops, bottoms, dresses, bodysuits, two-piece sets, lingerie, swimwear, lounge and sleepwear, activewear, and denim. Among these product categories, there are numerous fashion styles and a vast selection of thousands of distinct items. Most items are offered in various colors and sizes. Shein offers clothing options for both regular and plus sizes, and they also have maternity clothing available.
  • Footwear: The platform features a diverse selection of shoes, including sneakers, sandals, boots, and heels for various occasions and seasons.
  • Accessories: SHEIN offers a range of accessories, including jewelry, hats, scarves, belts, sunglasses, and bags to complement different outfits.
  • Beauty products: In addition to clothing, SHEIN provides a selection of cosmetics, skincare, and beauty tools to help customers complete their looks.
  • Home goods: SHEIN expanded its offerings to include home decor items, such as bedding, curtains, kitchenware, and other household items.
  • Sustainability initiatives: SHEIN has launched eco-friendly and sustainable fashion lines as part of its efforts to address environmental concerns associated with fast fashion.
  • Global shipping: SHEIN provides shipping to customers in numerous countries, offering a convenient and accessible way for people worldwide to access fashion and lifestyle products.
  • Influencer collaborations: SHEIN frequently collaborates with influencers and fashion designers to create exclusive collections and promote their products.

Shein Key Statistics

  • In 2022, Shein earned $22.7 billion, marking a 44% rise from the $15.7 billion it earned in 2021.
  • It's believed to have about 74.7 million active customers, with 13.7 million of them living in the United States.
  • In 2022, Shein's shopping app was installed 200 million times, securing its position as the most frequently downloaded shopping app of the year.
  • Its estimated worth recently reached $68 billion as it prepares for a possible initial public offering (IPO) in late 2023.


In conclusion, SHEIN has charted an impressive journey from its humble beginnings in 2008 as a small online women's clothing retailer to its current status as a global fashion e-commerce giant. The company's history is a testament to the power of digital innovation, adaptability, and a keen understanding of fast fashion trends.

SHEIN's digital-first approach and extensive online presence have allowed it to capture a massive and diverse customer base, providing it with a wide array of affordable clothing, accessories, beauty products, and home goods. The company's success has been characterized by its ability to swiftly respond to evolving fashion trends and to utilize influencer marketing and social media to connect with its target audience.

While SHEIN's rapid growth and popularity are undeniable, the company has also faced scrutiny and controversy regarding sustainability and labor practices in the fast fashion industry. In response to these concerns, SHEIN has begun to take steps towards more responsible and sustainable practices, demonstrating a commitment to addressing the environmental and social impacts of its operations.

As SHEIN continues to adapt to the ever-changing fashion landscape and expand its product offerings, its history serves as a compelling case study of the digital transformation of the fashion industry. It showcases the influence of e-commerce and the ability of an agile, online-based retailer to shape the way people shop for fashion in the 21st century.

Ayrin Saleha Ria works at Future Startup as a full-time Research Associate. She has a background in Applied Sociology. Before joining the FS team, she worked and volunteered with a number of social organizations. As someone who comes from a social science background, she takes a deep interest in research around important social-economic challenges in our society. A voracious reader, Ayrin is passionate about working for the betterment of society, takes a deep interest in human society and behavioral science, and loves books.

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