In today’s social media age, fast fashion brands are thriving. This research focuses on Shein, an immensely lucrative eCommerce business taking the fast fashion and social media world by storm. Shein’s growth can be attributed most notably to TikTok - their prominence has grown as a result of the millions of user-generated content (UGC) shared by Influencers and Shein customers. Despite their success, they are notorious for their unsustainable and immoral business practices. Like other fast fashion brands, their low prices and lack of transparency regarding their production process have led to multiple public controversies. Shein’s target market is Gen Z- the digital natives that are redefining the trajectory of social media through the creation of social media fashion trends that brands have quickly learnt to capitalize on. Shein has been particularly successful, making new trends available to consumers quickly and at a low cost. Gen Z drives the ultra-fast fashion industry, however, at the same time they are also labeled as the most socially conscious generation thus far. Therefore, if Gen Z is so socially conscious, why are fast fashion sites like Shein continuing to thrive? Studying young consumers motivations is key for brands to further understand their consumers and their drives. As more and more brands are starting to turn to TikTok in hopes to tap into Gen Z and go viral, Gen Z’s perspective is key to understanding how this can be done. This is relevant for brands interested in the creation of more viable sustainable fashion as well as fast fashion brands looking to understand their consumers. This study is an opportunity to conceptualize current relevant societal phenomenon while allowing for deeper understanding by synthesizing people’s experiences with previous theoretical knowledge. This research explores this social-consciousness paradox recognized within Gen Z through a qualitative study that answers the following research question: What motivates Gen Z to purchase fast fashion products from Shein under the influence of social media fashion trends? The data for the study is collected through means of 15 semi-structured in-depth interviews and analyzed using the qualitative method of thematic analysis. The study concludes that Gen Z is motivated to purchase fast fashion products from Shein for several reasons: 1) to experiment with style and self-expression 2) the ease that TikTok adds to the Shein shopping process 3) to participate in trends 4) the overconsumption culture promoted to Gen Z via TikTok and 5) the value-action gap that exists within members of Gen Z. These factors represent the various internal and external motivations that contribute towards Gen Z continuing to shop from Shein.

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Dr. Lijie Zheng
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Tulsi Gaddam. (2022, June 27). Shein & the Paradox of Social Consciousness: Gen Z’s Motivations to Purchase Fast Fashion Under the Influence of Social Media Trends. Media & Business. Retrieved from