The retailer, which sells dresses for as little as £10 and jeans for £15, deployed an army of TikTok influencers to capture the hearts and wallets of school-age shoppers – open the TikTok app and you will come across hundreds of girls sharing their “Shein haul” online. With users racking up half a million views by uploading videos of themselves holding Shein packages and trying on their wares, it is no surprise that the brand’s popularity has skyrocketed.
TikTok has always built itself as a platform that is more accessible than aspirational – which is far more appealing to Gen Z, an age group that has largely rejected the glossy perfection their older brothers and sisters courted on Instagram. It also allows brands like Shein – whose prices are absurdly low even for fast-fashion – to prosper among a demographic that is at present less swayed by luxury branding than millennials were at their age.
“The content on TikTok is not about the glossiest, perfect-life image, but rather it’s about expressing yourself,” says Cassandra Russell, who heads up fashion brand partnerships for the social media site. “TikTok offers an authentic and community-driven approach, which gives Gen Z a natural platform to showcase their art, creativity and personalities in an entirely new way.”
According to Russell, many of the teenage-dominated fashion trends of this year emerged organically on the site. “They are often a mix of all manner of sources,” she says, “from #cottagecore, #eboy and #citylook through to outfit ideas inspired by popular Netflix series and even cartoons. Teens can be influenced by trending sounds (such as Dirty Harry by Gorillaz) and anything can go viral – from tie-dye and Nineties fashion through to Harry Styles and his JW Anderson’s cardigan single-handedly inspiring millions of teens to learn how to knit and crochet. ”