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Hey, Quick Question: Why Are the Ultra-Fast-Fashion Brands Fighting?

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Welcome to our column, “Hey, Quick Question,” where we investigate seemingly random happenings in the fashion and beauty industries.

Two of the most talked-about ultra-fast fashion brands, Shein and Temu, have been battling it out in the war for market dominance. They’re also now battling it out legally, currently engaged in multiple lawsuits in different U.S. states against each other.

First came an impersonation scheme lawsuit against Temu, brought in March by Shein in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. In it, Roadget Business Pte. Ltd. (a holding company for Shein) alleges that “Temu has willfully and flagrantly infringed exclusive and valuable trademark rights and copyright rights and has engaged in unfair competition and false and deceptive business practices, including by impersonating [the] brand on social media, trading off of the well-known Shein trademarks and using copyrighted images owned by Roadget as part of Temu’s product listings,” in order to boost its growth in the U.S. It also accuses Temu of paying influencers to “[disseminate] false and deceptive statements regarding Shein products.”

Now, Temu’s taking Shein to Massachussetts federal court, alleging in an antitrust suit filed Friday that it “forces manufacturers to sign loyalty oaths certifying that they will not do business with Temu,” which has hurt the retailer’s growth potential in the U.S. 

Shein and Temu are ultra-fast-fashion arch nemeses. While Temu launched in the U.S. in September 2022, it’s backed by the Chinese e-commerce giant PDD Holdings, and has seen significant growth since airing a commercial during the 2023 Super Bowl. China-based Shein, meanwhile, is reportedly preparing for a stock market debut later in the year, and is valued at $66 billion. They’re both vying to dominate the fast-fashion industry, which is estimated to be worth at least $106 billion.

Beyond this in-fighting, this particular ilk of fast fashion has been under even more scrutiny in recent months. Lawmakers are increasingly concerned about Temu’s alleged use of forced labor and unchecked shipping channels allowing goods into the U.S. Meanwhile, Shein was just on the receiving end of a different lawsuit, accusing it of violating the RICO Act. This is on top of the environmental questions raised against these types of companies, and that recent outrage-inducing influencer trip.

Still, both Shein and Temu are generating billions of dollars in revenue, and remain popular destinations for shoppers to find $10 clothing — the dire consequences of those low prices be damned. These lawsuits just add a flurry of drama on top. 

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