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Clothing designer comes to disturbing conclusion after remaking crochet Shein garment: 'I'm honestly just in shock'

"Thank you."

"Thank you."

Photo Credit: TikTok

A TikTok video by crochet influencer Helena (@squish.and.co) has gone viral for exposing the low wages paid to garment workers, illuminating the disturbing cost of fast fashion.

In the video, Helena expressed her "deep and abiding hatred" for fast fashion brands like Shein that sell crocheted items — which "can only be handmade" — for "literal pennies an hour of work."

@squish.and.co And we all know they're famous for giving their profit margins to the workers 😬 #fastfashion #shein #craft #crafts #handmade #crocheting #crochet #yarn #crafting #fiberartist #fiberart #crochetersoftiktok #crochettiktok #crochettok #yarntok ♬ original sound - Helena

To prove her point, Helena crocheted a vest identical to one sold by Shein for just $9.50.

"It took officially 4 hours and 23 minutes," Helena said after completing the garment. She calculated that the materials cost $5.76, and based on her state's $15.50 minimum wage, the labor would amount to $67.11 for the time spent crocheting. "That would be… a grand total of $72.86," she announced.

Assuming Shein's material costs were the same, Helena determined that the worker who made the original vest would have been paid approximately 85 cents per hour — if Shein took zero profit. Her conclusion: "F*** you, Shein."

Helena's demonstration is a sobering lesson about how the fast fashion industry exploits garment workers, many of whom earn far below a living wage and are subject to cruel workplace conditions. 

An investigation into one of Shein's factories in late 2022 found that employees receive one day off every month and are fined two-thirds of their day's wage if they make a single mistake on any of their 500 daily garments.

As of March of 2023, Shein was valued at $66 billion.

The fashion industry is responsible for an estimated 10% of global carbon pollution — that's more than all shipping and international flights combined. Brands like Shein promote the overconsumption of cheaply made clothing that quickly ends up in landfills, where it releases polluting gases as it slowly breaks down.

Fortunately, solutions exist. Apps like Good On You help consumers identify ethical and sustainable fashion brands. Buying secondhand from thrift stores and consignment shops, mending clothes instead of replacing them, and supporting fair-trade producers also makes a difference.

TikTok users were shocked by Helena's revelation.

"I didn't realize crochet could only be done by hand. Will NEVER buy one from a fast fashion brand! Thank you," one commenter wrote.

Another said: "I'm honestly just in shock."

A third offered a sobering calculation: "Standard retail pricing is labor+material ×4 so the retail price for that vest should be $291.48 and the worker was probably more likely paid $0.21/hr."

By exposing the hidden costs of fast fashion, Helena's video is inspiring consumers to make more ethical choices, one stitch at a time.

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