Yesterday, the polarising, fast-fashion powerhouse SHEIN uploaded a photo shoot and campaign video (now deleted) to their Instagram shot at RMIT’s Brunswick campus, promoting their “back to school” collection. While neither post mentioned any affiliation with the university, a huge number of fashion students who call this campus home have expressed their outrage and disappointment at this move being green-lit due to the company’s poor track-record when it comes to ethical practice.
In particular, RMIT’s commitment to sustainability, as outlined in the values section on their official website, has been called into question as SHEIN is largely considered to be “the worst of the worst” when it comes to ethical manufacturing. In fact, the company continues to use hazardous chemicals and microplastics with unregulated carbon emissions, and the quality of the products and proliferation of microtrends in their advertising material encourages shorter trend cycles and more clothing waste.
RMIT fashion students have also identified what they believe to be a hypocrisy on the part of the university, as majority of the classes in the Bachelor of Fashion (Design) course emphasise sustainable practice and innovation. This includes key tasks related to producing bioplastics and plant-based leather alternatives, as well as being encouraged to use recycled materials wherever possible.
Examples of the now deleted SHEIN campaign shot on RMIT Brunswick campus
The comments under SHEIN’s posts made no secret of the feelings of RMIT students towards the university’s involvement in the campaign, with the official RMIT Instagram account tagged numerous times.
“Disappointing that RMIT let Shein film this on their campus when you teach students about sustainability…”
“I did not spend all my hard work creating a winning design and also represent RMIT at the MIFGS to promote sustainability to then see this disgusting nonsense. As an [I]ndigenous student – it’s alarming to know my university supports modern day slavery”
“I’m 30 grand in debt to a uni that preaches sustainability while signing off on this??…”
Another sentiment commonly voiced by RMIT students is how this compromise of values feels like a slap-in-the-face given how renowned the university is for its fashion education.
“I came to RMIT with the promise of a world-leading course that innovates and teaches us how to improve this industry, and yet their morals are proving to be lax”, says an anonymous first-year fashion design student.
At this stage, students are taking action to hold RMIT accountable for this move, including launching a petition via Google Docs and contacting the head of the School of Fashion and Textiles directly. It is unknown whether the posts by SHEIN were deleted at the request of the university. It appears that representatives of RMIT are yet to respond or make their own statement addressing the controversy.
Article written by Charlie Stamatogiannis