Shein flew influencers to China to help its image. A setback followed.

Creators like Ms. Freeman has been baffled by the response. She said she believed that by showing Shein’s factories through her eyes, people would share her positive experience with the company and the tour, which she found informative. She said she had already received hate mail in the past for working with Shein, but she didn’t expect the intensity of the backlash. (Influencers have faced backlash before, for sponsored trips to Saudi Arabia and, more recently, a lavish trip to Dubai sponsored by makeup brand Tarte.)

She said she had asked workers and Shein representatives about their working conditions and they had told her they operated with integrity and conducted audits. Beyond that, she said, she didn̵[ads1]7;t know what else she could do.

“Why can’t I say this is my truth and my experience working with this company?” said Mrs. Freeman. “This is from my own two eyes, this is what I see, and this is my experience.”

She added: “My own eyes did not see what everyone else is talking about.”

One of the influencers, Dani Carbonari, who goes by Dani DMC on social media and says she is a “trust activist,” faced particular criticism for calling herself an “investigative journalist” in an Instagram video praising the factory. That video has since been deleted, and Carbonari did not respond to a request for comment.

In reality, the tour and access that Shein gave the influencers stood in stark contrast to China’s increasingly hostile attitude towards journalists in recent years. Negotiations have stalled between the U.S. and China on new visas for reporters at U.S. news organizations, according to a March report by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, and at least one U.S. reporter with a valid visa was recently barred from re-entering China after leaving the country for a routine trip.

“It’s a very clear example of not using creators who talk about specific things like lifestyle, fashion, body positivity and then trying to get them to push a completely different agenda,” said Karwowski, the influencer marketer. “It’s not going to work.”

On Tuesday, Ms Carbonari posted a video on Instagram in which she said she “should have done more research” and was grateful that people had sent her information about Shein that she had used to educate herself.

“I hope Shein can be more transparent and answer all your questions,” she said, “because I can take responsibility for myself and my actions, but I can’t take the fall for Shein.”

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