Bloomberg News has provided the first-ever public evidence that Chinese fast-fashion retailer SHEIN uses cotton from the Xinjiang region. 

Twice within this year, laboratory testing conducted by the publication confirmed that its garments were from the Chinese region that is notorious for forced labor. The two clothing orders were placed separately in March and July. The first batch included pants and a blouse; the second contained shorts and a dress.

Agroisolab GmbH from Jülich, Germany, is the laboratory that inspected the garments. It used isotope testing to verify where the cotton was grown.

Agroisolab CEO Markus Boner called the first batch a typical sample from Xinjiang-sourced products. Cotton from the second batch had more variable origins, but two were still indicative of a possible Xinjiang background.

The discovery sounded the alarm of a major loophole in Washington’s current law to stop imports of forced-labor products. Bloomberg noted that while SHEIN is not the only retailer exploiting this channel, it is still the largest.

The publication believes that SHEIN’s shipments to the U.S. are usually under $800. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection will further evaluate if the overall costs exceed that amount. SHEIN, therefore, dodges further scrutiny at the border.

National Council of Textile Organizations president Kim Glas says, “Chinese companies like SHEIN have taken this loophole and exploded it. Products are making their way to our closets with no scrutiny.”

Bloomberg says SHEIN didn’t refute the findings and provided no answer if it used Xinjiang cotton. The viral brand only said it takes action that abides by local laws and regulations. 

The company’s website claims that it conducts routine audits to ensure that “forced labor” and other environmental and social concerns are dealt with in a zero-tolerance manner.

Bloomberg argues that if SHEIN openly admits to using Xinjiang cotton, it risks losing customers. But if it touches the sentiment, it is at risk of running afoul with the Chinese regime, which has consistently denied labor force allegations.

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