Shein vs. Zara- Fast Fashion Case Study

Shein vs. Zara- Fast Fashion Case Study

Someone once succinctly described fashion as an imitation of an example that satisfies a demand for social variation. When a piece of clothing becomes subject to fashion changes, there’s a higher demand for cheap versions of its kind. When it comes to fashion, everyone’s always wondering who the fastest is. Although the most emphasis in fashion is on slower fashion where there’s the concept of the fashion season, there’s another side of fashion where speed is what matters. This side of the industry is beginning to take precedence, especially with young consumers. This article examines two top fast fashion brands – Shein vs Zara. It explains how these brands are the most competitive fast fashion brand in the industry. However, we would be starting with some background on the two brands; let’s take a look.

Who They Are

If you’ve spent time scrolling through Instagram, then you’ve come across these top brands. Most people today are familiar with these brands online. If you fall within their target demographic, women within their 20s, you’re sure to encounter their content almost daily. People see Shein and Zara’s content to people through Instagram ads, Youtube, and in Shein’s case, TikTok. We cannot explore Shein vs Zara as a fast-fashion brand without understanding who they are and what they offer their consumers. Below is a brief introduction of both fast fashion brands to get you started.

What is Shein?

Shein is a Chinese online fashion store that has been around since 2008. Despite being around for over a decade, its popularity only began recently. This online fashion brand offers the best when it comes to unique items. It provides clothes for ladies for different occasions and different sizes. There’s a generous collection of plus-size models for Shein, which is rare in the fashion industry. However, Shein doesn’t cater to women only. It also sells fashionable items that are in vogue for men as well. Shein stands apart from many other brands that generally advertise fashion for either males or females in this category. It covers various kids’ styles and a section for gadgets, beauty, and other living items. 

What is Zara?

Zara is a leading international fashion brand. Its customers’ cuts across different countries in over 93 markets. This fashion brand has over 2000 stores and is quite popular in the global urban communities. Zara is known to generate over 18 billion Euros each year. The brand is quite successful when it comes to the world of fashion. It provides quick and reasonable design to its customers, which is how Zara became known as the King of Fast Fashion. 

A Walk Down History Lane

Let’s explore how the founders set up both brands and grew to become today’s top fashion brand.

Zara’s Brand Story

Amancio Ortega and Rosalia Mera founded Zara in 1975. Amancio stated that he only settled for Zara because he discovered Zorba, which he preferred, was unavailable. This fashion brand started in Spain and featured low-price adaptations of famous, expensive clothing. Over the years, Zara’s fashion approach began to gain popularity, leading to new stores opening across Spain. In 1985, it founded Inditex, which is a holding company. This company laid the foundation for creating a distribution system that could shift market trends quickly. Amancio created designs, manufactured them, and delivered them quite quickly. He tagged his quick reaction to trends in an instant fashion.

Over the decades, Zara started to expand its business into the global market. It explored New York, Paris, Belgium, Cyprus, Israel, Portugal, Norway, etc. Almost all developed countries today have a Zara store which is how Zara has over 2000 stores in 96 countries. Although this fashion brand started in a small store, it is one of the world’s largest fashion retailers today. Its holding company Inditex is the most prominent fashion group today, with over seven thousand stores worldwide. Fashion brands are not the only industry Amancio has dabbled into over the years. He also set up a global real estate investment fund and has corporate offices across nine countries. These corporate properties are home to large companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and other prestigious brands. 

Shein Brand Story

In the Shein vs Zara debate, it is also vital to understand Shein’s brand story. Shein was launched in 2008 and started with ‘SheInside.’ The online site sold wedding dresses and women’s fashion to shoppers. Although Chris Xu founded this brand, its fashion was geared towards the US and English language shoppers. Chris Xu is an expert in SEO and brand marketing, and these factors are why Shein is quite popular online. In the early years of Shein’s formation, there was little difference between the brand and other Chinese retailers. Its unique feature was that it sold wedding gowns. Shein wasn’t involved in any clothing design or manufacturing. Instead, it sourced products from China’s wholesale market in a region where many Chine clothing factories resided. 

In the beginning, Shein operated like a dropshipping business that sold products from wholesalers to shoppers overseas. However, Shein began to procure its supply chain system in 2014. It was at this time that Shein transformed itself into a full retailer. It wasn’t till 2015 that the brand made a move to change its domain name to Shein. This move made the brand more popular as it became more searchable for searchers. However, a notable fact is that Shein already had an online presence before this move. Its partnership with fashion bloggers and product promotion on different social media platforms widened its customer base. Shein is one of the first fashion brands to adopt social media marketing, starting far back in 2012.

Shein has over 800 designers rapidly producing its clothes, although it cuts out suppliers that produce low-quality products. Although in 2017, Shein was advertising in US television shows and using influencers, it mainly was its use of Tiktok that gave rise to the viral products that skyrocketed its popularity.

How Shein Became a Fast Fashion Brand

Most people today call Shein the future of Fashion which gave rise to the Shein vs Zara debate. However, this company’s rise didn’t just happen. Although Zara pioneered fast fashion, Shein’s success is based on several factors explored below. 


One thing about Shein is that it caters to shoppers who fall within the age grade of 16-30. Therefore, to keep the attention of digital shoppers like this, there’s a need to stay fresh continually. Shein does this by introducing several new products each week. Sometimes, Shein is known for introducing new fashion pieces every day. In 2020, records showed that Shein launched over 150,000 items. It launched nearly 4000 womenswear items in a week. You can find tens of thousands of new items every month on the online platform, and thousands added each day. Some would argue that its production pace is faster than most ultra-fashion platforms. This action led to new designs for its customers to explore and helped build a loyal customer base. 

Low-Budget Outfit

Fast fashion relies on providing high style to the public, which is what Shein is all about. Many people are shocked at how Shein prices several of its categories. Although there are many fast fashion brands today, Shein is known to average the lowest prices. Shein clothing pieces are as low as $10 – $50 in the top category. Most people find it interesting just how low Shein prices its assortment. However, this feature is why Shein has such a vast customer base today. 

Steady Discounts

One would think that discounts cannot be a part of Shein’s selling strategy with low prices like that. However, the opposite is usually the case as Shein offers more discounts in the Shein vs Zara debate. There are new discounts available every other day, and most of the influencers Shein works with have special discount codes used to track leads from them. Promotions abound each week with over 30-50% off. Although Shein’s new clothes stay around 60 days before there’s a discount on them, the prices are already low enough to purchase without a discount. 

Social Media Influencers

Shein is so popular and fast-fashion brand because of its partnership with many social media influencers. Shein runs a social media account for each nation and category on Instagram and still has a vast following. Although in the Shein vs Zara debate, Zara has a more considerable following, Shien is still impressive despite being a young fashion brand. One reason for its vast followings is due to promotions through celebrities and influencers. Shein is known for its collaboration with top musicians like Little Nas X, Katy Perry, Tinashe, and Nick Jonas. It also uses sponsored influencers like Addison Rae, Hannah Godwin, and many more. However, this doesn’t mean Shein is a brand for the rich. It uses influencers to cement its relationship with regular people.

How Zara Became Fast Fashion

Zara is the founder of fast fashion, and it grew into its position due to many factors. For the Shein vs Zara fast fashion debate, it is vital to explore the factors contributing to its success. Two factors contribute to the popularity of this fast-fashion brand.

Product Line-Up

Zara focused on continually manufacturing fashion-sensitive products. Its designs which are constantly in production, always change according to customer’s preference. Zara releases hundreds of thousands of new clothing pieces in a year. These apparels varied according to size, color, and material. The designs were not dependent on uniqueness. Instead, Zara’s designers always kept a close watch on catwalk trends and created something similar for the masses. The designers are constantly creating variations of catwalk trends every season and tend to expand on unique designs. Zara’s emphasis was on its design freshness to provide shoppers with exclusivity. The brand never created bulk items of a single design.

Fast Supply

In the Shein vs. Zara fast fashion debate, it’s clear to see that Zara has more of a physical presence than Shein. Zara usually dispatches new designs to its shops twice every week from its central distribution center. This supply type eliminates a need for a local warehouse and makes the design readily available to shoppers. Its confidence in its fast supply chain is why most merchandise replacement takes place quickly in a month. Zara understands the importance of store locations to customers. Although Zara’s clothes are inexpensive, the design and store location makes them look expensive. Therefore, unlike Shein, an eCommerce brand, Zara provides its customers with a premium feel at a low price.


Zara was the first to abandon fashion seasons for year-long productions. Due to its success, other designers and retailers like Shein followed its lead into the next decade. Many factors contribute to both brands’ success as fast-fashion brands. This article examines Shein vs Zara as a fast-fashion brand and the factors that make them successful. Although things have gotten faster with brands practicing ultra-fast fashion, these brands continue to stay trendy and at the top of fashion brands.

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