A senior Shein director has maintained that technological prowess rather than supply chain working conditions have driven the pureplay fashion giant’s success. 

Shein US and UK head of strategy and communications Peter Pernot-Day told the World Retail Congress that its exponential growth “isn’t to do with our labour practices… it’s because we’ve digitised.”

Although he did not elaborate upon or make more explicit his point, it will widely be seen as a rejection of criticisms made of Shein as it is understood to be pursuing a public listing on Wall Street or in London in the face of allegations about its operations including poor working conditions in suppiler factories.

Pernot-Day said: “We are first and foremost a fashion company but we are very adroit at technology. What has set us apart is we have embraced some of the concepts that have emerged from the tech sector and applied that to garment production.”

Shein’s technology capacity means it can measure customer interest and engagement, allowing suppliers to produce relatively small quantities of clothing at low risk.

“They can see what customers are excited by so they can confidently make small batches,” he said. That also means Shein’s environmental impact is reduced because, for example, there is less waste when there is evident demand.

Shein has been one of retail’s biggest success stories in recent years. Profits in 2023 are understood to have reached $2bn (£1.6bn) and gross merchandise value $45bn (£36bn). 

Shein has been valued at as much as $60bn (£49bn) as it ponders going public. However political hostility between the US and China has become a hurdle to a New York listing and ethical concerns are thought to have unsettled some potential UK investors.