Is Urbanic the new Shein? A look at rising fast-fashion rivals

    Fast-fashion brand Urbanic has secured $150 million in funding. We take a look at Shein’s newest rival.
    Fast-fashion brand Urbanic has secured $150 million in funding. We take a look at Shein’s newest rival. Photo: Urbanic
      Published   in Fashion

    Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Urbanic is currently headquartered in London. Jing Daily spoke to the firm — who later responded to questions about its founders. Different facts have been reported about Urbanic in Chinese and in English-language media.

    What happened

    Another up-and-coming online fast-fashion retailer has received a big check.

    Urbanic, a London-based fast-fashion brand successfully secured a 150 million Series C investment on November 16. The capital raised will be used to accelerate the company’s market expansion, optimize its supply chain, and upgrade AI design.

    The substantial investment comes from a consortium of European and New York-based funds. Urbanic says its objective is to use this money to create a more environmentally and socially responsible range of designs and clothing.

    The Jing Take

    In recent years, a wave of tech-based fast-fashion startups has emerged in China, all vying to replicate Shein’s stratospheric growth abroad.

    Relying on China’s comprehensive supply chain infrastructure and machine learning-based models to predict trends, these fast-fashion retailers are able to churn out thousands of new products daily, outpacing competitors like Zara and Hamp;M. As a result, they have swiftly and successfully expanded into various international markets.

    Shein’s valuation has surpassed that of both Zara and Hamp;M combined, even after it fell from 100 billion to 66 billion this year. The Chinese e-tailer is on track to achieve the fifth-largest consumer IPO in history after Porsche, LG, Rivian, and General Motors.

    This unprecedented success often overshadows China’s mid-tier contenders, who are working hard to compete on the same playing field. Among these players are Halara, which began with athleisure; Bloomchic, which sells plus-size clothes; and Cider, which focuses on plus-size apparel and swimwear.

    Urbanic offers a wider range of clothing and accessories. Rather than pursuing the US market like most global retailers, Urbanic concentrates on emerging markets like Latin America, Brazil, Mexico, and India. After Shein was banned in India in 2020, Urbanic quickly captured the market and became the top-ranked direct-to-consumer platform in the nation.

    Urbanic offers a wide range of clothing, including swimwear and sports attire. Photo: Urbanic
    Urbanic offers a wide range of clothing, including swimwear and sports attire. Photo: Urbanic

    In the past, major tech and e-commerce firms such as ByteDance, Alibaba, and Vipshop have tried their hand at fast fashion. However, success in this arena is far from guaranteed — ByteDance’s Dmonstudio, for instance, quietly shut down just three months after its launch due to a lack of users.

    As mid-tier e-commerce companies like Urbanic continue to grow, they will likely face the same challenges as Shein — including copyright infringement allegations, scrutiny from labor rights watchdogs, environmental concerns surrounding fast-fashion waste, and, most importantly, data protection issues.

    With everything still in development, it’s hard to determine which brand will thrive and which will succumb to the intense competition for overseas consumers.

    The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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