Photos of labels with formulas that can be understood as calls for help have been widely shared on social networks since the beginning of June.
Question asked on Twitter on June 11th
Several photos have been circulating on Twitter showing clothing tags that would contain an emergency message. They were compiled by a user who claims that “many labels on SHEIN products are engraved (sic) warnings”. In other words, workers at the Chinese ready-to-wear giant were trying to send a message using the clothes’ labels. The anonymous then refers to a list of companies — which does not include Shein — mentioned by Aspi, an Australian political strategy institute, whose contractors they report use Uyghur slave labor.
Many labels on SHEIN products have warnings engraved on them!! Stop ordering from this side of misfortune!! pic.twitter.com/cBqGKAB4w5
As a reminder, the Chinese Communist Party has been conducting a high-level policy of genocide against the Turkish Muslim peoples in the Xinjiang region since 2016: hundreds of thousands of Uyghur citizens have been interned in camps or sentenced to years in prison.
Of the five photos put together by the user, there is only one where you can read the brand’s name. Two come from a montage that has been circulating on social networks since early June. We find them in particular in a video that went viral on TikTok, verified on June 10 by the American fact-checking site Snopes.
The label on the left reads “I have a toothache” below the traditional product information. Its origin is not known. As Snopes noted, a reverse image search finds that this image has been around since at least 2016 and is often listed under “funny tag” examples.
On the right is the message “Help me” in capital letters under the Romwe brand name. In 2018, the company responded to the controversy surrounding its label on Facebook, saying it was the name of the product. “We would like to clear up a serious misunderstanding. One of Romwe’s products, bookmarks, which we gave to some customers as gifts, was called Help Me Bookmarks. Some people saw the item label and thought it was a message from those who made the items. This was not the case! It was just the name of the article!” she had written.
The other three photos show labels with the inscription “need your help” (“I need your help”), which at first glance are actually to be understood as an emergency call. Shein’s name is therefore only visible on one of them.
On Twitter we find more photos that show keywords with a similar text shared by internet users in several languages and on different dates.
The phrase “need your help” appears in a longer garment care sentence. “Because of the water-saving technology, when washing with the mild detergent at the first time, you need your help to make the goods softer,” it reads in English. “Due to the water-saving technology, we need your help the first time we wash with the delicates detergent to make the goods softer,” one could literally translate. So, as some netizens point out, it wouldn’t be a cry for help, but rather a mistranslated phrase regarding the washing instructions. The sentence loses its meaning without this formula.
When contacted, Shein didn’t respond, but in a TikTok video meant to debunk rumors about its brand, the company explained that “this poorly worded label is simply asking consumers to help preserve the softness of the fabric by.” use a milder detergent.