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Alice McCall Is Reviving Her Brand — on Shein

The Australian designer, who earlier this year closed her label after two decades, is the most prominent designer yet to sell via Shein.
Designer Alice Mccall (centre) with models after a runway show in 2018. The brand was hit by the pandemic and shuttered earlier this year.
Designer Alice Mccall (centre) with models after a runway show in 2018. Battered by pandemic woes, the brand shuttered earlier this year. (Monica Schipper)

Eight months after Australian designer Alice McCall shuttered her business, the brand will make a return, of sorts. On Monday, McCall announced that she will partner with Shein to release a capsule collection of over 30 pieces made from recycled materials.

Though Shein sells works by thousands of independent designers — including pieces that some say imitate the creations of others — Mccall is a rare example of a luxury fashion bona fide partnering with the Singapore-based fast-fashion giant. A staple at Australian fashion week, McCall’s line was often seen on local celebrities and photographed for magazine editorials in the country’s editions of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle.

The brand was hit hard by the pandemic, entering voluntary administration in 2020 and scaling back its 15 physical stores to just three, before ceasing operations entirely in February of this year. The Shein collection will launch on Nov. 16 and will be available in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Shein has been outspoken about its intention to move towards more premium and branded products, which command higher margins and could bring in wealthier customers. It’s had limited success so far: Last month, BoF reported that Shein had begun selling high-end designer and luxury pieces including Balmain, Lanvin, and Paul Smith after it opened up to third-party merchants in a marketplace model. However, the stock appears to be unauthorised grey market goods and are not directly sourced from the brands. Shein has a handful of partnerships with mass brands like Skechers and Hanes, but few, if any, luxury brands have willingly sold through the platform.

The Alice McCall collaboration plays into another recent effort by Shein to burnish its image, using rescued textiles sourced via the company’s partnership with sustainability firm Queen of Raw.

McCall told BoF that she visited Shein’s operations in China for this collaboration, spending time at its head office and factories. “I had the same amount of exposure as I did from working in my own business with the factories in China. They were just as good as the factories I had worked with historically through my own business,” she said.

The designer also noted how Shein enabled efficiencies due to their real-time data analytics, which helps them more accurately predict demand and reduce excess inventory.

Still, the announcement drew dismay from some McCall fans, and Shein opponents online, who say such partnerships don’t address fundamental problems with fast fashion, including encouraging overconsumption and opaque labour practices.

“I can only talk to my experience and what I saw was a very efficient business model. Also, I am a designer in my own integrity writing a narrative with Shein,” McCall said.

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Like her main line, the Shein collaboration will feature McCall’s signature romantic style, albeit at much lower prices: a dress will cost $120, compared with $300 to $800 for her original line. The press release teasing the collaboration described it as “pop pastels, floral prints evocative of an English garden, a nod to 70s Italian lingerie, art nouveau inspired lurex jacquard pieces, sequined mini dresses, toile de jour prints and Marie Antionette-inspired ruffled off the shoulder mini dresses.”

“The quality of the garment we are going to market with is the quality we used to achieve in my own business but at a more attainable price point,” McCall said. “I have no doubt too that these garments will become keepsakes as they really embody the Alice DNA.”

Further Reading

The company’s recent introduction of a marketplace model has led to a flood of listings for new, high-end goods by third-party sellers. Some brands aren’t happy, but there may not be much they can do.

About the author
Tiffany Ap

Tiffany Ap is Senior Correspondent at The Business of Fashion. She is based in New York and covers marketing and the critical China market.

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