Bloomberg — Fast-fashion giant Shein is rapidly ramping up manufacturing in Brazil, with 100 factories already producing for the online retailer since it announced plans to invest $148 million in the region a month ago.
It’s part of a bigger plan to expand production outside of China and to embrace rapid growth in Latin America, said Marcelo Claure, Shein’s chairman for the region and a shareholder in the company.
“I am investing in companies that I can help,” Claure said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Shein fit the profile of the type of company that I was looking for, which was a global company, a highly disruptive company.”
Shein, which currently manufactures almost all of its products in China but sells virtually nothing to Chinese customers, is looking to localize production in fast-growing regions to cut distribution costs and speed up delivery times. The company said in April that it would partner with 2,000 Brazilian textile factories in the next five years, and it has announced similar plans in India and Turkey.
“Latin America plays an important part of Shein’s revenue. It’s definitely one of the fastest-growing regions in the world,” said Claure, who invested $100 million in the company. He noted that Shein’s is one of the most downloaded apps in Brazil.
Claure, 52, served as deputy to SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son until January 2022, when he left the Japanese investment firm over a dispute about compensation. As SoftBank’s chief operating officer, he steered the turnaround efforts at several of the firm’s rockier Vision Fund investments, including Sprint, now T-Mobile US Inc., and WeWork.
Born in Guatemala to Bolivian parents, Claure moved to the US to attend college in Massachusetts. After he graduated, a chance opportunity to buy a cellphone shop spawned Brightstar, a global telecom equipment provider he sold to SoftBank a decade ago.
Since splitting with Son, Claure has been pursuing deals through his family office, Claure Group. He started a division within it last year, Claure Capital, that focuses on public and private investments.
Claure Group, which manages $3.3 billion, will invest in Latin American companies that are “disruptive to traditional business models,” Claure said. Shein, which is headquartered in Singapore, was Claure’s first significant investment following the split with SoftBank, he said.
While Shein has been lauded for its fast-growing business model, it has also faced scrutiny for poor factory conditions and its large carbon footprint. Claure said he took a two-week trip to China prior to investing in Shein to talk to workers and tour the factories to which it outsources production. He added that Shein “sets up very clear rules” related to wages, labor and materials sourcing, and that Brazil will replicate the model used in China.
“It was reassuring to see that the people are happy with Shein,” Claure said.
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