Dr. Sheng Lu joined the department in 2015. Dr. Lu's research focuses on the economic and business aspects of the global textile and apparel industry, including international trade, apparel sourcing, fashion supply chain, and trade policy. Dr. Lu also studies social responsibility and sustainability issues related to apparel sourcing and trade and the implications of big data and digital technologies on the fashion industry, particularly from a supply chain perspective.
Dr. Lu received the 2014 Rising Star Award and the 2019 Mid-Career Excellence Award from the International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) to recognize his research and teaching excellence. He is also the multiple-time recipient of the Paper of Distinction Award at the ITAA annual conferences. He was also invited to serve as a consultant for the International Trade Centre (ITC), co-run by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations (UN).
Dr. Lu has achieved over 80 publications in leading academic and trade journals in the textile and apparel discipline. His works were cited by government reports such as the Congressional Research Service (CRS) studies prepared for members of U.S. Congress, U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) official assessment on the economic impacts of free trade agreements as well as the World Bank, International Labor Organization, and the United Nations research publications. Dr. Lu and his work were also regularly featured by media outlet, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BBC World News (UK), Bloomberg, Nikkei Asian Review (Japan), Associated Press, the Economist (UK), South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), and Business of Fashion.
Industry Expertise (3)
Import and Export
Areas of Expertise (5)
Textile and Apparel Industries
Fashion and Apparel
Media Appearances (24)
Research Shows Adaptive Apparel Market Underserved at Retail
Yahoo! Lifestyle online
One in four U.S. residents who experience at least one type of disability don’t have enough adaptive apparel options, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education Journal by Hannah Laurits and Dr. Sheng Lu of the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies at UD.
How Shein outgrew Zara and H&M and pioneered fast-fashion 2.0
The direct-to-consumer model gives Shein an advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers, which must distribute apparel across a global network of stores and keep those locations stocked, said Sheng Lu, professor of fashion and apparel studies.
Shein x Forever 21: ‘If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them’
Yahoo! Lifestyle online
Lu said that the partnership signals Shein’s “eagerness” to find new business growth opportunities and create a “favorable” environment that can eventually lead to a successful IPO.
Asian garment makers call for more help from brands to adapt as Europe calls time on fast fashion
“If Asian companies want to sell their products in Europe in the future, they have to comply with many components of the strategy,” said Lu.
How Shein became a fast-fashion behemoth
Today on the show: how Shein's unusual business model helped it grow from a small internet startup to a global retail behemoth, and why it is so controversial.
America’s Top Fast-Fashion Retailer Tries to Shed Its Chinese Image. Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal print
Shein, the China-founded ultrafast-fashion retailer that has become a favorite of young American consumers, is making an effort to reshape its public image, including addressing American lawmakers’ concerns about the origins of its cotton.
Weak U.S. demand hits Southeast Asia's garment exporters
Nikkei Asia print
Sheng Lu, an associate professor at the University of Delaware's department of fashion and apparel studies, said fashion companies faced a "very challenging" sourcing environment as inflation ate into household budgets and families prioritized living expenses over discretionary purchases.
Analysis: World's apparel, sneakers hub Vietnam struggles as US ban on Xinjiang cotton bites
"Vietnam's heavy reliance on cotton textile materials from China poses a significant risk of containing Xinjiang cotton, as the province produces over 90% of China's cotton," Sheng Lu, Director at the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies at the University of Delaware, told Reuters.
‘Too good to be true?’ As Shein and Temu take off, so does the scrutiny
“From the history of the companies to where their products come from, it’s very hard to say you’re not related to China,” said Sheng Lu, an associate professor of fashion and apparel studies at the University of Delaware.
Chart: The Low Wages of Garment Workers
The Wire online
According to Sheng Lu, University of Delaware, Ethiopia, the fastest-growing African economy, has the lowest wages in the global textile industry. In an effort to attract foreign investors, Ethiopia has implemented the lowest minimum wage of any garment-producing country: only $26 per month, or about 23 euros.
Shein, Forever 21 merger doubles down on fast fashion
CBC news online
The two companies were seen as one of each other's biggest rivals. As such, many experts, including UD's Sheng Lu, saw the move as a surprise. "In terms of price point, definitely they're very, very close," said Lu, assistant professor of fashion and apparel studies.
US Apparel Retailers Break Up With China Amid Worries
The article mentions the survey conducted by Sheng Lu, which found about 61% of apparel retail CEOs haves stopped using China as their primary supplier, up from 30% before the pandemic.
Weak demand leaves U.S. fashion brands cautious on garment orders
Nikkei Asia print
Garment industry expert Sheng Lu, who conducted the survey, said the new level of anxiety about trade tensions and the eagerness to reduce China exposure was notable compared with previous studies.
Indiana’s Top Business School Proudly Partnered With Shein, Then Quietly Cut Ties
“Shein’s prime target market is Gen Z,” Sheng Lu, professor of fashion and apparel studies at UD, said. “[It] may feel that having a partnership with a university may make them more appealing to their customers.”
Calls to shut down Shein, a Chinese fast fashion company, are growing
NPR's Ayehsa Rascoe speaks to Sheng Lu, associate professor of fashion and apparel studies at the University of Delaware, about campaigns warning consumers against Chinese companies Shein and Temu.
Where Is the Fast Fashion Backlash
Sheng Lu, fashion and apparel studies, says fast fashion retailer Shein is an example of “the popularity of cheap products.” But he also sees signs that sustainable shopping is gaining traction, including the boom in resale. “We need to create an environment that can really encourage companies, not just punish them, to do more to make their products sustainable," Lu said.
Chinese Shopping App Temu Wows US Amid TikTok Fears
The rise of fast-fashion retailers Shein and Temu comes as leading U.S. fashion companies seek to reduce their exposure to China with worries intensifying over growing U.S.-China tensions, said Sheng Lu, professor of fashion and apparel studies.
America can't resist fast fashion. Shein, with all its issues, is tailored for it
"The actual cost of making, say, a $5 garment ... is far more, much higher than these $5, if you also consider the impact on garment workers, its impact on the environment," says Sheng Lu, professor of fashion and apparel studies at UD.
The Workers Who Make Your Clothes Want Higher Pay. Who Should Pony Up?
Wall Street Journal print
Because of the intense market competition, factory owners in Bangladesh must also strike a balance between raising the minimum wage and maintaining competitiveness,” said Sheng Lu, an associate professor of fashion and apparel studies at the University of Delaware
U.S. forced labor laws strain China-dependent garment supply chains.
Nikkei Asia print
The value of U.S. garment imports declined 22% in the year to August while quantity dropped 27%, according to figures compiled by Sheng Lu, an associate professor at the University of Delaware's department of fashion and apparel studies.
China’s exports to US endure steepest plunge in nearly 30 years
South China Morning Post print
"Particularly affected by the passage of the Uygur Forced Labor Prevention Act, China accounted for 21 percent of US apparel imports in the first 11 months of 2023, marking a new low for the past decade, according to Sheng Lu, associate professor at the University of Delaware’s department of fashion and apparel studies."
Here's why women's sweaters are more expensive than men's sweaters
Business Insider online
"Sheng Lu is an associate professor of fashion and apparel studies at the University of Delaware. He teaches courses that focus on product sourcing and pricing practices. He told BI that companies typically set their prices based on the cost of goods, expected gross margin, and retail reduction, or the discount they expect to offer in the future. Women's apparel is more trend-driven than menswear and has a more competitive market. These factors can pressure retailers to heavily discount women's clothing, Lu explained."
How Your Old Wardrobe Can Fight Climate Change. Seriously.
Dr. Sheng Lu, professor of fashion and apparel studies at the University of Delaware, sees a growing consumer interest in sustainable fashion. In a 2022 study, Lu found a broad supply base for clothes made from 100 percent recycled textiles, an industry that could be worth over $7.5 billion annually by 2027 and exceed sales of regular new clothing.
Study: EU Retailers Cast Wide Net in Sourcing Recycled Apparel
Yahoo! Lifestyle online
Retailers across Europe‘s biggest apparel-consuming markets are sourcing recycled apparel from all over the globe, according to a recently released study by Dr. Sheng Lu and Leah Marsh of the fashion and apparel studies program at the University of Delaware.
Impact of textile raw material access on CAFTA-DR members’ apparel exports to the United States: a quantitative evaluationThe Journal of The Textile Institute
2023 This study quantitatively evaluated the impact of textile raw material access on Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) members’ apparel exports to the United States. Results from the computable general equilibrium (CGE) model show that improving CAFTA-DR garment producers’ textile raw material access would significantly enhance the price competitiveness of their apparel exports to the United States and increase the export volume. However, improving CAFTA-DR garment producers’ textile raw material access would primarily benefit Asian textile suppliers but result in CAFTA-DR members’ reduced dependence on the U.S. textile raw material supply. The study’s findings provided new insights into the textile and apparel trade patterns in the Western Hemisphere and offered valuable inputs contributing to the public policy debate on expanding U.S. apparel sourcing from CAFTA-DR members from a unique supply chain perspective.
Explore U.S. retailers’ merchandising strategies for clothing made from recycled textile materialsInternational Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education
2022 This study explored U.S. retailers’ unique merchandising strategies for recycled clothing based on a logistic regression analysis of 16,000 Stock keeping Units of apparel items sold in the U.S. retail market from 2018 to 2021. The statistical analysis shows that U.S. retailers adopt distinct product assortment strategies for clothing made from recycled materials in terms of colours, design patterns, and product categories, compared with regular new clothing. Also, U.S. retailers were statistically more likely to price recycled clothing lower than the market average but more likely to target them for the luxury and premium market segments. The study's findings create timely new knowledge about the business aspects of clothing circularity and reveal the necessity of improving recycling technologies and changing consumers’ perceptions of recycled clothing's values.
Explore U.S. Retailers’ Sourcing Strategies for Clothing Made from Recycled Textile MaterialsSustainability
2023 This study explored U.S. retailers’ sourcing patterns for clothing made from recycled textile materials. Based on a statistical analysis of over 3000 such clothing items for sale in the U.S. retail market from January 2019 to August 2022 at the Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) level, the study found that U.S. retailers adopted a diverse sourcing base for clothing made from recycled textile materials, covering developed and developing economies worldwide. Additionally, an exporting country’s economic development level and geographic location had statistically significant impacts on U.S. retailers’ sourcing patterns for clothing made from recycled textile materials regarding assortment diversity, product sophistication, market segments, and pricing. The study’s findings revealed the broad supply base for clothing made from recycled textile materials and suggested promising sourcing opportunities for such products. The findings also indicated that sourcing clothing made from recycled textile materials may help U.S. retailers achieve business benefits beyond the positive environmental impacts.
Are fashion majors ready for the era of data science? A study on the fashion undergraduate curriculums in US institutionsInternational Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education
2021 As the fashion industry is becoming ever more data-driven, this study intends to understand whether the current fashion curriculums in U.S. education institutions have sufficiently introduced fashion majors to the topic of data science and prepared students for related skillsets. The results of MANOVA analysis based on course information collected from 45 fashion curriculums offered by leading U.S.-based fashion programmes show that: First, fashion programmes, in general, have incorporated some but very limited data science-related courses into the fashion curriculum. Second, school affiliation and programme type are two factors that have statistically significant impacts on fashion programmes’ adoption of data science-related courses to the curriculum. Third, the current fashion curriculums are too rigid to allow more data science components without adding additional credit burdens. The findings call for a more balanced fashion curriculum to develop students’ data science-related skillsets and suggest rethinking the future of fashion education in U.S. colleges.
Can garment production survive in a developed economy in the 21st century? A study of “Made in Ireland”Research Journal of Textile and Apparel
2023 Purpose Given the heated academic and policy debate regarding the fate of garment manufacturing in a high-wage developed economy in the 21st century, this study aims to explore the production and export strategies of apparel “Made in Ireland.” Design/methodology/approach A logistic regression analysis of 4,000 apparel items at the stock keeping unit (SKU) level sold in the market from January 2018 to December 2021 was conducted to evaluate the production and export strategy of apparel “Made in Ireland” versus foreign-made imported items sold in Ireland.
Exploring U.S. retailers’ merchandising strategies for adaptive clothing: a focus on product assortment and pricing practicesInternational Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education
Hannah Laurits, Sheng Lu
With society’s increasing call for more inclusivity in the fashion industry, adaptive clothing, designed for people with disabilities (PWD), has rapidly emerged as a critical and high-potential product category for U.S. retailers. By analysing thousands of clothing items in the market from 2018 to 2022 at the Stock Keeping Unit level, this study analysed U.S. retailers’ merchandising strategies for adaptive clothing. The logistic regression revealed that, statistically, adaptive clothing in the U.S. retail market looked more ‘boring’ and exhibited lower availability in several categories, including dresses, outerwear & suits, and underwear. Also, compared with nonadaptive ones, adaptive clothing statistically was more likely to be priced higher than the market average. The findings generated critical new knowledge about the business aspect of adaptive clothing by adding a valuable retailers’ perspective. The results also call for efforts to make adaptive clothing more diverse in product categories and financially affordable to PWD.
Importing Clothing Made from Recycled Textile Materials? A Study of Retailers’ Sourcing Strategies in Five European CountriesSustainability
Leah Marsh and Sheng Lu
This study examined retailers’ sourcing strategies for clothing made from recycled textile materials in the five largest European clothing retail markets (i.e., the UK, Italy, France, Germany, and Spain), given the increasing availability of such products. The multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted based on the detailed country of origin and product assortment information of thousands of such clothing items for sale in these five EU countries from January 2021 to May 2023. The results show that EU retailers sourced clothing using recycled textile materials diversely from over 40 developing and developed countries across Asia, America, Europe, and Africa. The geographic location of supplying countries statistically affects the detailed assortment of recycled clothing that EU retailers import. However, apart from assortment diversity, no statistical evidence indicates that developing countries had advantages over developed ones regarding product sophistication, replenishment frequency, and pricing in the five EU markets. The study’s findings offer new insights into the business aspects of recycled clothing and reveal promising global sourcing opportunities for such products. The results also imply a potentially significant shift in global apparel trade patterns as retailers embrace fashion circularity and expand sourcing clothing made from recycled textile materials.
Mid-Career Excellence Award, International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) (professional)
Rising Star Award, International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) (professional)
Paper of Distinction Awards, International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) (professional)