1. Move over SHEIN, there’s a new unicorn in town: Cider achieved a $1 BILLION valuation in just over a year, proving Gen Z’s hunger for fresh fast fashion.
  2. It’s not just speed, it’s strategy: Cider leverages China’s supply chain prowess, but their secret weapon is hyper-targeting Gen Z’s style and values.
  3. Instagram is their runway: Cider’s mastered the art of the aesthetic, turning their social feed into a digital fashion show that feels both aspirational and relatable.
  4. They’re building a #Cidergang, not just a customer base: This brand understands community is the new currency, using Discord and user-generated content to create genuine connections.
  5. Sustainable fast fashion? Cider’s trying: Their “pre-order” model minimizes waste, but can they truly tackle the ethical dilemmas of the industry?
  6. The race to be the next SHEIN is ON: Can Cider overcome customer service hiccups and accusations of plagiarism to become a fashion force? The next chapter is unwritten…

The global fashion landscape is in constant flux, and nowhere is this more evident than in the booming world of cross-border e-commerce. Chinese companies, once known primarily for manufacturing, are now at the forefront of a digital revolution, captivating fashion-savvy shoppers worldwide. The shining example of this phenomenon is SHEIN, a digital fashion powerhouse that has rewritten the rules of fast fashion, achieving a staggering $100 billion valuation in 2022. But SHEIN is not alone in recognizing the potential of this burgeoning market. Enter Cider, a fresh face in the fast fashion arena, aiming to carve its own niche and perhaps even challenge the reigning champion.

Michael Wang, the founder of Cider

Founded in 2020 by Michael Wang, a seasoned entrepreneur with a keen understanding of both fashion and venture capital, Cider entered the scene with a clear vision: to cater to the ever-evolving desires of Gen Z. Recognizing the purchasing power and trendsetting influence of this demographic, Cider has laser-focused its efforts on providing trendy, affordable, and Instagram-worthy apparel that resonates with young women in the US and Europe.

What makes Cider’s story truly remarkable is its meteoric rise to prominence. In just over a year, the brand secured an impressive four rounds of funding, attracting investments from prominent venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and IDG Capital, renowned for backing tech giants like Facebook and Airbnb. This influx of capital propelled Cider to unicorn status with a valuation exceeding $1 billion, a testament to the confidence investors have in the brand’s potential to disrupt the global fast fashion landscape.

This swift success can be attributed in part to Wang’s strategic vision and his deep understanding of the market. Prior to Cider, Wang honed his expertise in both the fashion and investment worlds, working at KKR and IDG Capital before co-founding and leading market strategy for YCloset, a successful fashion rental platform in China. This invaluable experience provided him with the insights and network to navigate the complexities of the fashion industry and the acumen to secure significant funding for Cider’s rapid expansion.

With a finger on the pulse of Gen Z’s fashion desires, a robust digital strategy, and the backing of major investors, Cider is well-positioned to challenge the established players and redefine the future of fast fashion. The question remains, however: can this young brand maintain its momentum and carve out a lasting legacy in an industry known for its fickle trends and relentless competition?

Cider’s Winning Formula: A Deep Dive into Their Strategy

Cider’s rapid ascent in the fiercely competitive world of fast fashion is no accident. The brand has meticulously crafted a strategy that combines the best practices of industry giants like SHEIN with a unique approach tailored to the specific desires of its target market: Gen Z women.

At the heart of Cider’s success lies a business model that draws inspiration from SHEIN’s pioneering “real-time retail” approach, but with a distinct focus on brand building and niche targeting. Similar to its predecessor, Cider leverages China’s robust and agile supply chain, allowing for lightning-fast production turnaround times and the ability to adapt quickly to emerging trends. This data-driven model relies on sophisticated algorithms that analyze real-time sales data, social media trends, and customer feedback to identify emerging styles and predict future demand. This enables Cider to design, manufacture, and bring products to market within a mere 5-7 days, a pace that traditional fast fashion retailers simply cannot match.

However, while SHEIN has embraced a vast product catalog that caters to a broad audience, Cider adopts a more curated approach, focusing on a carefully selected range of apparel designed to resonate deeply with its core demographic. This strategic focus allows Cider to cultivate a distinct brand identity that appeals to Gen Z’s desire for individuality and self-expression, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.

This focus on a specific niche is further amplified by Cider’s savvy marketing strategies, which are deeply intertwined with the digital habits of Gen Z. Recognizing the unparalleled influence of social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest in shaping the fashion choices of this demographic, Cider has made these platforms their primary marketing battleground.

Cider’s social media presence is carefully curated to embody the aesthetic and values of its target market. Their feeds are filled with visually appealing content featuring a diverse range of models, influencers, and everyday consumers showcasing Cider’s clothing in aspirational yet relatable settings. The brand has mastered the art of creating content that feels organic and authentic, tapping into the power of user-generated content and influencer marketing to build trust and credibility among skeptical Gen Z consumers.

Beyond simply showcasing its products, Cider has focused on fostering a strong sense of community among its followers. The brand has cleverly utilized the hashtag #Cidergang to create a space for customers to connect, share their personal style, and engage with the brand on a deeper level. This strategy not only generates valuable user-generated content that promotes Cider’s clothing but also creates a loyal following of brand advocates who feel seen and heard.

Adding another layer to their community-building efforts, Cider has tapped into the rising popularity of Discord, an online platform beloved by Gen Z for its focus on community and communication. Cider’s Discord server, “InCider,” offers a more intimate and interactive space for fans to chat about fashion, share their style inspirations, and receive personalized recommendations. By engaging with its audience on this more personal level, Cider strengthens brand loyalty and gains valuable insights into the evolving desires of its target market.

Finally, Cider has cleverly incorporated a “pre-order” or pre-sale model into its strategy, allowing customers to pre-purchase items before they are produced. This approach serves multiple strategic purposes:

  • Minimizing Waste: By producing only the quantities that have been pre-ordered, Cider reduces the risk of excess inventory and minimizes its environmental footprint – a key concern for environmentally conscious Gen Z consumers.
  • Gauging Demand: Pre-orders provide Cider with valuable data on customer preferences and help them identify potential bestsellers, allowing for more efficient production planning.
  • Creating Exclusivity: The limited-time nature of pre-orders taps into consumers’ fear of missing out, driving a sense of urgency and exclusivity that encourages impulse purchases.

By expertly blending data-driven production, hyper-targeted marketing, and a community-centric approach, Cider has positioned itself as more than just another fast fashion brand. It’s a brand that understands the values, desires, and digital habits of its Gen Z audience, allowing it to cut through the noise and establish itself as a force to be reckoned with in the ever-evolving fashion landscape.

The Cider Experience: Navigating the Website, Logistics, and Customer Reviews

A quick glance at Cider’s website, shopcider.com, reveals a deliberate departure from the cluttered, sale-heavy aesthetic that has become synonymous with fast fashion. Instead, Cider greets visitors with a clean, visually-driven interface awash in pastel hues and playful typography, instantly signaling its target demographic: Gen Z. The homepage serves up a curated selection of on-trend pieces, interspersed with high-quality model shots and influencer collaborations, creating an aspirational yet accessible feel.

Navigating the site is a breeze, even for those accustomed to the endless scroll of fast fashion behemoths. Products are neatly categorized into familiar sections like “Dresses,” “Tops,” and “Bottoms,” but Cider injects a dose of personality with filters like “Pick A Mood” and “Drops.” “Pick a Mood” allows shoppers to filter by feelings — “Feeling Cute,” “Feeling Bold,” “Feeling Chill” — acknowledging the emotional connection Gen Z has with fashion. This clever approach taps into the desire for self-expression and positions clothing as a reflection of individual identity. The “Drops” section highlights new arrivals and limited-edition collections, playing to the fear-of-missing-out and the thrill of exclusivity that drives much of Gen Z’s purchasing decisions.

However, Cider’s commitment to a seamless digital experience appears to falter when it comes to logistics and customer service. Shipping options largely mirror those of competitors like SHEIN, offering both standard (5-7 business days) and express (4-5 business days) delivery, with free shipping thresholds at similar price points. But the catch, as many customers have pointed out on platforms like Trustpilot and Reddit, often lies in the processing and delivery times. While some customers report receiving their orders within the estimated window, others have expressed frustration with delays, particularly for pre-ordered items, which can take up to three weeks to ship.

Cider’s return policy also presents a mixed bag. While the brand offers free returns for US customers on their first order, subsequent returns, as well as those from international shoppers, require customers to shoulder the return shipping costs. Considering the often-low price point of Cider’s garments, this policy can deter some customers from returning ill-fitting or unwanted items.

Delving deeper into customer reviews reveals a spectrum of experiences. On the positive end, Cider is lauded for its on-trend designs, affordable prices, and inclusive size range, with many shoppers praising the brand for offering stylish pieces that don’t break the bank. Trustpilot, for instance, shows Cider with an average rating of 3.8 out of 5 stars, with many positive reviews highlighting the brand’s stylish offerings and affordable prices. However, negative reviews often center around inconsistent product quality, with some customers reporting issues like loose threads, inaccurate sizing, or discrepancies between the online photos and the actual product.

Customer service is another area where Cider seems to fall short. While the brand maintains an active presence on social media, responding to comments and engaging with followers, direct customer support channels appear to be less responsive. Several customers have reported difficulties in contacting Cider regarding order issues or returns, with delays in email responses and limited phone support options.

Overall, the Cider experience reflects the inherent duality of many fast-fashion brands. They offer a highly appealing, trend-driven product at an accessible price point, but the experience is often marred by inconsistencies in product quality, shipping delays, and customer service challenges. Whether Cider can address these concerns and create a more consistently positive experience for its customers will be crucial to the brand’s long-term success and its ability to challenge the dominance of fast fashion giants like SHEIN.

Cider vs. the Titans: A Comparative Analysis of the Competitive Landscape

Cider’s arrival in the fast fashion arena has been nothing short of disruptive, but the brand is vying for attention in an increasingly crowded marketplace. To understand Cider’s potential for long-term success, it’s crucial to analyze its position relative to both established giants and emerging players in the industry.

The undisputed behemoth of the fast fashion world, SHEIN, casts a long shadow. With its sprawling product catalog, ultra-low prices, and masterful command of digital marketing, SHEIN has become synonymous with fast fashion for a generation of consumers. Cider, while adopting many of the same real-time retail strategies, has chosen a different path to differentiation, focusing on a more curated brand identity and targeting the specific style preferences of Gen Z women.

Zaful, another Chinese fast fashion brand, occupies a similar space to SHEIN, emphasizing affordability and trend-driven styles. Both SHEIN and Zaful have a significant head start on Cider in terms of brand recognition, global reach, and customer base. According to SimilarWeb, as of October 2023, SHEIN’s website traffic dwarfs both Cider and Zaful, attracting over 150 million monthly visits compared to Cider’s 6 million and Zaful’s 20 million.

However, focusing solely on these giants would be to overlook the growing number of emerging brands vying for a piece of the fast fashion pie. Halara, known for its comfortable and stylish athleisure wear, and Emmiol, with its romantic and feminine aesthetic, present unique challenges to Cider. These brands, while smaller in scale, have successfully tapped into specific niches within the fast fashion market, highlighting the importance of differentiation in a crowded landscape.

To truly gauge Cider’s competitive standing, it’s essential to delve deeper into key performance metrics:

Website Traffic and Rankings: As mentioned earlier, Cider lags significantly behind SHEIN in terms of website traffic. SimilarWeb data further indicates that while Cider has experienced steady growth in monthly visits, SHEIN maintains a commanding lead, particularly in key markets like the United States, where SHEIN ranks among the top 10 most visited fashion websites.

Social Media Presence and Engagement: Cider has made a concerted effort to cultivate a strong social media presence, particularly on platforms favored by Gen Z like TikTok and Instagram. Cider boasts over 2.5 million followers on Instagram, surpassing Halara’s 1.8 million, but falling short of Emmiol’s impressive 4.5 million followers. While Cider’s content often garners high engagement rates, particularly when featuring influencer collaborations or user-generated content, maintaining this level of engagement and converting followers into paying customers remains a challenge.

App Downloads and User Reviews: While Cider offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices, its download numbers are dwarfed by the likes of SHEIN, which has amassed over 500 million downloads globally. User reviews for Cider’s app are mixed, with some users praising the user-friendly interface and curated product selection, while others cite issues with shipping delays, inaccurate sizing, and a lack of customer support responsiveness.

Affiliate Marketing and Collaborations: Cider utilizes affiliate marketing and influencer collaborations as key components of its marketing strategy. While data on Cider’s affiliate program performance is limited, the brand has partnered with a range of fashion bloggers, YouTubers, and TikTok influencers to increase brand visibility and drive traffic to its website. However, the effectiveness of these collaborations in driving sales and building long-term brand loyalty remains to be seen.


  • Strong Social Media Engagement: Cider excels at creating visually appealing content that resonates with Gen Z consumers on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Their focus on influencer marketing and user-generated content helps to foster a sense of community and authenticity.
  • Trendy Designs: Cider demonstrates a keen understanding of emerging fashion trends, offering a curated selection of stylish and on-trend pieces that appeal to its target demographic.
  • Focus on Specific Niches: Cider has carved out a niche by catering to specific subcultures within Gen Z, such as Y2K fashion enthusiasts, allowing them to target marketing efforts more effectively and cultivate a loyal following.
  • Commitment to Sustainability: Cider’s emphasis on pre-order models and sustainable practices aligns with the values of environmentally conscious Gen Z consumers, potentially giving them an edge over competitors with less sustainable practices.


  • Reliance on Facebook Ad Platform: Cider’s heavy reliance on Facebook advertising makes them vulnerable to changes in the platform’s algorithm and privacy policies, which have recently impacted targeting and ad performance for many businesses.
  • Concerns about Product Quality Consistency: Inconsistent product quality, a common criticism leveled at many fast fashion brands, plagues Cider as well. Addressing these concerns and ensuring quality control will be essential to building customer trust and encouraging repeat purchases.
  • Customer Service Issues: Several customer reviews highlight concerns about Cider’s customer service, citing slow response times, limited support channels, and difficulties in resolving order and return issues. Improving customer service should be a top priority for Cider to enhance the overall customer experience.
  • Potential for Plagiarism Accusations: Cider, like many fast fashion brands, has faced accusations of copying designs from independent creators. These accusations, whether true or not, can damage the brand’s reputation and erode consumer trust. Implementing stricter ethical guidelines and ensuring original designs will be crucial to safeguarding Cider’s image and avoiding future controversies.

Cider’s journey to the top of the fast fashion pyramid is far from over. While the brand has made significant strides in a short period, it faces fierce competition from both established giants and nimble upstarts. Addressing its weaknesses, building a strong reputation for quality and ethical practices, and consistently delivering on its brand promise will be critical to Cider’s continued growth and its ability to establish a lasting legacy in the fast-paced world of fashion.

Beyond Fast Fashion: Cider’s Vision for the Future

While Cider has undeniably mastered the fast fashion playbook, the brand seems determined to transcend the industry’s reputation for churning out cheap, disposable clothing with a limited lifespan. Cider is consciously crafting a narrative that resonates with a new generation of consumers who crave both style and substance. Their vision for the future hinges on building a brand that goes beyond fleeting trends, embracing a more holistic approach that prioritizes community, sustainability, and lasting connections.

Central to this vision is the cultivation of a strong brand identity that extends far beyond simply selling clothes. Cider understands that Gen Z, more than any generation before them, seeks brands that align with their values and offer a sense of belonging. This is where Cider’s community-driven approach comes into play. Through their vibrant social media presence, particularly on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, Cider fosters a sense of inclusivity and encourages self-expression, showcasing a diverse range of styles and body types that resonate with their audience.

The brand’s #Cidergang hashtag further solidifies this community spirit, providing a platform for consumers to connect, share styling tips, and celebrate their individual interpretations of Cider’s clothing. By empowering their customers to become brand ambassadors and content creators, Cider fosters a sense of shared ownership and authenticity that traditional marketing campaigns often struggle to replicate.

Cider’s commitment to sustainability is another crucial aspect of their long-term vision. As awareness of the fashion industry’s environmental impact grows, Gen Z has emerged as a generation deeply concerned about ethical consumption. Cider addresses these concerns head-on by incorporating sustainable practices throughout its supply chain.

Their “pre-order” model, while beneficial for inventory management, also minimizes waste by producing only the quantities that have been pre-purchased. This reduces the likelihood of unsold inventory ending up in landfills, a significant environmental hazard associated with fast fashion. Moreover, Cider has pledged to increase its use of recycled materials and explore more eco-friendly manufacturing processes. While still in the early stages of implementation, these initiatives signal Cider’s commitment to aligning its business practices with the values of its environmentally conscious customer base.

Looking ahead, Cider’s potential for expansion seems limitless. While currently focused on womenswear, the brand’s strong brand recognition and loyal following create opportunities to diversify into new product categories. Expanding into menswear, accessories, or even homeware could tap into new markets and solidify Cider’s position as a lifestyle brand rather than just a clothing retailer.

Geographically, Cider is well-positioned for global domination. While already shipping to over 100 countries, focusing on key markets with a strong affinity for fast fashion, such as Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa, could unlock exponential growth opportunities.

Cider’s journey is a compelling example of a brand evolving alongside its target market. By embracing community, championing sustainability, and consistently adapting to the changing desires of Gen Z, Cider is rewriting the rules of fast fashion and carving out a unique space for itself in the global fashion landscape. Whether they can maintain this momentum and achieve their ambitious goals remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: Cider is a brand to watch in the ever-evolving world of fashion.

Cider’s Journey and the Future of Fast Fashion

Cider’s journey, though still in its early chapters, has been nothing short of remarkable. In just a few short years, the brand has risen from a newcomer to a formidable player in the fast fashion arena, captivating Gen Z consumers with its trend-driven designs, savvy digital marketing, and community-centric approach. Their rapid ascent to unicorn status and the unwavering support of prominent investors speak volumes about Cider’s potential to disrupt the established order and redefine the future of fast fashion.

However, Cider’s path forward is not without its hurdles. The brand faces the same ethical challenges that have plagued the fast fashion industry for years, from concerns about environmental sustainability to questions about labor practices and fair wages. As consumers become increasingly aware of the true cost of fast fashion, Cider, like all brands in this space, will need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to ethical sourcing, responsible production, and transparent business practices.

Whether Cider can maintain its impressive momentum and ascend to the upper echelon of global fashion brands remains to be seen. The brand’s success will hinge on its ability to address the ethical concerns surrounding fast fashion while consistently delivering on its brand promise of offering stylish, affordable, and community-driven fashion. Will Cider simply become another flash in the pan, or will it evolve into a responsible and sustainable leader in the industry?

The answer likely lies in Cider’s ability to adapt and innovate. The fashion landscape is in constant flux, driven by ever-changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, and a growing awareness of social and environmental responsibility. To thrive in this dynamic environment, Cider must remain agile, continuously evolving its strategies, and engaging in open dialogue with its increasingly discerning customer base. Only by embracing change and prioritizing both profit and purpose can Cider solidify its place as a true innovator and a force for good in the ever-evolving world of fashion.


  1. https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/486933765
  2. https://enjoyglobal.net/detail/news/LNews10636
  3. https://www.monadventures.com/zh/news/108/

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