Scott Rohlfs and Fashionnova Controversy: What Can WE Do?

As we say good-bye to summer and back-to-school season makes its return, every year around this time, I find myself wanting to spice up my wardrobe and treat myself to a shopping spree. But of course, as a college student with a budget, I like to save as much as I can. Lately, I’ve found myself visiting fast-fashion clothing websites such as MissGuided, PrettyLittleThing, or Fashionnova. It’s convenient, it’s cheap, and it’s trendy.  

However, recent controversy arose when an artist named Scott Rohlfs accused Fashionnova of stealing his art without permission. While I was researching about this issue, it brought up a few questions for me. How and where are these clothes and designs produced? And do we, as consumers, have a responsibility to be conscious of what we are exactly buying?

Scott Rohlfs, an artist who produces distinct and eye-catching paintings, recently went on Instagram to express his frustration about his art being stolen by an online clothing brand, Fashionnova. Known for its trendy, mass-retailer business that seems to produce hundreds of new clothing pieces everyday following today’s hottest trends, Fashionnova has accumulated more than 13 million followers on Instagram. It is not hard to spot many Instagram models, influencers, and even famous celebrities such as Cardi B and Kylie Jenner promoting the brand.

In his Instagram post, Scott Rohlfs stated: “So a couple of weeks ago I came across one of my paintings being used as a graphic on a dress sold by @fashionnova. I did not give them permission to use my images and I have not been compensated for this. I have sent the cease and desist letter 2 weeks ago and the only response I received was that they will forward it on to their lawyers. They do not respond to my phone calls either. Meanwhile they still have the dress for sale and have not taken it down. It is hard enough to make it out here as an artist without these big companies stealing your art and making a profit off of it.” It seems that Fashionnova is not actively trying to fix this problem, let alone address this issue.

As I read this statement and researched more about this topic, I came to reflect on my role as a consumer. While it is great being able to purchase clothes that are trendy without spending an atrocious amount, I can’t help but ask myself: but at the expense of what? Beyond just the issue of plagiarism, as consumers, I think we do have a moral responsibility to be conscious of what we buy and educate ourselves on how these clothes and designs are made and sold, and where they come from. It is extremely easy to turn a blind eye when we only see clothes being displayed on our laptop screens and on clothing racks - I am and have been definitely guilty of this in the past. However, next time you’re browsing online, or shopping in stores for your new fall wardrobe, I encourage you to take a moment to ask and uncover what’s really happening behind the scenes.


Information obtained from: