You May Want to Think Twice Before Buying from Fashion Nova

Fashion Nova, an LA-based, fast-fashion, Instagram-famous, online website has caught the eye of many young women attracted to it’s affordable prices and trendy styles. With over 17 million Instagram followers, Fashion Nova has frequent features of different influencers, celebrities and random people who tag the brand. Tops can start at prices as low as $10, jeans average around $30 and dresses can be found for around $30-$40. This website also has regular sales and discounts on shipping. They are proud of their fast worldwide shipping and constant output of new styles. All of these attractions immediately sell to shoppers who find their demands of cheap clothing and quick delivery to be met. But what if behind the flashy advertisements, endorsements from well-known celebrities and attractive sales there was a story that wasn’t being told? Well, there is. 

The New York Times released an article titled, “Fashion Nova’s Secret: Underpaid Workers in Los Angeles Factories.” This piece by Natalie Kitroeff interviewed a worker at the Coco Love, one of Fashion Nova’s factories in LA. She talked to Mercedes Cortes, 56, a previous worker for Fashion Nova that sewed clothes for the company for several months. During her time, she worked every day in appalling environments characterized as smelly, crowded places infested with cockroaches and rats. As if this wasn’t bad enough, her pay depended on how fast she could complete the designs. Sewing a sleeve made her about four cents, each side seam five and the neck seam about eight. Despite her tireless work, she was paid about $270 each week which averages about $4.99 an hour. Before leaving in 2016, Ms. Cortes received a $5,000 back wage settlement. In the article, Ms. Cortes expressed that a shirt for a price of $12 was expensive compared to what the company pays their workers. 

Celebrities such as Cardi B, Kylie Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Young M.A. and HoodCelebrity have all been seen wearing and promoting this brand on different social media websites, interviews and even award ceremonies. After understanding the ethical issues behind Fashion Nova, you wonder if these celebrities are also being deveived about the brand or if everyone is ignoring it altogether. 

How is this sort of behavior still allowed to continue? Over the past four years, Fashion Nova has had over 50 investigations of factories paying employees under the minimum wage or not paying them overtime. Brands have been beating around the bush by claiming they did not know their workers were being paid illegally low wages, therefore they are running free from getting penalized with wage theft. Although the Labor Department has collected millions in back wages and penalties, they have not fined a single retailer in the Los Angeles garment department. In fact, investigations found out that Fashion Nova owes $3.8 million in back wages to hundreds of workers in dozens of factories. 

Fashion Nova immediately responded saying they updated their agreements and if they figure out that any factor is violating the rules they will put them on a six-month probation. However, this does not sound promising considering they have been denying allegations for the past four years and can easily allow the factory to continue illegal acts after this so-called “probation” period. 

There are a few problems that arise when looking at how to tackle this problem. For one, the company doesn’t directly deal with factories. First they place bulk orders with different companies that design their clothes and then the fabric is sent to separately owned sewing contractors, where workers hand sew the clothes and attach the Fashion Nova tag on them. The only real way for this problem to end is if there are more complaints from workers. However another problem arises since many of the workers are undocumented citizens who risk jeopardizing everything if they decide to speak out. 

It seems like all brands care about today is who can attract the most Instagram followers, what celebrity shout-outs they can receive, what new hot trend they can create, how they can make the cheapest prices and how to ship their products as fast as possible. Company owners will do anything to be competitive in their market and see an increase in their sales. These people: those who steal from employees, make them work in cruel workplaces and continue to turn their head need to be stopped. Next time you go to buy something from Fashion Nova, or any other fast-fashion place, do a background check, read the news and look at reviews. It takes the power of consumers to understand the companies they are buying from and make a conscious decision about if they support who that brand truly is. You never know what might be missing behind an alleged “trustworthy” brand.