Who Is Hurt Most By Fashion Nova’s Latest Controversy?

Photo: Presley Ann/Getty Images.
On Monday, The New York Times published a damning report detailing Fashion Nova’s sordid factory conditions, where workers produce clothing for as little as $4.66 USD an hour. According to the report, since it began tracking the company in 2016, the United States Labor Department found Fashion Nova clothing was made in factories that owed hundreds of workers (many of them undocumented) a total of $3.8 million USD in backpay. 
Mercedes Cortes, who sewed Fashion Nova clothes for several months at Coco Love, a factory close to Fashion Nova’s offices in Vernon, California, told The Times, “There were cockroaches. There were rats. The conditions weren’t good.” She said she was paid based on how fast she could sew: 4 cents a sleeve, 5 cents for a side stitch, and 8 cents for a neckline. Why was such a fast turnaround so important? According to the CEO, the answer is Instagram.
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For Richard Saghian, the company's notoriously private CEO, Fashion Nova is the house that Instagram built. One major secret to his brand's success is that the retailer produces clothing faster than Zara (we just didn’t realize how fast that was, exactly), because he understood the power of Instagram very early on. #NovaBabes like Kehlani, Teyana Taylor, Kylie Jenner, Amber Rose, and Cardi B (who has worked with the brand since 2014 and her second collaboration with the brand sold $1 million USD on the first day), have changed the way customers interact with advertisements that authentically tap into popular culture. “She started doing posts and tagging Fashion Nova, and we noticed,” Saghian said of the brand’s relationship with Cardi B. “We saw the engagement from her followers and how genuine her engagement was with them.” 
“Everyone wants to be famous. Everyone wants to have more followers,” Saghian told The Times of his early Instagram strategy. “By tagging them, the influencer would grow their following.” Saghian knows his customers need content for their Instagram accounts — and a lot of it. 
Fashion Nova reportedly creates more than a thousand new styles every week, thanks to its suppliers. “If there was a design concept that came to mind Sunday night, on a Monday afternoon I would have a sample,” he explained.
Fashion Nova responded to The Times on Twitter in a two-part thread, writing: “Any suggestion that Fashion Nova is responsible for underpaying anyone working on our brand is categorically false. Furthermore, we have written agreements with all of our more than 700 vendors in which they commit to pay their employees and sub-contractors in strict alignment with California law. Any vendor found to not be in compliance is immediately put on a six-month probationary period. A second violation results in a suspension of all agreements with that vendor.”
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At the time of publication, Fashion Nova’s last tweet was a coupon code, offering shoppers the chance to “buy more, save more” — but that’s catchier than “pay more, so we can pay our subcontractors more.”
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