Fashion Nova has ruled the fast-fashion business with double-take prices, massive inventory, and most important, relationships with nearly every influencer and celebrity you can rattle off. The brand was the most searched fashion term on Google in 2018. The industry, in general, cannot help but be intrigued by what seems to be a foolproof marketing strategy that pretty much lives and dies by pushing clothes into our faces 24/7 on Instagram. (Admit it. You "added to cart" at least once or thrice.)
Yet at its core, is Fashion Nova more harmful than helpful to the culture? The brand has been called out for colorism and size-exclusion on its social media platforms by influencer Jackie Aina, but there seems to be another problematic layer to its operations.
Indie designers — most of whom are black — have been repeatedly calling out the brand for allegedly intentionally selling knockoffs of their designs. They also claim the brand has dismissed them when they've reached out, sometimes blocking them on social media altogether.
Wilden reached out to Fashion Nova about the matter and provided Revelist with screenshots of the email exchange.
"I am so utterly outraged and disgusted that Fashion does this to small independent brands," part of Wilden's email to Fashion Nova reads. "If you like somebody's work, you COLLABORATE with them or offer them a deal to use their design! Not blatant theft!! I put so much time, hard work and CREATIVITY into my brand and for it to be stolen by such a huge retailer is truly saddening."
Fashion Nova responded to Wilden and noted the copy was likely made by wholesale vendors it buys the clothes from.
"Dear NovaBabe," begins the response from Fashion Nova Customer Care Representative Sara. "Thank you for contacting us. I am happy to assist you! Kindly note that Fashion Nova has different vendors all over the world and they are the ones who get to make the outfits we post on our website. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience."
The brand's next email to Wilden directed her to its public relations department. According to Wilden, she did reach out to the PR department and never received a response.
"I also submitted a complaint to their website host, Shopify, to have the page taken down, which it was," she told Revelist. "In those cases, Fashion Nova [has] the right to appeal, but since the product was already sold out, I think they didn't bother."
"Y’all [too] cheap to add the hood on it SMFH. Then y’all got sloppy and returned it back from the shipping department SMFH. The f****** nerve to buy and return," she continued.
"I’m not refunding sh**. I’m sending it right back to y’all. Since y’all wanna play I’m gonna Post y’all [employee's] whole name and address y’all bought it under. Since y’all think it’s cool y’all wanna keep playing with ppl. This ain’t the first or the last time that he think [it's cool] to keep f****** with the community. They ain’t for Cassie Collection I have proof you bought 2 of the same exact items just to see how it was made. Payola @fashionnova culture vulture. I let you have my model wtf else do you want get off my d*** I’m sick of y’all."
Nice even had to defend herself against Fashion Nova fans who accused her of lying about designing the jacket and having her original design returned by Fashion Nova.
"Don’t come talking no shit OK. This was designed last October before anyone had it. No one started making this hoodie until I released it. Let’s get that straight. This took four samples to get it right the perfect fit and to make sure the sleeve stay[s] puffy," Nice shared on Instagram.
"Like I said, @FashionNOva it would [have] been cool if you ain’t send ya employees to buy it then personal send it back from ya’ll shipping department but I guess ya’ll got sloppy. Fashion Nova you make enough money you culture vulture. You need to stop before I start dropping real tea [about] how you telling manufacturers to not work with certain companies because you don’t like them and how [they] want [to] put other companies outta business. Stop f****** with the black community. You ain’t gonna keep getting away with this shit. I’m not gonna even knock the ppl that’s promoting them cuz that’s where most of [their] money coming from is fashion nova Post. Without them posts a lot of people… let me hush."
To answer Nice's question: Copycat designs sadly aren't a "new thing" at all. Unfortunately, most aren't even illegal.
CC: Diet Prada. And word to the infamous Canal Street in New York City where knockoff designer goods are openly sold on sidewalks in front of the police on a daily basis unless it's raining. Fashion Nova is just the new gentrifier on the block, but before it, fast-fashion brands like Forever 21, H&M, Primark, and Zara have all been (and are still regularly) accused and sued for theft of apparel designs. Among the most recent: Vans filed a lawsuit against Primark for selling a shoe that looks almost exactly like the brand's iconic skateboard sneaker with its signature single stripe.
Although the laws may not be in place (because they're antiquated AF), there is something so unsettling about a larger brand being able to take from indie brands that have less money and subsequently less power. It also says A LOT when the majority of indie designers getting knocked off are women of color.
There are certainly non-black designers who have addressed repeated knockoff issues with various brands, but it must be pointed out that the majority of the people who claim that Fashion Nova allegedly profits off of their creativity and hard work happen to be black women — even as Fashion Nova laces the pockets of thousands of influencers, many of whom are people of color.
Even though Fashion Nova aligns itself with names such as Cardi B (an Afro-Latina) and pays to have its brand name-dropped in rap songs and on the very black blog The Shaderoom, the brand is still slighting black women and then ignoring them (as with Briana Wilson and Destiney Bleu), dismissing them (as with Luci Wilden), and sometimes even blocking them (as with Jai Nice) when they stand up for themselves.
When Kim Kardashian called out fast-fashion brands for knocking off her designer clothes and threatening her precious relationships in the industry, Fashion Nova quickly fell on its sword with a public statement addressing the matter — and media outlets ate it up. For years indie designers have repeatedly claimed that this practice happens to them regularly and (for some) can affect their livelihoods and their ability to catapult their businesses forward.
Does "well, that's just fashion" truly have to be where the conversation ends? Perhaps legal precedents, higher accountability, and integrity are what Fashion Nova and really the entire fashion retail industry should consider "adding to cart."