Fashion Nova Linked to Underpaid Subcontractor Workers

Published on December 27, 2019

Fashion Nova is in the spotlight, following the NY Times shining a light on the company’s underbelly: for allegedly producing clothes at the hands of underpaid subcontractor workers. Companies paid their sewers as little as $2.77 an hour.

Fast Fashion, A-List Celebrity Styles

Fashion Nova’s “fast fashion” marketing strategy allows the company to manufacture new looks within 48 hours, in L.A. factories rather than overseas—expediting delivery.

The brand’s overnight styles and collaborations with A-list celebrities like Cardi B and influencers launched the company from the obscurity of the fashion world to the eyes of millions on social media.

And Fashion Nova’s founder Richard Saghian noticed mass-producing, cheap ‘high-end’ looking clothes, satisfied online clients.  

Saghian told the Times, “they need to buy a lot of different styles and probably only wear them a couple [of] times so their Instagram feeds can stay fresh.”

Low Prices at a Cost

The brand’s low price points and stylish looks helped spread on social media because a dress can cost $24 or less.

The Director of the Garment Worker Center, Marisa Nuncio, told ABC7 the low price points make it impossible to pay workers adequate wages because labor costs is not accounted for.

“Right now, they are not factoring in actual reality. They are not factoring in true labor costs into their profit margins, and they are asking workers and consumers to accept that,” says Nuncio.

And the US Department of Labor found dozens of factories Fashion Nova subcontracted, owed $3.8 million in back wages to hundreds of workers.

“The clothes are very expensive for what they pay us”: Garment Sector Under Paying Workers
Mercedes Cortes sewing in a Los Angeles factory. Courtesy: Jessica Pons of The New York Times

Mercedes Cortes, 56, sewed Fashion Nova clothes at a factory near the company’s offices in Vernon, California.

She said, “there were cockroaches. There were rats. The conditions weren’t good.”

The U.S. Department of Labor found more than half of the country’s sewing shops violated minimum wage and overtime laws. 75 percent of U.S. garment factories violated health and safety laws. 

Sewing company Coco Love paid 4 cents for each sleeve, 5 cents for each side seams and 8 cents for the neckline seam.

Ms. Cortes noticed the $12 price tags and said, “the clothes are very expensive for what they pay us.” According to the Times, she earned $270 weekly, which is equivalent to $4.66 an hour.

In 2016 she left Coco Love and reached a settlement of $5,000 in back wages.

Fashion Nova Says It Is Not Responsible for Underpaid Workers 

In response to these findings, a Fashion Nova representative said, “any suggestion that Fashion Nova is responsible for underpaying anyone working on our brand is categorically false.”

The company said it met with the Department of Labor to ensure anyone associated with the brand is paid fairly.

“We have already had a highly productive and positive meeting with the Department of Labor in which we discussed our ongoing commitment to ensuring that all workers involved with the Fashion Nova brand are appropriately compensated for the work they do,” Fashion Nova said.

But with a culture validating each other with the digital currency of likes each post gets, those affected will continue paying the upfront cost so companies can keep their low price points.

Kevin Pichinte is a staff writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is a news associate at ABC7 and was formerly a digital news intern at NBC7 and TLM20. At Grit Daily, he covers entertainment and culture news.

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