California-based Fashion Nova is being called out for repeatedly partnering with manufacturers known for underpaying workers. According to the NY Times, the fast-fashion retailer tops the United States Labor Department’s list of retailers notorious for contracting with U.S. factories that pay egregiously low wages. Over the course of four years, Fashion Nova has been found in 50 investigations of factories paying less than the federal minimum wage or failing to pay overtime.
In September, three officials from the Department met with Fashion Nova’s lawyers to tell them that, over four years, the brand’s clothes had been found in 50 investigations of factories paying less than the federal minimum wage or failing to pay overtime.
Known for combining trendy looks with low pricing, Fashion Nova was founded in 2013 by company CEO Richard Saghian, who tapped into the then burgeoning online influencer community to build an account boasting 17 million followers on Instagram. According to the NY Times, there were more searches for Fashion Nova last year than for Versace or Gucci,
Fashion Nova doesn’t contract directly with the wage violating factories, but rather enlists producers who farm out the jobs to an array Los Angeles-based factories where some workers have been documented as earning as little as $2.77 an hour.
The complaints have been frequent enough that the Federal Government has met with Fashion Nova leadership. In a statement provided to the NY Times, a Fashion Nova attorney stated, “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. Any suggestion that Fashion Nova is responsible for underpaying anyone working on our brand is categorically false.”
By working with contractors, Fashion Nova and other retailers set up a wall that enables them to escape blame when workers aren’t paid a legal wage. According to federal law, brands aren’t penalized if they can provide evidence they didn’t know their clothes were being made by workers paid sub-minimum wages. At the same time, the sub-contracting factories are known to frequently change names and ownership to wear down employees as they attempt to file.
One woman who worked in a factory manufacturing Fashion Nova garments was paid by the piece. According to the NY Times, she was paid about eight cents to sew on sleeves, ten cents for side seams and eight cents for the garment’s neckline. She earned about $270/week for approximately $4.66 an hour.
Rather than pay workers a minimum wage, it appears Fashion Nova is instead choosing to take its business elsewhere. According to Saghian, 80-percent of the brand’s clothes were made in the United States. As of today, less than half of the brand’s clothing is manufactured in Los Angeles.