Fashion Nova: Industry Thriller or Killer?

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 27 Jun 2019

Do you have that Fashion Nova fit? Fast fashion is one of the biggest sectors of the e-commerce industry, but what effect does it have on the rest of the fashion industry?

Anyone who follows influencers on Instagram will have seen at least one sponsored post with the hashtag #NovaBabe or #FashionNova. The fast fashion empire, Fashion Nova, has remained at the top of the style charts for a couple of years, with no signs of slowing down. So, how did they do it, and is this brand causing damage to the fast-paced fashion industry?

Fashion Nova currently boasts 15.9 million followers on Instagram, posting more than 30 images a day. With five brick-and-mortar stores across the US, the primary source of income is from its e-commerce channel. In 2017, Fashion Nova was one of the most searched brands on Google, alongside Gucci, Supreme, Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

Influencers, celebrities and artists such as Kylie Jenner, Cardi B, Amber Rose and even Baddie Winkle have proudly rocked the fast fashion brand in film clips, on the streets and, of course, all over Instagram. Cardi B has also featured the brand name in one of her songs, She Bad – “I could buy designer, but this Fashion Nova fit.” With so much press coming in left, right and centre, it’s no surprise that this label is one of the most talked about in online retail.

What Makes Fashion Nova So Special?

With all of the hype around the brand, its millions of followers and loyal #NovaBabes, it’s no secret that this fast fashion label is on millions of lips. But what makes Fashion Nova so different from the rest of the speedy style companies? To start with, Fashion Nova specialises in clothing that flatters a curvy figure or at least promotes the illusion of one. In an industry often shaped by the ideal of thin, ‘heroin-chic’ body types, the likes of Kim Kardashian, Ashley Graham and other shapely celebrities have spurred the trend of embracing a curvaceous silhouette, something that Fashion Nova takes in its stride.

Celebrity endorsement plays a huge role in the success of the brand. Rapper, Cardi B, who has been a fan of Fashion Nova since 2014, has collaborated with them a couple of times and often posts pictures on Instagram with a Fashion Nova tag. “She started doing posts and tagging Fashion Nova, and we noticed. We saw the engagement from her followers and how genuine her engagement was with them,” noted Fashion Nova’s founder, Richard Saghian.

How Fast is Too Fast?

Alongside its strong media strategy, the clothes themselves often get called out for their risqué nature. Micro mini dresses, skin-tight jeans that show every curve and ‘underboob’ bikinis are just the beginning for Fashion Nova. Its website welcomes more than 400 new styles every week, keeping up with the high turnaround of fashion.

The brand is also called out for its excessive use of introducing new clothes. As the rise of sustainable fashion is in vogue, Fashion Nova pulls a complete 180-degree attitude, by introducing a plethora of clothes to its site every day, and selling them at a cheap price. This essentially means they’re like a tissue – use once, then throw away. In March, the brand got themselves in hot water for selling a neon bikini with the following warning label: “This product can expose you to Di(2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate, lead and cadmium, which are known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm”, which turned into an investigation into the sourced material used for the clothing.

Celebrity style is the core inspiration behind a lot of fast fashion companies, including Fashion Nova. Although it’s not the only company that’s guilty of it, Fashion Nova has found itself in the news for being named by the likes of Kim K for “knocking off” designs she wears online. Zara has been credited for spearheading the fast fashion industry, with the ability to turn out a runway inspired piece to stores within five weeks. With an influx of inspiration coming in from social media, and new styles hitting screens almost every minute, retailers are taking bits and pieces from every runway, showroom and celebrity and pinning them into the latest ‘StreetStyle’ product page online.

In February 2019, Kim Kardashian ‘called out’ fast fashion brands for “ripping off” the clothes she wears and selling them on the site, even before the star wears the pieces “in real life”.

So, What’s the Big Deal?

Despite the immediate issue of the environmental impact that fast fashion has, other problems arise from the giant industry. From free shipping to discounts and returns, these brands have changed the way consumers see online shopping.

Consumers want new items, they want it cheap and they want it now. Of course, as any retailer knows, there’s a hidden cost of accommodating to the consumer’s needs. According to the Spotlight Series report Returns: The Profit Killer, 41 per cent of online shoppers prefer a free returns policy, making it hard for retailers to keep up with the ever-growing rate of returns. Amongst UK retailers, 41 per cent feel that free returns are one of the strongest selling points of the business; 44 per cent believe that they need to offer free returns to keep up with the competition, and 37 per cent say that offering free returns has increased customer satisfaction.

The price that Fashion Nova offers its items of clothing is attractive to consumers, with the average dress from the site selling for $50. Much like Boohoo, Missguided and other fast fashion retailers, consumers are enticed with discounts of up to 60 per cent, which can only raise the expectations of the online shoppers. In the Spotlight Series report Discounts: A Race to the Bottoms, in relation to every element of discounting, consumers’ expectations are increasing. This means that online retailers must take active steps to manage consumer expectations or risk being pushed into semi-continuous discounting.

What Can Brands Learn from Fashion Nova?

Despite sometimes facing negative press, Fashion Nova offers many tactics that brands can incorporate into their own strategies. While brands can often find it hard to hold down a solid engagement level on social media, Fashion Nova takes advantage of its excessive posting and capitalising off influencers. However, it doesn’t rely heavily on Instagram-famous influencers. Instead, the team places a core focus on celebrities that have a large Instagram following, such as Amber Rose, Kylie Jenner and Cardi B. This is a costly venture, but it’s no surprise that Fashion Nova reap the rewards.

Focus on the niche that a company fits into and sell directly to that market. Fashion Nova doesn’t try to fit into a generic crowd of shoppers – curvy women who are inspired by Instagram ‘baddies’ such as Cardi B and Kim K are the category that the consumers fall into. It’s harder to sell to an entire generation, so opt for a specific target and let the rest follow.

Fashion Nova is the perfect combination of fashion thriller and killer – its harmful impact on the environment and the pressure it puts on other retailers is tough, but it gives an example to other retailers of the possibilities, as well as highlight the future of online shopping and fashion. After digging into the fast fashion wardrobe, it’s easy to see why so many women consider themselves Nova Babes.

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