Founded by Iranian-American Richard Saghian in 2006, the Californian clothing brand Fashion Nova is a real success story in the industry.
A runaway success
An exponential rate of growth in sales (+600% in 2017) and soon to have 20 million followers on Instagram. Fashion Nova is taking the Fast Fashion sector by storm, despite the outcry from some members of the public that rightly criticise the company’s disastrous impact on the environment.
A runaway success, established by Fashion Nova’s ability to identify, understand and anticipate customer needs. The brand thus focused on the social media of fashion fans: Instagram. Monitoring influencers’ posts closely and consistently, assessing engagement rates and looking at comments is one of the building blocks of its meteoric ascent. A true lesson on the art and style of crowdsourcing.
Fashion Nova’s business model? Identifying a garment that captures the attention of fashion fans on social media and quickly offering them a copy at an extremely competitive price. The brand uses a thousand local suppliers to manufacture its products. With a mind-blowing time to market. Fashion Nova only needs 24 hours to create a prototype, shoot it with a model and put it online. 600 new references are added every week, following market trends. 95% of them are sold for less than $60.
In 2018, Fashion Nova was the most googled brand in the world, ahead of historic houses like Vuitton, Versace, Givenchy and Gucci! This is achieved by the sheer force of its digital communication and famous collaborations, without resorting to traditional advertising.
The @Fashionnova Instagram account publishes every 30 minutes, and separate @Fashionnovamen and @Fashionnovacurce (its Body Positive range) accounts allow the brand to target a specific segment of their clientele.
Many of the brand’s fans repost outfits to join the #Novababes, before being reposted by the Fashion Nova account.
The brand has also developed thanks to famous ambassadors like the Kardashians and highly profitable collaborations – the latest Cardi B capsule collection launched in May 2019 earned $1 million from its very first day. A textbook case of influence marketing.
Founder of Fashion Nova Richard Saghian is also credited with identifying a trend that has now become a social phenomenon: the fight for body positivity and self-acceptance. In the face of our ultra-standardised society, the idea is gaining ground… especially at Fashion Nova. “All our other competitors use the same models over and over again,” explains Richard Saghian in a (rare) interview with American fashion magazine Paper. “[…] We thought we could be a little different by celebrating body positivity and promoting curvy women, and the customers loved it”.
Outfits for all shapes and sizes
Its core business offers a wide product range that adapts to various body shapes and sizes. The “Curve” collection is showcased by plus size models and represents almost 39% of their turnover for ready-to-wear womenswear (vs. 12% for Forever 21) according to a study on “The new economic fashion models”. A simple marketing tool or true engagement? Influencer Tabria Majors has asked this question directly to Fashion Nova: “Why do you use size 2 models for your plus size range? #theanswerisinthequestion”. Models from their Curvy range aren’t really promoted, neither on IG nor their website.
Intellectual property infringements and very limited CSR implementation
Fashion Nova’s talent for catering to and interacting with its customer community is well recognised. However, in our view, this model poses two major pitfalls.
The first reservation is regarding intellectual property violations. Fashion Nova’s business model is “inspired” by creations from luxury brands and major designers, offering virtually identical replicas at lightning speed. Fashion Nova was even sued by Versace in 2020 for counterfeiting. The Fast Fashion model can certainly prosper easily in the USA thanks to legal loopholes, but this isn’t really the case on our older continent. Furthermore, lawsuits cost a lot, not only financially but also in terms of reputation. For a brand that was essentially built on social media, the threat is hardly harmless.
The second pitfall is the CSR dimension, which Fashion Nova only partially implements – through its Curve line. The brand is, in fact, part of a business model that treats clothing as perishable goods, to be discarded after being worn only a few times. A model that has run out of steam and is depleting the planet’s resources (employees, raw materials, etc.).
We are, in our humble opinion, at a generational turning point: changing customer attitudes are leading to new value systems and a different approach to responsibilities with the mantra of saving the planet.