Fashion Nova Explains DOL Investigation

Fashion Nova Inc., a prominent Los Angeles–headquartered digital retailer of stylish yet affordable clothing, has been the subject of a wage-theft investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, according to a widely read New York Times article published this week.

The article, “Fashion Nova’s Secret: Underpaid Workers in Los Angeles Factories,” contended that contractors making Fashion Nova’s clothing owed $3.8 million in back wages to hundreds of Los Angeles–area workers. Information for the article was taken from internal U.S. Department of Labor documents that have not been officially released. However, a Department of Labor spokesperson who declined to be identified said that there is currently no active investigation into Fashion Nova.

Sewers interviewed for the story are members of the garment workers advocacy group Garment Workers Center, based in downtown Los Angeles. One of those interviewed for the article, Mercedes Cortes, had received compensation for her wage grievance. Others interviewed had not received compensation for their grievances, Marissa Nuncio, director of the GWC, confirmed. Fashion Nova continues to be of interest to her group.

“Their name keeps popping up in every wage claim that comes through our doors. It used to be Forever 21, but now it is Fashion Nova,” she said.

A Fashion Nova statement denied wrongdoing. “As a proud California-based company, Fashion Nova is fully committed to its more than 1,000 employees and has always followed all California laws in compensating its workforce. Additionally, all of Fashion Nova’s more than 700 vendors have signed written agreements with the company to pay their employees and subcontractors in strict alignment with those same laws. Any vendor found to not be in compliance is immediately put on a six-month probationary period. A second violation results in a suspension of all agreements with that vendor. We have already had a highly productive and positive meeting with the Department of Labor in which we discussed our ongoing commitment to ensure that all workers involved with the Fashion Nova brand are appropriately compensated for the work they do.”

The 13-year-old Fashion Nova climbed to prominence by selling revealing dresses, jeans and lingerie, much of which retails for under $50. It released a line, Fashion Nova x Cardi B with music star Cardi B.

The 18-year-old GWC has a membership of 300 people, but it reaches 4,000 workers annually through its outreach campaigns. In the past few years, it has focused on a “Pay Up, Ross” campaign. GWC alleges that Ross Stores Inc. is responsible for wage-theft violations similar to Fashion Nova’s. In February 2016, the Department of Labor announced a consent judgment that required Ross Stores to pay $212,000 in back wages to employees of its garment subcontractors.

Along with serving as a worker organizing group, educational resource and legal workshop for garment workers, GWC also hopes to change laws regarding wage theft.

“We’d like to see labor laws tightened up,” Nuncio said. “It needs to be made clear that fashion brands are responsible for wages in the supply chain. That is not clear in the law now. That needs to change.”