At the 42nd Grammy awards ceremony in the year 2000, J-Lo shocked the world when she appeared in a stunning and super revealing green Versace dress. This dress was so influential that the feature Google images was shortly born because of the large volume of people who wanted to find a photo of her wearing the dress. Almost 2 decades later, the infamous fast-fashion company Fashion Nova, known for stealing the designs of other brands and selling knockoff versions of them for a fraction of the price, created their own version of "the green dress." While you won't have to drop thousands of dollars to feel like J-Lo, it is worth recognizing that supporting companies like fashion nova is basically saying, "I don't mind the modern-day slavery of sweatshop employees, or the harmful waste impacting villages, or the fact that my clothes are made with cheap materials that won't last nearly as long as it should." While the dress is paying homage to the famous song sung by J-Lo herself, the irony is that loving this dress, does in fact, come with at a cost. Not only are we buying into the dress, but we are also buying into a business that lacks ethics and any form of empathy towards our environment. In order to effectively send a message to companies like Fashion Nova to change their ways, a boycott is necessary. But, for now, the best way we as consumers can play our part in helping the environment is to simply refrain from impulse buying, consider buying clothes that are from second-hand stores, and to just wear your clothing pieces longer.
The dress is made out of a sheer chiffon printed fabric. After some more digging, I was able to find that the material is 100% Polyester. The undergarment sold with the dress is made out of 82% Nylon and 18% Spandex. These three materials used are known as "synthetic fabrics," which are plastic-based fibers using roughly 342 million barrels of oil per year. Not only are these fabrics bad for the environment because of the excess materials needed to produce them, they are also contributing to microplastic pollution which directly impacts our oceans. These micro-plastics are produced when these garments are washed by consumers. When they enter into our waterways, they negatively impact marine life. While synthetic fabrics do not require agricultural land or much water to produce, they do rely on fossil fuels from petrochemical industries to receive these raw materials.
Fast fashion brands, including Fashion Nova, are best known for creating knockoffs from other designers especially following the trends seen through luxury companies and smaller brands. In this case, the knockoff is based on the Versace dress famously worn by J-Lo, which Fashion Nova ironically names "Love Don't Cost a Thing." In order for Fashion Nova to stay on top of its game, their turnaround must be fast. Fashion Nova is known for its constant efforts to deliver the "hottest styles" by constantly releasing countless items. Now put this into perspective, most luxury brands release new items 2-4 times a year; Zara, a fellow member of the fast-fashion club, launches new arrivals 20 times a year. Fashion Nova is releasing new arrivals 52 TIMES A YEAR with over 1000 pieces each time.
These trendy clothes must not only be produced quickly but also use cheap resources that cause their clothing to be sold at a reasonable price and have a shorter shelf life. Customers have stated their dissatisfaction with the quality of their products. Some have even said that their products arrived with holes in them or that it feels "cheap." The chemicals involved with the making of these garments are often dumped into rivers surrounding nearby villages. The chemicals and dyes dumped into the water are not only devastating to the local ecosystem but also negatively impacting the nearby residents who rely on that body of water for various purposes.
With such a fast production rate and the company's "working around-the-clock" lifestyle, one can only imagine the impact this must have on employees. This quick response manufacturing creates high costs and time pressures, leading to the workers making the clothing suffer the most with terrible working conditions and meager pay. When I say that Fashion Nova employees are wildly underpaid, I'm serious; in a recent report, it was noted that some of the employees were receiving as little as $2.77 an hour. Not only are they barely getting paid for the immense amount of work, but the conditions also aren't so shabby either. Employees who worked at the LA facility stated that there were loads of rats and cockroaches inside the facility. To make matters worse, there are several employees who are undocumented, which makes it difficult for them to stand up against the mistreatment. If you think it can't get worse than this, buckle up for what I'm going to tell you now. In 2019 the company owed millions of dollars in back pay ($3.8 million to be exact) to hundreds of employees.
The most heartbreaking part of this research was realizing most of the information I was able to retrieve was from Fashion Nova's LA facility, which makes less than half of its clothing. I can't even imagine how worse the employees are being treated in their facilities outside the United States. We as consumers are also at fault for this, the main reason, in my opinion, being social media. In this new age where many of us sport our latest and trendiest outfit and take pics of us wearing it to post on social media, a lot of us are less inclined to re-wear this outfit as its already been seen by a large sum of people (it's social suicide!!!). So what usually ends up happening is that consumers will want to get rid of it. A study conducted in 2016 stated that the average American throws out approximately 80 pounds of clothes each year. In this new, fast-paced environment, we desire to get the newest and hottest look, the need to stay on-trend. While it sucks to say it, I commend Fashion Nova for not trying to be something they're not; they are a brand fueled by this social media lifestyle with no need to change their methods.
Kamath, N., Handbook of research on strategic supply chain management in the retail industry (2016)