We all know by now that fashion brands get inspiration from fellow designers—especially when a design becomes so popular, customers are looking to spend their coin to recreate the look on a budget. Fast-fashion retailers are probably the biggest culprits of all when it comes to hopping on style trends. We can always expect to see them push out as many replicas as they can out to win big dollars.
Although copycat fashion makes it easier for us to keep our wardrobes current, it also makes it harder for the original designers to profit from their creations. What makes it even worse is that the person losing out on the money usually has less funds, power, and exposure. For example, Fashion Nova, a top fashion store that has continuously stolen from Black indie designers, has caused lesser-known designers to lose money and their claim to the designs they’ve worked tirelessly at for years.
A Sticky Situation
Recently, Fashion Nova got into hot water after a designer named Aazhia accused both the store and Megan Thee Stallion of stealing her work. Fashion Nova and Megan recently collaborated on a collection, and one of the dresses from the lineup, the Chase the Bag Shoulder Pad Mini Dress, strongly resembled (or, let’s be honest, was almost an exact copy of) Aazhia’s TLZ L’Femme Dress.
Aazhia wrote on an Instagram post, “IMA BREAK THIS DOWN REAL SIMPLE! MY DRESS WAS STOLEN AND USED IN THIS MEGAN X FN COLLAB! WAS I TOLD? NO! WAS I COMPENSATED? NO!” The rapper’s team had previously reached out to Aazhia, expressing their interest in one of her dresses for an event Megan was attending. She continues, ‘I’M VERY MUCH SO TAKEN BACK BY THE LACK OF RESPECT FOR ANOTHER BLACK WOMAN! THERE IS THIS TIRED NARRATIVE THAT THE BLACK WOMAN IS SO DISRESPECTED, BUT WE DO IT TO EACH OTHER!!!!”
In an interview with The Morning Hustle, Megan attempted to clear the air. She said, “A lot of times, people say that they talked to somebody from my team. I don’t know what year that was. I don’t know who . . . what are you talking about? And a lot of times, they won’t even bring me . . . they don’t tell me who they talking to.” She continued to deny the allegations by saying, “I’ve probably never heard of you like I’ve never seen that dress before. But it’s been a dress that has been done a lot, like, over the years. So I feel bad that people’s initial reaction would be to just come at me like, ‘Oh, you a Black woman! You’re stealing from Black women!’ And I’m like, ‘Damn, hold on, sis, ‘cause, like, I don’t know you.’”
The points Megan attempted to make didn’t fall on deaf ears. Maybe her team didn’t tell her about the meeting with Aazhia, so she was unaware of the resemblance of Aazhia’s dress to hers from the collection. Also, it’s a bit touchy to accuse another Black woman of stealing to avoid perpetuating any stereotypes. However, if Megan’s team had researched Fashion Nova, they would’ve realized that it isn’t new news that Fashion Nova loves copying indie designers, especially Black women designers. Not only does Fashion Nova steal from indie designers, but the company also dismisses, ignores, or even blocks the indie designers who try to reach out to address the issue.
Fashion Nova’s Ongoing Controversy
Luci Wilden, a crochet artist and founder of the Knots & Vibes brand, also suffered from Fashion Nova’s sticky fingers. In 2019, she caught Fashion Nova selling a knockoff of her dress, Skin Out Dress (released in 2017). Understandably, Wilden reached out to the company, which blamed it on wholesale vendors. After directing her to the PR department, she never heard from Fashion Nova again.
Another designer, Destiny Bleu, owner of d.bleu.dazzled, lost big after Fashion Nova and smaller boutiques copied her Midnight Sky Tights that featured her signature crystalized overlay. She applies each crystal by hand, a testament to her passion and how long it takes for these indie designers to produce their items on their own or with a small team instead of massive retailers. Bleu has had major clients like Beyoncé, Kylie Jenner, and Mariah Carey, an impressive accomplishment. Not only did Fashion Nova copy Bleu’s design, but the store used a photo of Bleu’s client Kylie Jenner wearing her tights to sell its cheaper imitation. What a mess!
Many Black indie designers would prefer larger brands (with the means to produce way more than them) to collab with lesser-known designers, a more ethical route, rather than showing disrespect by continuing to rip off the art of hardworking creatives.
The Black Community’s Future Relationship With Fashion Nova
So, should the Black community stop supporting Fashion Nova because they steal from indie fashion designers? I believe large stores and brands like Fashion Nova should strive to highlight the Black indie artists that inspire them by, as mentioned before, collaborating with those artists. That way, the indie artists will gain more exposure and compensation, and Fashion Nova will avoid terrible publicity down the line. A win-win.
However, I also believe people should buy from whoever can give them what they’re willing to pay for. I prefer to shop on Etsy or at art fairs because I love the dedication and creativity artists put into their work, and I love directly showing my support. Plus, I know that what I’m getting is unique. Yet, I also know that more than likely, whatever I’m purchasing will cost more than what I would pay for if I were to buy a similar item from a major retailer. Also, if I’m ordering from a small store or indie designer online, I may have to wait longer to receive my items since not only are the products most likely handmade by the artist or a small team, but the creator is doing all the shipping and handling themselves.
On the other hand, some people may not appreciate the time and dedication it takes for indie artists to create their products. Those people may complain about Black businesses having poor customer service, being too expensive, or having to wait a long time to receive their items. So people can talk about not supporting giant retailers like Fashion Nova, Forever 21, Zara, ASOS, and more, but when the time comes to support original indie artists, people have to remember that, yes, the products may be more expensive or they may have to wait longer to receive their items. Some people prefer things that are more affordable and easier to get instead of waiting longer for the more expensive items they’ve been admiring.
What can indie artists do to ensure major brands never steal their ideas again? That’s a tough question, and it usually involves funds many indie designers do not have. Taking legal action against large companies means expensive lawyers. It’s disturbing how easy it is for these massive brands to steal from indie designers with less power and money. But if individuals continue to realize how much their money matters, they can start putting their hard-earned dollars toward passionate Black indie designers who deserve more exposure.
Written By: Alicia Ivory
Copywriter by day, writer for life, Alicia Ivory has loved writing and storytelling for as long as she remembers. She has written copy, blog posts, website content, and more for a range of fashion brands, including Foot Locker, Lands’ End, Century 21, Nautica, and TJ MAXX. She also writes fantasy and science fiction for kids, primarily with African American characters, and volunteers with organizations that promote the voices and varied experiences of African American authors and writers. Some examples include the Black Children’s Books & Authors (BCBA) and the Free Black Woman’s Society. Through BCBA, she edits articles written by underrepresented authors and coordinates with authors and their representatives for local events.