Fashion Nova Case Study

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The accessibility of high fashion has been steadily increasing throughout the last century.

It went from being something that wouldn’t evolve past the phase of aspiration for most people to being a tangible goal for a good portion of them.

Even though the average population couldn’t get their hands on high fashion items, they were becoming easier to replicate, thus introducing pseudo-high fashion affordable alternatives. This is called fast fashion, and it has extended the profit margins of fashion brands such as Zara and H&M.

With media consumption’s growth alongside trend cycles becoming shorter, numerous fast fashion brands have been pursuing those retailers. Among these brands are upstarts such as Missguided and Forever 21, which were producing new clothing at a pace that surpassed their competitors in an effort to get a hold of a big chunk of the market.

As of right now, there has been another contender on the market with big ambitions and a strategy that allows them to drown out their competition with a deluge of fast fashion cycles. This brand is called Fashion Nova.

Fashion Nova has quickly risen to fame and claimed a spot among the fast-fashion giants. What’s most surprising about Fashion Nova is how much traction they have gotten despite their lack of interest in search engine optimization.

In 2017, Fashion Nova was among the top five most-searched brands and even managed to claim the number one spot in 2018. This begs the question: How has Fashion Nova managed to garner so much fame with their strategy?

It’s quite genius. Fashion Nova saw a lot of potential on Instagram, and so they bet on it and the power of influencers. But most importantly, they knew exactly when to capitalize when their bets paid off.

For the longest time in human history, people made and bought clothes that were tailored to our bodies. Thanks to the invention of sewing machines and the process of making clothes becoming much cheaper and easier a result, people have started to acquire a taste for high fashion, starting from small shops to department stores.

During the ‘70s and ‘80s, Zara, Topshop, and H&M were on top of the fast fashion game. This is because they had figured out how to make designs you’d otherwise see on runways and editorials available to the masses within a month or even less.

Additionally, the introduction of cable television and the Internet during the ‘90s and 2000s accelerated trend cycles and resulted in an ever-growing appetite for the public to buy into the newest fashion trend cycles.

Naturally, due to the public’s exponentially growing appetite, even the top dogs couldn’t possibly control every slice of the market. This meant that smaller brands such as Forever 21 and Missguided could rise and capitalize on the underserved trends.

For instance, Forever 21 was opened in 1984 and started by flipping South Korean designs for the Korean-American community in Lost Angeles, which was underserved back then. Moreover, Japan’s UNIQLO had a big role in undercutting The Gap once it noticed that customers gravitate towards cheap but stylish clothing. This has led them to create a clothing line to provide affordable wardrobe staples at very low prices.

What’s Special About Fashion Nova?

Catering to Niche Tastes

Fashion Nova’s biggest advantage was being ahead of trends by creating clothes for niche tastes that would eventually transpire into a fashion trend.

Keeping All Body Types in Mind

Also, one of the patterns that Fashion Nova noticed was how fashion trends were always made for smaller and less curvy bodies. This was a natural consequence of fast fashion being almost entirely inspired by the runway and editorial showcases that showed those specific types of bodies. Brands would only make plus-sized clothes when there was pressure to do so, and even then, they would be based on the ones made for small bodies.

Affordable Yet Stylish Clothing

In 2006, Fashion Nova started selling affordable club attire in a mall around the Los Angeles area. The public needed plunging necklines and body-hugging dresses, and Fashion Nova happily obliged. They were among the first companies to focus on this style of clothing and provide exactly what the public needed, and so they gained a huge boost because of it. 

What made it even more popular among the masses was how their clothing lines would always be both affordable and stylish. While there were certainly more expensive options for people with higher budgets and more appetite for spending and luxury, most of their fashion items would float around the $20 and $30 marks.

An Ever-Expanding Line

As time went on, Fashion Nova’s line grew bigger and bigger. They started including more casual looks, such as their iconic hourglass-figure-friendly jeans. All of those factors made Fashion Nova rise to the status of cult favorite.

As if that wasn’t enough of a boost for Fashion Nova, the Kim Kardashian phenomenon was also garnering more attention alongside the body positivity movement. This meant that curvy women were getting more positive media portrayals than they ever had been.

In a rare interview with Paper, Richard Saghian, the founder of Fashion Nova, said, “All our other competitors were always using the same models over and over. We thought we could be a little different by celebrating body positivity and using curvier girls, and the customers liked it.”

The Customer Is King

What separated Fashion Nova from a lot of competitors is its focus on embracing and understanding its customers. This allowed them to establish a connection with their audience like no other. And while Richard Saghian was not completely sold on moving from brick-and-mortar to digital, Instagram’s popularity made him see a lot of potential and was enough for him to take a step into the digital world.

In an interview with WWD, Saghian said that he had 60,000 Instagram followers before he had launched the eCommerce site, but he didn’t believe that it was going to do well, so he kept on delaying it.

The online store would not open until 2013, and by that time, four more brick-and-mortar had opened.

To Saghian’s utter surprise, the website sold out of inventory within the first weekend.

Even though Saghian was far from being the first brand to go digital, he certainly knew how to use Instagram to boost Fashion Nova. The brand would focus on posting regularly by showcasing its best-selling items in order to stay relevant. For reference, Fashion Nova produces anywhere between 600 and 900 items every week, meaning there’s always something to post about.

During his interview with WWD, Saghian told the journal that “It’s important to have a lot of styles because our customers post so much online and need new clothes. We don’t want girls showing up to the club in the same outfit. We need 50 different denim jackets. Not just one.”

While posting too frequently on Instagram on an individual’s account can lead to it becoming spammy, the same can’t be said about brands. Social Media Today released a report in 2018 showing that, while posting multiple posts each day would cause a small decline in post engagement, overall daily engagement would see an increase.

In the case of Fashion Nova, they post around 20 to 30 times a day with at least nine new images or videos each day.

Even though a casual consumer might be overwhelmed by the deluge of posts and would consequently unfollow the brand, this strategy has proved very effective at growing a loyal consumer base who wouldn’t really be bothered by the constant stream of new posts on their feeds.

Thanks to the brand’s impressive growth rate, Saghian was able to partner with celebrities to showcase their lines and gain even more traction. Popular figures such as Christina Milian, Blac Chyna, Kris, and Kylie Jenner, along with numerous other celebrities, were showing off the brand’s new clothing items to the masses. According to Saghian, one post from Kylie Jenner could result in no less than $50,000 in sales.

Robert Levenhagen, chief executive of InfluencerDB, said in an interview with Business of Fashion in regards to Fashion Nova’s strategy, “I’m convinced that influencer marketing is a hugely successful performance or profit-based channel. For every dollar they spend, they make more than one dollar of margin, and that’s why they keep scaling and investing in [influencer marketing].”

Fashion Nova’s strategy doesn’t stop there, though. On top of having influencers boost their popularity, they have a brand growth pipeline for people who are submitting content. They even have a network that’s comprised of thousands of influencers, also known as brand ambassadors.

Fashion Nova would even repost lifestyle photos from people who encourage their followers to post pictures of themselves dressed in Fashion Nova clothing and using #NovaBabes. This has been a very effective way of boosting the discoverability of the brand.

What separates Fashion Nova’s strategy from the rest is their focus on people who aren’t already super famous and well established, rather influencers with a following between 50,000 and 250,000, also known as micro-influencers.

For instance, the brand started working with Cardi B before she became a superstar. In his interview with Paper, Saghian mentioned that “Before she even started her musical career, she was shopping Fashion Nova. I worked with her back in 2014 or 2015. She was a personality, and she had great content on her social media. And we loved her style, so we would always work with her.”

This sort of strategy would result in long-term partnerships with paid and organic recommendations. In the case of Cardi B, she ended up releasing a line with the brand in 2018, which completely sold out in less than two hours! Eighty-two minutes to be exact!

“The most successful strategies are where you consider the influencer marketing industry like a pyramid,” said Levenhagen to BoF. “If you consolidate that in a smart way, you create a lot of organic growth and organic media value.”

Another stroke of genius from Fashion Nova was recognizing two very important things. First, women wanted to shop for their husbands and boyfriends for the same price. Second, competitors were trying to hide the curves in their plus-size lines. Consequently, Saghian would go on to produce a menswear line while creating a plus-size line that was meant to go against what the other brands were doing while garnering consumer goodwill.

“No plus size company would ever create something like this for their brands,” Saghian said to Paper. “Yet we were bold enough to create it because we listened to our customer. They said, we want the same thing that you sell in XS; we just want it in 3X. And if you go to our Curve page, you can see that’s what we did… We democratize the fashion that we bring.”

Even though Fashion Nova might be categorized as a millennial brand, they also have cultivated a lot of fans among Gen Z-ers.

However, it has been shown that Fashion Nova’s focus on micro-influencers is paying off in spades. This has been discovered in a study done by HelloSociety, which showed that micro-influencers have a 60% engagement rate than big influencers.

One of the key factors behind Fashion Nova’s success on Instagram is how they’re handling user-generated content. They actively seek out any micro-influencers that made any content pertaining to the brand.

Even without taking a look at the study done by HelloSociety, it’s not hard to see why Fashion Nova is seeking out micro-influencers rather than macro-influencers as the brand has built a big name for itself. Fashion Nova has managed to gain a whopping 20.2 million followers on Instagram. Moreover, it has two other pages, Fashion Nova Curve and Fashion Nova Men, amassing 4 million and 2.6 million followers respectively within less than a year of launching.

Furthermore, Fashion Nova has now pioneered the fast fashion market by making it even faster. Saghian refers to this as “ultra-fast fashion”. With this type of fashion, the brand is capable of going through the entire flow of hyping, making, and selling designs within just a week. They have developed a workflow that makes sure that they can pump out trendy fashion designs so quickly that it’s hard for any other brand to compete in terms of speed.

With that said, this type of fashion is not easy to pull off as it requires an eye capable of recognizing trendy designs as well as a big and loyal following who’s always keeping up and engaging with the brand’s content on social media.

Lessons to Learn from Fashion Nova

Even though Saghian was skeptical of Instagram’s potential at first, the impact that it had on the brand’s exponential growth is undeniable. However, it’s not only about having an Instagram page. If you’re going to take anything away from this article, here’s Fashion Nova’s recipe for success

Target a Niche Audience

With the fast fashion market being so crowded with different brands, it’s much harder today to compete with already established giants when you’re just starting out. Luckily, there is a wide range of underserved audiences out there, and they provide the perfect opportunity for any rising brand to grow.

Create the Hype and Control It

Being able to control your hype means you can buy yourself time to sell your product before the hype dying down. Fashion Nova does it by prioritizing promoting sample items on Instagram. This allows them to get their consumer base excited about their fashion lines that are in mass production.

Be Active on Social Media

As Social Media Today’s study has shown, posting more often will mean that you’ll be getting more engagement on all your posts rather than individual posts. The main focus here is the number of posts so your brand can reach as many eyes as possible— for instance, Fashion Nova posts between 20 and 30 times a day on Instagram.

Don’t Shy Away from Small Influencers

While macro-influencers are very beneficial in spreading the word about your brand, you shouldn’t just focus on them. In the end, they tend to be expensive, and you’re definitely won’t be the first nor last brand they’ll interact with and show off. In the case of micro-influencers, it’s a great way to grow a more loyal audience and garner more engagement.

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Ambassador or influencers?

FashionNova collaborate with 'brand ambassadors' (basically influencers on a contract) to launch long term campaigns.

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