Fast fashion boutiques’ exploitation of wannabe social media influencers a trend that’s not going away

Cardi B became a Fashion Nova social media influencer in 2017.

Cardi B became a Fashion Nova social media influencer in 2017.

In the age of Instagram, gone are the days when the most popular clothing items are what actresses and socialites wear. Fast fashion boutiques, such as Fashion Nova and Shein, are utilizing a new business tactic of letting young girls, aiming to gain a following and build up their social media careers, push their brands. 

Unfortunately, these brands are taking advantage of the naivety of these girls and not paying them a commensurate rate. When the girls wise up to how they are being exploited, the fashion brand drops them and moves on to the next young lady looking to establish a social media presence. 

With an over-saturated market of young girls willing to accept minimal pay due to their lack of awareness of what they should be earning, these girls are losing thousands of dollars in earnings as a result of the fast fashion boutiques are taking advantage of them.

Fashion Nova, one of the most popular fast fashion boutiques, had trouble gaining traction for its products when it started up in 2006. In order to gain customers, owner Richard Saghian focused on using social media to spread his brand in lieu of a website and opened an Instagram account for the company in 2013.  

At the time, Instagram was a relatively new social media site, but it was reaching teenagers in a way that was not previously seen, and Saghian realized that the traditional routes of making a popular brand were soon to be outdated. 

Saghian started giving out free clothing to any large influencer on the popular site and hoped his investment would pay off. The investment paid off big in 2017, when rapper Cardi B, became a vital part of the brand’s image and what they were promoting. Influencers began taking advantage of the popularity of this boutique and posted themselves in Fashion Nova clothing in order to get a repost and gain followers, making them more appealing to other fashion boutiques. Saghian no longer needed to give out free clothing because they had gained the notoriety they were looking for. 

The influencers don’t just look to Fashion Nova to advance their social media careers, turning to other boutiques such as Shein or Princess Polly as well. The young influencers shell out hundreds to thousands of dollars of their own money to post clothing hauls in hopes that they will get the brand deal they are looking for. 

Ester Dobrik, sister of major internet personality David Dobrik, uses TikTok to promote her favorite brands and has run into the question of how much should she charge a brand for promoting their clothes when she has a following of 750k follower. She reached out to her brother who is knowledgeable about such matters and was shocked to find out that she could charge up to $2,000 for one post, especially when she thought she should only charge $50. Throughout the conversation with her brother on his podcast, Views, she continued to ask, “Really?! Just for one post?” because she was shocked to find out how much she was truly supposed to be earning.

Ester Dobrik is not the only young influencer who didn’t understand what her payment for services rendered should truly be, and others who are not as lucky to have an older brother to inform them were duped by Fashion Nova. Business Insider, interviewed five talent agents about the rates that Fashion Nova pays to the smaller accounts that promote their products, and all five agents had a similar response, one stating, “Generally, we find Fashion Nova will usually offer values between five and 10 times lower than the typical rate a talent would receive elsewhere. Then, the negotiations usually go in circles for months without going anywhere and usually ending in no opportunity, just wasted time because Fashion Nova will refuse to budge.” 

This fact was proven when Fashion Nova’s ad campaigns got leaked and many found out that for a campaign of seven in-feed posts, four inclusive swipe-up posts on Instagram Stories, and five YouTube Videos on account with one million followers, the brand was only willing to pay $8,000. This is unusual because one in-feed post of an account with one million followers normally would pay $10,000, which is more than Fashion Nova was willing to pay for the whole package. It was not until the campaigns got leaked and more knowledgeable clients informed many influencers of the unfair payments that young influencers realized they were getting played. 

Sadly, there is an oversaturation of young influencers, so the brands can continue to take advantage of them. Additionally, it is difficult for the influencers to band together to gain their rights as influencers, so the problem seems far from being solved.