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A California distribution center for Fashion Nova—the Instagram-friendly clothing brand promoted by Kylie Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, and Cardi B—reported at least 203 cases of COVID-19 in recent months, making it the third largest ongoing outbreak in all of Los Angeles County.
The “ultra-fast fashion” company’s warehouse in Santa Fe Springs, California, is located just behind the Palmdale location of defense tech company Northrop Grumman, which reported 334 cases, and a Smithfield location, which reported 569, according to the Los Angeles County Public Health Department COVID-19 database.
The Los Angeles County Public Health Department did not immediately return requests for comment on whether there have been any hospitalizations or deaths associated with the outbreak. But the outbreak appears to be growing—as of Jan. 7, the company had reported 166 cases, meaning the count increased by 37 positive tests over the weekend.
Fashion Nova did not respond to requests for comment.
The 15-year-old company, started in Los Angeles in 2006, made itself a name in low-cost clubwear. The brand found its niche on the internet in recent years, primarily on Instagram where it has more than 10 million followers. In 2017, Women’s Wear Daily reported that the company ranked beside Gucci and Louis Vuitton among the most-searched fashion companies of the year. CEO Richard Saghian told the outlet the company grew 600 percent that year.
A major part of the company’s marketing strategy is its “Ambassador” program, or partnerships with influencers with huge followings who tag the company in online posts. Kylie Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, Cardi B, Saweetie, Megan Thee Stallion, and Amber Rose all regularly post photos in the company’s signature tight garments. On their website, Fashion Nova lists 75 Ambassadors, including Cassie, Young Miami of City Girls, and Teyana Taylor. Of the 30 biggest Ambassadors contacted by The Daily Beast, none responded to comment on the outbreak.
Cardi B, who has a personalized line with the company called Party with Cardi, has been instrumental in solidifying Fashion Nova’s popularity. The rapper has mentioned the company in lyrics and mixed the brand’s dresses into her wardrobe, alongside Balenciaga shoes and other high-priced pieces. In December, Cardi B—who has otherwise been an advocate for universal health care—issued an apology for hosting a large maskless Thanksgiving gathering. She later took heat again after sharing photos from an equally large and not socially distanced birthday party for her husband, Offset. (Kylie and the Kardashians have been taking plenty of liberties as well, including a 40th birthday bash for Kim Kardashian.)
In May, a user on the job recruitment site Indeed.com wrote a one-star review of the Santa Fe Springs warehouse. “During these time of covid-19,” the user, who claimed to be an “Inventory Associate” and current employee wrote, “they have us working knowing there has been 10 persons tested positive to covid -19 and keeps being more by the weeks.”
In 2019, a federal Labor Department investigation found that the brand’s clothing had been sewed by workers receiving illegally low wages. The inquiries, which began in 2016, found that Fashion Nova-affiliated factories owed a combined $3.8 million in back wages to hundreds of workers, according to The New York Times.
A source told the Times that seamstresses at some of these Los Angeles-based shops, which often exploit undocumented labor, were paid as little as $2.77 an hour. Fashion Nova’s general counsel denied the claims.
UPDATE: In a statement submitted to the Daily Beast following publication, a spokesperson for Fashion Nova claimed that the case number reflected total cases since the company began reporting them to the LA County Department of Public Health on Oct. 18, 2020. The spokesperson noted that the distribution center had, in fact, tallied 233 positive cases since that date, but that the most recent numbers are not yet reflected in the database. “Fashion Nova is dedicated to the health, safety and welfare of its employees and takes significant steps to protect them from the Covid-19 virus,” the spokesperson said. The LACDPH did not respond to multiple requests for comment and could not confirm the claims.
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