In the 24 hours after its November 18 launch, Megan Thee Stallion’s Fashion Nova collaboration reportedly drove over $1.2 million in sales. The line features 106 pieces, and offers junior, plus and even tall sizes, welcoming women over 5’10” to the inclusivity conversation.
Fashion Nova, Forever 21 and Boohoo make up 39%, 12% and 10% of the plus-size market, respectively. Fast-fashion brands including Asos, Pretty Little Thing and H&M have also launched size-inclusive collections. In contrast, per Edited, less than 20% of sustainable brands carry above-average sizing — Reformation launched expanded sizing in select pieces in 2018.
Fast-fashion retailers often capitalize off egregious labor practices, and their affordable, diverse sizing can leave women who wear above-average sizes chained to the cycle.
“Fast-fashion retailers exploit garment workers, who are mostly women of color; they over-market to Black women, although they do not protect our interests; they steal designs of Black women and other rising designers; and they [do] horrific harm to our planet,” said Mica Caine.
Following the release of Megan Thee Stallion’s line, Caine expressed her discontent in an open letter on social media, which was reshared by Unbothered, Refinery29’s community for Black millennial women. In the letter, Caine cited fast fashion as “one of the most destructive, racist and anti-woman industries in the world.”
Approximately 80% of garment workers are women, according to non-profit company Labour Behind the Label. A February 2015 report by the Clean Clothes Campaign showed that the top garment producing countries in 2011 were China, Bangladesh, India, Turkey and Vietnam.
In July 2018, Refinery29 owed Fashion Nova’s ascent, in part, to working with influencers who were women of color. Furthermore, Black consumer choices have a “cool factor” that influences the mainstream, per Nielsen.
In her letter, Caine discussed fast-fashion’s long history of copying designs from independent Black designers. Designer Aazhia claimed Fashion Nova stole her work for Megan Thee Stallion’s collection, which Megan refuted in an interview with The Morning Hustle.
In 2019, after a 3-year federal investigation, the New York Times reported on December 16 that Fashion Nova illegally underpaid factory workers. Minutes after the article was shared, Fashion Nova responded to the allegations on Twitter, calling them “categorically false.”
Caine and her twin sister own Mive, a marketplace that sells size-inclusive, sustainable styles designed by BIPOC. She said she posted the open letter because she never saw anyone discuss fast fashion in a cultural context.
“A lot of these retailers have big partnerships with different Black TV shows and entertainers,” Caine said. “Saweetie launched Pretty Planet with Pretty Little Thing, and Teyana Taylor [has] a creative director role at the company. It’s really these entertainers that uphold the cultural significance of these brands when they’re in every way anti-Black.”
PrettyLittleThing was contacted for comment and responded by saying, “PrettyLittleThing prides itself on supporting Black culture and the BLM movement. We work with a wide range of campaign faces ensuring we are representing diversity and inclusion across all of our platforms.”
Brooklyn-based Tribes of Kin designer and sustainable fashion influencer Mia Anyinke noted another fast-fashion look-alike, which she discovered upon releasing her turtleneck mask dress collection.
“I came up with the idea [for the turtleneck mask dress] in the middle of quarantine and started in August,” said Anyinke. “When I actually created it, I looked it up, and nothing came up [that was] like it. When the New York Post article came out, I read it and said, ‘Oh, so Pretty Little Thing is doing the same thing.’”
The New York Post article reported that Pretty Little Thing’s turtleneck mask dress sold out after Kate Moss’ younger half-sister was seen wearing it and that other brands (including Tribes of Kin) were “embracing the all-in-one garment.” Anyinke said she was contacted by a New York Post reporter for an interview, but it was only following the article’s release that she became aware of such similarities in design.
Tribes of Kin priced the dress at $199, while PrettyLittleThing sold its version for $19. Considering her company’s large Instagram following of more than 27,000, Anyinke said she would not be surprised if Pretty Little Thing had copied the style. Anyinke said she felt powerless seeing the images side-by-side. She was not contacted by a Pretty Little Thing representative. Glossy reached out to PLT for comment, and a representative said the company was not aware of the accusations and did not copy the dress.
Anyinke and Caine agree that the systematic exclusion of larger sizes from conscious clothing options only feeds the cycle — and the onus does not lie on Black women alone to fix the system.
Caine said, “It’s very important to recognize that the movement is way bigger than just sustainable brands, but it’s only in their best interests to cater to Black and brown women, and expand sizing offerings. Almost 70% of women are plus-size in the U.S., and you’re shutting out a key demographic. Black women are fashion.”
In a 2016 survey conducted by Yahoo Style, out of 1,000 participants, 24% of Black women identified as plus-size. And women account for 52% of Black Americans, whose total spending power is expected to reach $1.5 trillion this year.