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Fashion Nova's Men's Debut Is Chock-Full of Meme Wear for the Instagram Generation

With designer-inspired pieces at wallet-friendly prices, the online retailer is looking to cash in on clout-chasing male shoppers.

On her debut album, buried amongst the many fashion label-based lyrics, rapper Cardi B gave a shout-out to one brand that's been holding her down since the beginning: "I can buy designer, but this Fashion Nova fit!" she says on "She Bad." It was a short but sweet mention, reiterating a point that she's made in many interviews before: No matter how much money she's made or which luxury labels reach out to her, the only company that makes jeans that hug her curves correctly is the Richard Saghian-helmed, influencer-focused online retailer Fashion Nova. (She's since landed a collaboration with the brand that will debut in the fall.) Now, after seeing immense success from its affordable women's collections — pieces from which are frequently featured on the Instagram pages of Kylie Jenner, Jordyn Woods, Amber Rose and more — the brand expanded its offering to include menswear on Monday.

The Fashion Nova Men's launch was a consolidated drop of more than 500 pieces, which were hotly anticipated online. The buzz was so widespread that the men's new dedicated Instagram page, @fashionnovamen, amassed more than half a million followers in just three days. With the women's side of the business having made its name in accessible, often-sexy looks ideal for nights out at the club, there was a collective hope that the same would be offered up for men. Speculation on Twitter called for the clothing to be daring, and for a bit of the unexpected. Tweets posited that, perhaps, guys might get options with backs cut out — a style usually reserved for womenswear. Maybe this launch would be filled with thot-fits for men.

It's important to note that most of this chatter was online, so in preparation for the drop, I spoke with 10 male friends from my hometown of Columbia, South Carolina — none of whom were even aware that Fashion Nova was launching men's. (Although, most of them did know that the company, in fact, existed.) All in their early- to mid-20s, those interviewed were a bit at a loss for what to expect.

The actual launch collection came complete with everything from joggers to bombers, a range of T-shirts, short jeans and even a few grooming products for beards. It was not the collection social media hoped for as told by many Twitter responses. They critiqued the range as boring and repetitive of what was already in the market, especially coming from the booming streetwear space.

"I have mixed feelings, to be honest," Ahmier Gibson from Houston, Texas told Fashionista. "On one hand, I am disappointed because I expected something more. Fashion Nova for women definitely fills a [niche] for a variety of women of different ages to look good at a pretty decent and reasonable price. Fashion Nova for men, to me, misses the mark because the looks resemble anything that I could get from a local Rue 21, and for less!"

But Gibson was able to see both sides of the coin. "Male fashion seemingly has no innovation, especially when you're trying to market said fashion as cost effective," he continued.

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The wares certainly do look like what we already see in high-end stores. Some pieces are direct descendants of designs from Off-White, Raf Simons, Supreme, Fear of God, Adidas, Gucci and even Kanye West's infamous "Pablo" merch. There is little imagination to the designs with the idea generally being to take something that people have liked in the past and clash it with internet culture. For example, take a few-seasons-old Raf Simons shirt or the aforementioned Kanye merch and flip the text to make a joke about memes. Want to capitalize on the fact that everyone is wearing a fanny pack across their chests and calling it a "clout pack"? Why not print the word "clout" right onto it. But then again, the label's brand has never really been about innovating on design, but rather being able to provide items that people want quickly and at very low price points.

Prior to the men's launch, I had the chance to preview the pieces, and I similarly thought they were boring. Personally, there was nothing I found that I wanted to wear from the collection. But after seeing the range on Friday and going out to clubs in New York in the nights that followed, it became clear that this is what guys were actually wearing: jean shorts, joggers, sweat shorts and T-shirts. It was too hot for bombers, but that had certainly not been the case a month ago.

When the company offered to send over a few pieces to try out, I decided to take them up on it, asking for things I had seen a lot of guys wearing around the city but would probably never buy. This week a pair of jean shorts, sweat shorts, twill joggers, a fanny pack and a few tees came in the mail. The first thing about the two T-shirts that I noticed — in addition to them being incredibly thin — is the sizing inconsistency. Though they were both mediums, one was about three inches wider than the other. The material of the fanny pack, though fine to the eye, felt incredibly light and prone to damage. But the shorts felt and fit great, as did the twill joggers; while being described as a "skinny fit," they definitely fit my not-so-skinny thighs.

One of Fashion Nova's top selling points has always been the price. It isn't wildly different from other companies like Asos, H&M and Rue21 who already have name recognition and consumer loyalty. However, that is not a challenge that the company has ever found insurmountable. In the past, they have leaned heavily on influencer marketing and the power of social media to woo those who may be faithful to competing retailers, and they've decided to repeat the tactic with the men's launch.

According to a release, the company partnered with 100 men's influencers in different markets. This includes fitness influencers like Mannie Savage, musicians like J. Marquis and Drew Dirksen as well as other notables like "hot felon" Jeremy Meeks and model and boyfriend of Britney Spears, Sam Asghari. Frankly, the pieces don't look bad on social media. They look ideal for disposable fashion, good for a quick snap, much like Fashion Nova's women's goods, as well as similarly priced Instagram fast-fashion labels like I.Am.Gia and PrettyLittleThing. For these influencers, there's certainly financial compensation to offset any possible ridicule about wearing "designer-inspired" (and at times, borderline knockoff) wares. Plus, they're well-versed in the fundamentals of good styling. But for someone who just looks bad, completely lacking in personal style, products from Fashion Nova will not earn you automatic likes on the 'gram.

When we asked about the company's differentiators, considering fit was one of the ones for women, Saghian said in a statement over email: "We pride ourselves on creating a trend-driven, affordable brand that is inclusive of all shapes and sizes. With Fashion Nova Men, we've expanded our reach even further by offering men the same variety of options in fast fashion that our Nova Babes have enjoyed. The line's vibe reflects our brand's ethos — confident, edgy and a bit risk-taking."

While this range certainly does exude confidence, it feels neither edgy nor risk-taking. And with many, more proven brands already in the market, until they can find a way to add in some of that risk to the offering, as Gibson told us, "all in all, they can miss me."

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