Last month, fashion influencer Arielle Charnas re-launched her clothing line, Something Navy, after a four-month pandemic-related delay. Something Navy, which shares a name with Charnas' OG style blog, had previously been available exclusively at Nordstrom.
"Working with Nordstrom was one of the most amazing opportunities … with one of the biggest players in the retail space,” Charnas told CNBC. “I learned so much. But at the end of the day, I wanted more control. The whole purpose of this brand is to deliver exactly what my followers are asking for. The best way to do that was to not be attached to anyone else.”
The direct-to-consumer relaunch has been a rare bright spot in Charnas' spring and summer, which has been filled with coronavirus-adjacent controversy (more on that in a sec). And she's facing scrutiny again after it was confirmed that the company applied for a loan through the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). According to Page Six, Something Navy received a loan of between $150,000 to $350,000 on April 13, less than two weeks after the government program was launched. The PPP application said that the company retained 25 employees.
Last August, Footwear News reported that Something Navy received a $10 million investment funded by a half-dozen companies, including Vanterra Capital, Box Group, and Rent the Runway co-founder Jennifer Fleiss. The brand's valuation at the time was an estimated $45 million.
"Like many companies, the pandemic had a significant impact on our business, and we participated in the PPP to help protect the jobs of our employees. All of the money was used towards our payroll to avoid job or schedule reductions during the worst of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19—what it was intended to do," a Something Navy spokesperson told VICE in an email. "We did not make this decision lightly, but after careful consideration of all our financial options, we believed that we had a responsibility to our staff to apply for this program to help us manage the financial realities of the current environment."
When Something Navy debuted at Nordstrom, it did $4.4 million in sales in a single day. The brand's self-contained relaunch reportedly sold $1 million in its first 30 minutes. That raised eyebrows on social media, mostly because of the amount of backlash Charnas has faced in the past several months.
In mid-March, Charnas told her 1.3 million Instagram followers that she'd had a fever, a sore throat, and chills for a couple of days. Despite the fact that she didn't meet the criteria for one of the few coronavirus tests that were available, she was able to get swabbed at Cure Urgent Care on the Upper West Side, thanks to her friendship with the clinic's director, Dr. Jake Deutsch. (She posted a video of the drive-up testing process on her Insta-story, tagging Deutch.)
Four days before her test, The New York Times reported that "fewer than 2,000 people in total" had been tested in the state of New York. Northwell Health, which operates 23 hospitals throughout the state, told the Times that it was reserving its coronavirus tests for "the very sick" and vulnerable individuals.
Charnas later announced that she had tested positive for coronavirus and that she and her family would be self-quarantining in their Manhattan apartment. She joined Tiktok. She played with her children. And then eight days after receiving her test results, Charnas, her husband, their kids, and their nanny hopped right out of the city and took up residence in a home in the Hamptons.
She posted a series of (now-deleted) photos as she stood outside their rented house; ("Fresh air," the caption read, followed by a prayer-hand emoji), walked down the street with her daughter (sunshine emoji); and kissed her kid. ("This time with my girls," three prayer-hands). She wore a lot of matching loungewear sets, asked her followers to SWIPE UP for the deets on her outfits, and ignored anyone who questioned her behavior.
Charnas now seems to recognize that may not have been the best look. “People wanted me to be more sensitive about what was going on in the world, and I should have been,” she told The Glossy Podcast. "I also think people wanted me to be more sensitive about what was going on in the world, and I should have been. I wasn’t thinking."
Regardless, further controversies have followed those missteps. She has been called out for copying designer Juan Carlos Obando, plagiarizing one of his designs for a Something Navy dress, and slammed for stiffing a florist for the cost of five Mother's Day orders.
She responded to the first accusation by saying that her brand "did not know about Juan Carlos Obando until his dress was brought to our attention," but they didn't rip off his design, and she called the second allegation "a miscommunication with someone on my team." (Although a woman who was filling in at the shop said that she spoke to Charnas directly. "So stop your bullshit," she wrote in an Instagram comment.)
Applying for that PPP loan could be the least objectionable thing that Charnas has done this year; a Something Navy spokesperson confirmed to VICE that the company did not lay off or furlough any of its employees during the pandemic. Yeah, there are plenty of reasons to roll your eyes or hate-follow her now-private Instagram, but that loan wouldn't be at the top of the list.