Forever 21 Bankruptcy: Is This the Fall of Fast Fashion?

Picture this: 

The year is 2014, and you’re walking through the mall with a group of your middle school best friends. Before hitting the food court, you all decide to make your final stop of the day at the large store with the iconic yellow shopping bags. With your Starbucks frappuccinos in hand, you browse through the cheap jewelry and various animal-printed clothing pieces while Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” plays over the store’s stereo system. Life is good. But, we've all changed and grown up since then. It's time that our shopping habits do, too.

Forever 21 is a popular teenage retailer accredited for its role in popularizing "fast fashion" in the United States. From its wide array of inexpensive accessories and clothing, the store has unsurprisingly been a hit among young adults over the past decade. However, over recent years, the popularity of shopping malls has drastically declined as major online retailers such as Amazon and eBay have risen to the top of the e-commerce pyramid. Consequently, this California based company has recently announced that it will be filing for bankruptcy. 

This announcement, while it has come as a surprise to many consumers, does not mean that shoppers should prepare for Forever 21 to be gone for good. According to The New York Times, the family-operated chain plans to close up to 178 stores in the US alone and up to 350 in total, including stores worldwide. However, the retailer reassured customers that it will continue to operate its online store and hundreds of stores in the United States. Even so, the company’s unexpected bankruptcy shines a light on the shifting tastes of today’s shoppers.

What does this mean for the fashion industry? The rise and fall of Forever 21 is just another piece of the big picture that is the changing face of clothing consumerism. Whether it be that consumers are now looking for clothing that is more sustainably sourced or more convenient shopping experience, the demand for shopping malls and fast-fashion retailers has steadily diminished. However, this might be the end of one era and the beginning of a more environmentally-conscious one that our Earth will thank us for. 

According to Merriam-Webster, fast fashion is defined as “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.” While inexpensive and convenient for the average shopper, fast fashion has been under heat over the years for its harmful environmental impacts and ultimate contribution to climate change. With new clothing collections released almost every week and a shrinking target audience, fast fashion is to blame for tons of waste each year when unwanted clothing is simply thrown out. According to The Good Trade, “These garments, full of lead, pesticides, and countless other chemicals, rarely break down and spend their life releasing these toxic chemicals in the air.”  

I am proposing a challenge for the readers of this article to be a part of the change. The fall of Forever 21 serves as an example of the power that consumers hold to stop the cycle of the supply and demand for fast fashion. Make the conscious decision to stop contributing to fast fashion today. Host a clothing swap with your friends to get rid of your unwanted clothing and get some new styles in return the zero waste way. Regularly check out your local Goodwill and thrift stores to find unique clothing pieces that you can give an entirely new life. If there are any other clothing pieces you need, shop sustainability from eco-friendly brands. Together, we can change the way we consume and take pride in the positive impact we make on our Earth. After all, there is nothing better than doing good and looking good while doing it.