Is Forever 21 Really Forever After All?

If you’ve ever stepped foot in a mall, chances are you’ve come across one of the classic mall stores, Forever 21. With their iconic yellow bags riddling peoples arms nearly everywhere you go , it’s easy to tell this retailer is a fashion giant. Maintaining about 800 locations worldwide, Forever 21 is the fast fashion mogul. Coming from humble beginnings in 1984 under that name Fashion 21, the trendy store quickly became the market model for many clothing companies to come. They provided current styles at hard to beat prices, bringing runway looks to the everyday person swiftly and affordably. That sounds like peaches and cream doesn’t it? It would be nice if that was all, but unfortunately efficient clothing production doesn’t come easy, or without consequences. With climate change on the rise and online retailers sucking in consumers, Forever 21 has run into more problems than profit. Leaving the world to watch and wonder if Forever 21 is really forever after all.  

As aforementioned, the LA-based company is the prototype for fast fashion. In the early 2000’s when the company really started taking off, people were not as concerned with sustainability. Climate change was not nearly as an immediate issue as it is today, and consumers focused on the dirt-cheap prices rather than the impact their purchases were making. With the deadly combination of low prices and runway looks replicated quickly, Forever 21 not only disregarded the planet, but disrespected their employees as well. According to the Los Angeles Times in 2017, “sweatshop like conditions” and workers reportedly being paid as little as $6 an hour created a massive backlash from the public. The fashion giant started losing revenue quickly, and it only continued to go down from there.  

Not a rookie to the world of negative feedback, Forever 21 commonly faces knockoff lawsuits for cheap reproductions of other people’s designs or aesthetics. Even worse, they aren’t even the best knockoffs. The demons of the retail apocalypse take that trophy with brands such as Fashion Nova leaving out the brick and mortar step of traditional retail and moving straight to strictly online eCommerce. Promoted by “influencers” on social media platforms such as Instagram, the brands save money on rent and utilities from reality while still benefiting from the discounted wholesale prices. With the overwhelming number of online retailers taking over the consumer markets with accessibility and convenience, Forever 21 is no longer the ultimate place to go for fast fashion.  

On September 29th, 2019, Forever 21 voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, stating that it would not be shutting down operations, but instead going under reconstruction. Planning to shut down stores in Europe, Canada, and Asia, the store's numbers are estimated to drop from 800 worldwide, to only 450. Now backtracking from the niche and quick trends put out at a mass-produced rate and reverting back to a more basics centered model, the Forever 21 we all know and love is due for some serious change. How exactly they will implement this massive revision is something only time can tell, and the world will continue to watch as sustainability takes over the fashion industry, and online retailers edge out the traditional shopping experience.