Forever to Never: Forever 21 Files for Bankruptcy

Ladies, it’s time to head to the mall and stock up on trendy, affordable clothes while you still can. Popular fashion retail chain Forever 21 officially filed for bankruptcy on Sep. 29, and announced that it will be closing up to 178 stores in the U.S. and “most” of its stores in Asia and Europe.

Forever 21 is the latest of “fast fashion” stores to fall in the era of online shopping, following Wet Seal and Charlotte Russe, who both filed for bankruptcy in the last few years. In the past, Forever 21 was a reliable source for young women to find cheap but still trendy clothes. Now, with the rise of online stores such as Shein and Zaful that provide the same services for girls from the comfort of their own homes, franchises like Forever 21 that primarily make money from in-person sales have suffered.

Analysts have also said that a shift in how consumers think about fast fashion is to blame for the failure of mall stores. Younger consumers are more concerned about sustainability and the negative environmental impact that fast fashion has than they have been in the past.

Courtesy: @beccamchaffie on Unsplash

If you don’t already know what fast fashion is, Merriam Webster defines it as “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends cheaply and quickly available to consumers.” The rise of fast fashion has had an enormous impact on the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans threw out almost 12 million tons of clothing and shoes in 2015, and 69 percent of that went to the landfill.

Forever 21 was one of the biggest pioneers of the fast fashion movement. Now, experts say Forever 21’s customer base, Gen Z and millennials, have gotten older and now want nicer pieces that last a long time and have moved away from fast fashion into more sustainable options. Forever 21 has failed to keep up with this trend and has not changed their business model at all, while other fast fashion stores like H&M and Zara are incorporating sustainability into their sales.

However, the bankruptcy filing does not mean that Forever 21 is gone forever. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which is referred to as a “reorganization” bankruptcy. Forever 21 plans to use the benefits of the filing to work to improve their company. Executive vice president Linda Chang said in a statement, “This was an important and necessary step to secure the future of our company, which will enable us to reorganize our business and reposition Forever 21.” This could mean a switch to more sustainable practices, or more focus on their online sales, which could help to bridge the gap between their current business model and consumer wants.

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