Monday, March 22, 2010

Things you don't know...

Maybe you all already know this, but I just recently learned the history of the army of Forever21 stores that populate our towns and cities. They are everywhere, and they keep growing. Yes their clothes are inexpensive. Yes they do have some cute things. Yes you have to be careful what you buy there because they are not built to last. I know they have been sued for alleged IP infringement. These things I know. Everybody does. Just as I think every woman in America has at least been inside a Forever 21 store.

I have shopped there. I do shop there from time to time- usually it's because I see someone wearing something I like- and when I ask I find out it's from Forever 21, and since Forever 21 is well, BART convenient in Downtown San Francisco - you get the picture.

This is what I learned about Forever 21 (Thank you Wikipedia)

"The chain, originally known as Fashion 21, was founded in Los Angeles, California in 1984 by Dong-Won Chang and his wife, Jin Sook. The first store , located at 5637 N. Figueroa St. in the Highland Park district of Los Angeles was only 900 square feet (84 m2); it is still in operation and bears the chain's original name. Originally called Fashion 21, trendy designs seen in South Korea were sold and targeted to the Los Angeles Korean American Community. However, people from many other ethnicities began noticing the fashion forward designs, and the store became increasingly popular. By the end of the first year, sales had risen from $35,000 to $700,000. Fashion 21 eventually expanded at the rate of a new store every six months and changed the Fashion 21 brand name to Forever 21."

This is an amazing story, so far so good. Really. It's an amazing business model and concept. And the company continues to grow. And any large entity is not without its problems.

But then there is this,

"In November 2001, factory workers producing clothing for the company called for a store boycott until working conditions and payroll improved. The lawsuit was dropped when Forever 21 paid the workers' back wages. The matter was settled out of court and the company, which admitted no wrongdoing, agreed to take steps to ensure that its garments were not made in sweatshops. In 2004, under pressure from PETA, Forever 21 agreed to stop selling clothing made with animal fur."

Really? they sold stuff with Animal Fur- honestly I never would have thought that. And I'm glad they are working towards having garments made ethically.

But then,

"Forever 21 has also come under fire from the South Central Farmers and other California-based activist groups in a campaign known collectively as Never Forever 21.The criticism is based on Forever 21’s involvement in a proposed deal with developer Ralph Horowitz to build a warehouse and distribution center on the land that was formerly the site of the South Central Farm."

I guess personally I wish that large companies really worked hard to remain ethical - and be proactive about caring for the globe at large. If anything just for their own PR.

Because, I happen to like many of the things they sell- and because they are affordable- I plan on being an active consumer and holding the company responsible for the choices they make.

Even if it's as simple as writing a letter.

Don't let your customers down F21, because as young women we are active in improving our global community and we are striving for/supporting ethical businesses. We are aware that the choices we make as consumers have consequences. And we will support companies that also participate in social/environmental well being.

** And that is my rant for the day, I promise!**


  1. I have never been in a F21 and this is exactly why! I see so much of their stuff in thrift stores too... it seems like girls just wear each item a few times and then get rid of it and buy more because it is so cheap and trendy. There are soooo many blogs that are just full of F21 stuff that I just don't read them anymore. Not my style.

  2. Funny, I was reading about Forever 21 on wikipedia today too; only I was wondering why John 3:16 was on the bottom of the bag (it references ever lasting life).

    But here is the thing about most chain clothing stores: They sell things from china. As much as I don't like it, it is everywhere. When I see 'made in usa' on a tag, I almost feel obligated to buy it, no matter what it is.

    But I don't consider F21 to be just for cheap and trendy. There are somethings you can get a much better deal on elsewhere, there are somethings that aren't just disposable - my favorite (and only) black cardigan is from Forever 21 and I've been wearing it for over two years!

    When I try to create outfits under $100 to post on my blog I often need F21 because it is a good online resource of cheap. If I could put up links to stuff on sale in my local B&M only stores, I would, but it doesn't work like that - so I look for things that are similar and often find them, since F21 has such an expansive product line.

    Forever 21 rips off designers and makes stuff cheap - which makes fashion for everyone and not just the wealthy or the people talented enough to craft clothing themselves. In that respect, I really like Forever 21. And I DO see things in there that are made in the usa sometime too!

    Chic on the Cheap

  3. I don't dislike them. I shop there at times-you do have to be picky- like everywhere else about materials, however I am not against Forever 21. They have come a long way and have made changes in how they treat employees and they do not use sweatshop labor, they no longer use fur- there are strides that have been made. And, these changes came about because of workers, consumers and humanitarian/ animal rights groups. It is great to see that people effected change on such a large company- but there is more to be done.

    This goes for anyplace. I hope that my voice as a consumer can be heard.

    I do think it is amazing that the whole venture began as a small shop serving the Korean community in LA.

    It's like how Nordstroms began as a small shoe shop, in Seattle.

  4. Along with the problems you noted, my issue with cheap/cute clothing like that at Forever 21 is that is furthers our "disposable" culture. There's no way that clothes can be made that cheaply without some ethical and environmental costs. Also, their garments have been featured on youthoughtwewouldntnotice for ripping off other designers.

    So I've never shopped there, much as I like what I've seen on other people's blogs.