Is Forever 21 Fast Fashion and Ethic Brand?

by jacky chou
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Forever 21 stands out as a symbol of affordability and trendiness that has won the hearts of fashion enthusiasts globally. The Forever 21 fashion brand often comes to mind when we think of fast fashion. But is Forever 21 fast fashion?

Forever 21's incredible success story began with its reign as the mall's king only a few years ago. It ended with its entry into bankruptcy court in 2019, ceasing operations in 40 countries, and now making a comeback.

We are about to get to the bottom of things and find out if Forever 21 truly fits the fast-fashion profile. Keep reading!

What is the Forever 21 Fashion Brand?

Forever 21, also known as F21 OpCo LLC, is a well-known fashion brand founded in 1984 by Do Won Chang and Jin Sook Chang as a small store in Los Angeles, California.

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Over the years, the fashion brand gradually expanded its footprint and eventually established a large global network of outlets. It is renowned for its trendy and reasonably priced clothing, footwear, and accessories for young consumers. Besides, the brand has become well-known for its ability to capture and replicate current fashion trends.

Forever 21 offers various apparel styles, from casual and streetwear to more sophisticated and formal options, to suit various tastes and preferences.

While Forever 21 has enjoyed global success and popularity, it has also generated criticism and debate. The fashion industry has recently placed a greater emphasis on ethical practices and sustainability, which has sparked discussions regarding the role of fashion brands like Forever 21 in this changing environment.

What Are the Forever 21 Sub-Brands?

Forever 21 is divided into eleven sub-brands, including:

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1. XXI Forever

XXI Forever is the large flagship that hosts all the smaller labels under the Forever 21 brand.

2. Gadzooks

This clothing line was acquired by Forever 21 in 2005. It sells casual clothing, shoes, and accessories for 16- to 22-year-old women.

3. 21Men

This clothing line was known as Heritage 1981 Men's and was designed for men in their mid-20s. The designs are contemporary and on-trend for men, just like the women's clothing at other Forever 21 stores.

4. 21 Girls

Forever 21 Girls is a rebrand of the original XXI Forever brand to appeal to younger pre-teen consumers. This collection focuses on popular designs tailored to the growing pre-teen market and sizes.

5. Forever 21 Lingerie

Intimates and lingerie collections debuted in 2007.

6. Forever 21 Red

Launched in 2015, it is a brand extension that focuses on selling core clothing groups compared to the vast number of designs in the other lines and caters to price-conscious consumers. It includes men's and children's clothing.

7. Love21 Contemporary

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A modern collection for women priced similarly to the rest of the Forever 21 brands, This collection is aimed at consumers above the age of 21, allowing them to stay updated on the latest trends while remaining age-appropriate.

8. Forever 21+

This is a contemporary collection for women designed for plus-size consumers. This collection allows plus-size women to wear the same clothing as other Forever 21 consumers at the same price.

9. For Love21

A French boutique-style accessory store selling women's jewelry, handbags, cosmetics, shoes, and more.

10. Heritage 1981

This collection represents the brand's push toward the mid-market consumer segment. This collection has a more urban vibe and is better suited to competing with the designs sold at Urban Outfitters than those sold by high-end fashion houses.

11. Riley Rose

This is the most recent push into the beauty and home goods markets. The brand offers extensive options in Korean beauty, natural skincare, an exclusive assortment of hair care, sparkly makeup from understated and established brands, small accessories, and home goods.

The first Riley Rose store was launched in Los Angeles in 2017. By 2018, the company had built eleven physical stores across the United States. Besides, the brand targets millennials and Gen Z consumers, as seen from the brilliantly lit store and pink theme. Riley Rose also launched an e-shop in 2018.

Is Forever 21 Fast Fashion?

Yes, Forever 21 is considered a fast-fashion brand. Fast fashion describes a business model in the fashion industry that emphasizes producing and delivering rapidly changing, trendy apparel at low prices. Here are the reasons why Forever 21 is a fast-fashion brand:

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1. Affordability

Forever 21 sells clothes at relatively low prices, so a wide range of people can buy them. This fits with the main principle behind fast fashion: offering trendy styles at budget-friendly prices.

2. Quick Production

The company's production process is set up to adapt to new fashion trends swiftly. It can shorten the time it takes to get a new design from concept to store shelves.

3. Rapid Turnover

Forever 21 is well-known for its frequent and rapid turnover of clothing collections. The brand can keep up with the newest fashion trends thanks to the regular release of new styles (often weekly).

4. Replication of Trends

Forever 21 is known for quickly making designs that have been seen on the runway, in magazines, and worn by celebrities. Fast fashion is known for replicating high-end styles and making them available to everyone.

5. A Consumer-Centered Approach

The brand is very aware of what customers want and how trends change, allowing it to produce and sell clothing depending on consumer behavior and the needs of the moment.

Is Forever 21 Ethical?

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1. Labor Practices

Over the years, the Forever 21 brand has faced many allegations of unethical business practices. These allegations include using underpaid workers in sweatshops and creating unsafe work environments.

In 2001, a lawsuit was filed against the company, accusing it of violating United States labor laws by paying its workers less than the minimum wage and making them work past the legal work hours without extra pay.

Besides poor working conditions, there are also child labor allegations, significantly tarnishing Forever 21's ethical reputation.

Despite these claims, Forever 21 is committed to fair labor practices. They insist that all of their products be remanufactured in facilities that follow all applicable local laws and regulations.

2. Animal Welfare Policies

Forever 21 implemented a fur-free policy in 2004 and has since collaborated with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to adhere to animal cruelty guidelines. The brand is still committed to enhancing its practices in this regard. Moreover, Forever 21 permanently banned the use of angora (rabbit hair) in their products in 2014 and formed a partnership with PETA to ensure the ethical treatment of animals.

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In 2020, Forever 21 instituted a lasting prohibition on mohair after learning about the exploitation of goats by some South African farmers, a key source of mohair. Also 2016, Forever 21 announced its support for the Cotton Pledge created by the Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN). Additionally, since 2013, the brand has prioritized discouraging suppliers from acquiring cotton from Uzbekistan.

3. Environmental Impact

As mentioned, Forever 21 is one of many fast fashion companies infamous for their considerable environmental impact. Forever 21 ships its products to stores via ship rather than a plane to reduce its carbon footprint. Besides, it offers 100 percent recyclable and reusable plastic and paper bags at many stores.

Moreover, new stores' use of energy-efficient lighting cuts down on power consumption, and the daily recycling of shipping boxes is a joint effort between the distribution center and the stores. Also, Forever 21 is actively working to develop sustainable apparel styles made from eco-friendly materials.

4. Legal Battles

The reputation of Forever 21 has been further tarnished over time by several legal disputes, including allegations of copyright infringement. The brand has faced many lawsuits from designers and other fashion brands, claiming it copied their designs without permission.

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From luxury brands like Adidas, Puma, and Gucci to independent designers, some may have accused the Forever 21 brand of copying and selling their designs at a lower price.

One noteworthy example involved Puma suing the Forever 21 brand for allegedly replicating three shoe designs from Rihanna's Fenty x Puma collection. These cases highlight Forever 21's alleged unethical behavior regarding intellectual property rights.

Frequently Asked Questions on: Is Forever 21 Fast Fashion?

1. Is Forever 21 environmentally friendly?

Forever 21 usually provides 100 percent recyclable and reusable paper and plastic bags in most stores. It states that it will continue transporting products by sea instead of air to help reduce carbon emissions. Besides, the new Forever 21 stores use energy-efficient lighting systems to minimise energy usage drastically.

2. Why is Forever 21 not popular anymore?

Forever 21 was already behind the curve when it realized the significance of online sales. Besides, Forever 21's rapidly expanding store fleet came at the wrong time, and the new locations it opened were too big. Some stores even exceeded 100,000 square feet. This is why it's no longer popular: it paid more attention to physical stores than its online presence.

3. Where does Forever 21 get its clothes from?

Forever 21 gets about 60% of its total apparel from China. This brand is a highly preferred destination for women to purchase products, especially clothing. It usually manufactures apparel using cotton, rayon, polyester, nylon, viscose, and acrylic materials.

4. What does Forever 21 stand for?

Mr. Chang came up with the name "Forever 21" because he considered 21 "the most enviable age." He started the brand with the idea of identifying clothing trends and then working with vendors to deliver those products to stores quickly and at a low rate.

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jacky chou


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