Forever 21 - The Collapse of a Fast Fashion Empire

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

As a 14-year-old, there was one store where all my friends bought their clothes. Two floors filled with dresses, ripped jeans, skirts, and colourful scrunchies – and always packed with people. It took twenty minutes to reach the front of the billing queue on a good day, and the fitting rooms were almost always completely full. Fast forward four years, and I can’t remember the last time I went there, it’s almost completely empty when I see it, and it’s a single-storey retailer in the basement of a mall. So, what happened?

You’ve all heard of Forever 21 - global fashion retailer, leading fast fashion brand, always on trend. You’ve also probably heard that it filed for bankruptcy in 2019, which is puzzling because well - who wouldn’t want to be on trend?

Today, we look into the curious case of Forever 21, and how it fell from a multi-billion dollar company to a series of bad fashion jokes on Twitter.

Forever 21 store

The first thing to know - what is fast fashion?

As consumerism has become more rampant, we’ve become more and more desperate to constantly keep up with the flood of trends; however, that comes at the cost of our wallets. Fast fashion, however, eliminates this concern. It’s the cheap, trendy clothing that’s filling your closet, with new styles entering the market every week.

In 1981, South Korean immigrants Jin Sook and Do Won Chang moved to Los Angeles, working low paying jobs and struggling to make ends meet, until they saved up to open a clothing store called Fashion 21, buying merchandise from manufactures at a discount and therefore giving people an incentive to buy their inexpensive clothes. In the first year itself, they made $700,000. Soon, they began expanding across the nation, opening a new store very 6 months, and changed the name to the one we know today - Forever 21.