Something interesting is happening: on Sunday night, Forever 21 announced that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. While the brand said that it would continue to operate its website and hundreds of stores in the United States, Mexico, and Latin America, news of its bankruptcy is serving as a major dialogue-starter for those of us hoping to put an end to fast fashion.
Forever 21 was one of the first brands to popularize fast fashion in the United States, offering cheaply made clothing at low-cost rates to women and men all across America. Selling the likes of $1.90 camisoles and $7.90 jeans, this brand is one that epitomizes what it is to be a fast fashion company — and it has faced a fair amount of backlash for the negative environmental and ethical impact it’s causing.
With news of its bankruptcy, Forever 21 plans to close up to 178 of its stores in the US, and potentially up to 350 stores total worldwide.
In the best light, Forever 21’s bankruptcy can be viewed as a reflection of a changing society. Young consumers are shifting their tastes, whether that be for higher quality goods and more transparency in merchandise production or better online shopping options and fewer brick and mortar shops.
One encouraging way to read into Forever 21’s bankruptcy filing: cheap chic is no longer fashionable. At the end of the day, it may indeed have been Forever 21’s fast fashion antics that led to its own demise as the brand couldn’t provide what it is that consumers wanted. Too many stores and weak online sales were also certainly no help in saving a brand that offers affordable fashion to women at the expense of lesser privileged women working to make the garments being sold.
The fight has just begun with stopping fast fashion companies like Zara, H&M, Boohoo, and many others, so it’s crucial –— now more than ever — to strengthen the urge for a more ethical fashion model. While we can celebrate Forever 21’s bankruptcy as a win, more than anything, it should be a reminder of how much more there is to do.
Remakers Speculate on Forever 21’s Bankruptcy
We asked our Ambassadors how they felt about this huge news. From excitement over the brand filing for bankruptcy to skepticism about how the brand will conduct itself in the near future, our Ambassadors had a lot to say.
“The Forever 21 bankruptcy filing is a great example of how the shift in consumer consciousness and the increase of online shopping is impacting fast-fashion retailers. However, there is so much more work that needs to be done in order to combat climate change and improve working conditions/wages for the majority of people who are employed by these fast-fashion giants. Hopefully, Forever 21 will be an example to other fast-fashion retailers to clean up their act and for consumers to keep advocating for sustainable and ethical products and practices from brands.” — Maura McInerney-Rowley, San Francisco Ambassador, Remake
“While Forever21’s bankruptcy may have more to do with over-expansion and poor business decisions in an increasingly competitive e-commerce market, it is a needed signal to the fashion community. In our world, limitless growth does not exist and hocking identity-driven cause marketing products made by sweatshop labor and dire environmental practices is bad business.” — Samantha Harmon, Program Manager, Remake
“I think one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding the announcement of Forever 21’s decision to file bankruptcy is that the brand is going out of business. This is not the case. The company has filed for Chapter 11, which calls for protection against creditors as they reorganize and restructure their business. Secondly, there is the motive behind their filing to consider. Sadly, it is online retailers (and not conscious shopping habits) that are giving Forever 21 and many other brick and mortar stores a run for their money. I have seen no reports of how this reorganization will make any attempt to shift away from a fast fashion business model. In fact, quite the opposite. The company in a public letter stated that ‘our stores are open and will continue to feel like a normal day — you will not see any changes in our stores.’ As a result I fear that the poor working conditions of garment workers who produce the companies garments will not change nor will the companies flawed value system.” — Jessica Cobabe, Salt Lake City Ambassador, Remake
“The Forever 21 bankruptcy just proves that the tide is changing for the better. Consumer tastes are evolving and the old business model no-longer applies. The story behind the brand counts now. As young consumers, we want to know that the woman who made our t-shirt earns a living wage to support her family. It’s time to lean into a more sustainable future. As more consumers learn about the cost of fast fashion my hope is that this will be a continuing trend.” — Brana Dane, New York City Ambassador, Remake
“The fall of Forever 21 is a battle won in a global war. The reasons the brand fell apart were because they didn’t keep up with a changing world. They are a relatively old enterprise (35 years), a pioneer at the time when fast-fashion wasn’t a thing, and they succumbed under the success of mega giants like Missguided and Boohoo that amounts in the hundreds of millions in revenue. Yes. something gigantic closed because something even bigger came out.” — Francesca Belluomini, Miami Ambassador, Remake
“Forever 21’s empire was built on fast fashion darkness, and as a sustainable fashion activist, I feel that its bankruptcy filing is a glimmer of new consumer consciousness that is rising in our horizon. Soon, we will see fast fashion topple over on its head, as we see our makers all over the world fairly compensated for their work and treated with dignity. The work is clearly not finished, as many activists around the world continue to raise their voices and give their attention to this cause. We will overcome this darkness in the supply chain built on modern slavery. We will keep moving until all fast fashion outfits are deleted or transformed to dignified business policies.” — Neha Purohit, Arizona Ambassador, Remake
“While everyone wants to celebrate Forever 21 filing for bankruptcy, I don’t see this as a win. They aren’t changing their model, (Owner quoted as saying they still aim to keep everything under $50.) they’re just scaling down. Ultimately the closing of the 350 stores means the loss of jobs for 350 stores worth of sales associates and management. And, honestly, that’s all it means. Forever 21 is not out to do fashion better or slower. They will continue to do what they have always done, just on a smaller scale.” — Sharmon Lebby, San Antonio Ambassador, Remake
“In my opinion this is a sign that finally things are changing and the era of careless consumption, careless production, and careless growth is coming to an end. Consumers are more educated now, more conscious of the impact of their actions, and F21 didn’t see it coming. The market, with its demand-offer game, always adjusts eventually. We will see other big fast fashion retailers downsizing or disappearing in the near future.” — Araceli Gallego, Dubai Ambassador, Remake
What do you think of Forever 21’s bankruptcy? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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Lead Image: Mike Mozart/Flickr
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I think more on the lines of your ambassadors:
Jessica Cobabe, Salt Lake City Ambassador, Remake
Araceli Gallego, Dubai Ambassador, Remake
I’m curious to know what data you have that the shopping public is more “woke” about the clothing construction standards happening around the world and so care not to have a new tshirt every day? Also being overlooked is the plight of the middle class in general>>unless we all truly started buying secondhand and subscribing to higher quality/caring for our things more, many of us can’t afford anything other than fast fashion. *sad* I also more think this is a commentary to the way in which online shopping has become more “the way” and F21 may have just overexpanded with their brick and mortar foundation. I hope for better but I don’t quite think this is the death knell on fast fashion you think quite, yet.
Forever 21’s demise reveals that the prevailing fashion system – of extracting natural resources and processing them into products for sale at increasing speeds and volumes – doesn’t work.
It doesn’t work for the environment
It doesn’t work for underpaid workers
It doesn’t work economically
Businesses that depend upon unrestricted growth at the cost of all else are working to an outdated ideology.
It’s time to shift to radically realistic models that work within the constraints of natural systems. See: www/concerned researchers.org