The Rise And Fall Of Forever 21


Forever 21 was once
among America’s fastest-growing
fast-fashion retailers. It transformed its
once penniless founders into billionaires, established itself as
a powerhouse in the fast-fashion world, and, at its peak, made
$4.4 billion in revenue. But the once flush
company is now preparing to file
for bankruptcy. So, what happened? Back in the day, Forever 21 embodied the
American dream. In 1981, Jin Sook and Do
Won “Don” Chang moved to Los Angeles from
South Korea with no money, no
college degrees, and speaking little English. To make ends meet, Jin Sook
worked as a hairdresser while Don worked
as a janitor, pumped gas, and
served coffee. Until he noticed that
“the people who drove the nicest cars were all
in the garment business.” So three years later,
with $11,000 in savings, the Changs opened a
900-square-foot clothing store called
Fashion 21. The couple took advantage
of wholesale closeouts to buy merchandise from
manufacturers at a discount. Their system worked. The store made $700,000
in sales its first year. Fashion 21 was initially
only popular with LA’s Korean
American community. But the Changs
leveraged their success, opening new stores
every six months, which broadened the
company’s customer base at the same time. They also changed the
name to Forever 21 to emphasize the idea
that it was “for anyone who
wants to be trendy, fresh and young in spirit.” The company’s key to
success was simple: cultivate a huge following
by selling trendy clothing
for low prices. While this is something
that today’s consumers pretty much expect, Forever 21 was one
of the first to do it. And they were the fastest. Jin Sook was eventually
approving over 400 designs a day. Which meant the
company could sell trends as they were happening. Even if some of those designs
landed Forever 21 in trouble. But while other brands
and designers might not have been
Forever 21’s biggest fans, customers couldn’t
get enough of their affordable styles. As a result, Forever 21
became one of the largest tenants
of American malls, with 480 locations
nationwide. And by 2015, business
was booming. Forever 21’s sales peaked, with $4.4 billion in
global sales that year. As for the Changs? They became one of
America’s wealthiest couples, with a combined net
worth reaching an estimated $5.9 billion
in March 2015. Forever 21’s goal
was to become an $8 billion company
by 2017 and open 600 new
stores in three years. But the company’s
aggressive expansion would also lead to
its downfall. Part of what made Forever 21
popular in the first place was its fast-fashion model. Even though its products
were always mass-produced, they still felt unique
because its stores only sold select styles
for a limited time. However, as the company
focused on growing bigger, its styles became more
“cookie-cutter.” As a result,
Forever 21 started to lose touch with
its core customers, while competitors like
H&M and Zara rose. No longer the trendsetter, Forever 21 became
the butt of the joke. It’s also no longer the
fastest in the game. Internet brands like
Fashion Nova churn out celebrity- and
influencer-inspired styles at a rapid-fire pace. And as e-commerce
has continued to boom, traditional retailers
like Forever 21 have struggled to adapt to changing consumer
behaviors. According to a March
2019 survey, millennials make 60% of
their purchases online and overall prefer
online shopping over going to a
physical store. Yet, Forever 21 continued
opening new stores as recently as 2016, even expanding
existing stores to take over multiple
floors with mens, childrens, and
home-goods sections. Which could help explain
why Forever 21’s sales are estimated to
have dropped by 20% to 25% in 2018. On top of that, the Changs, who still own the company, have lost more than
$4 billion from their personal
net worths. The company overall is
now $500 million in debt and considering
filing for bankruptcy. Forever 21 has already
started downsizing its stores. And as one of the largest
tenants of America’s malls, a widespread shutdown
of Forever 21 could exacerbate what’s
already being referred to as the “retail apocalypse,” which has already closed
more than 15,000 retailers across the US and could shut down
75,000 more, according to investment
firm UBS. But bankruptcy
doesn’t always mean the end for
a company. In fact, it could give
Forever 21 time to restructure
and bounce back. The company could
shut down its least profitable stores and try rebranding itself. But in an age of cheap
internet boutiques and fast-fashion empires,
this might not be enough. So it turns out Forever 21 might not be forever
after all.

100 Replies to “The Rise And Fall Of Forever 21”

  1. Small artists & designers are making their own designs which are cooler ,original and rare …(ahem me) …lol and selling our stuff online from our own websites and other sites. Editing tools turning a watercolor print , illustration, painting etc …into clothing prints and designs are easy to use now and easily accessible. No more basic garbage pizza, taco, cheesy hashtag designs …. people want distinct quality originality versus quantity.

  2. Yes Forever 21 be,gone stop enslaving people to make your stupid clothes, stop ruining the environment, finally you won't be wasting water

  3. forever 21 just opened in fortaleza brazil earlier this year… i wonder whatll happen to it? it seems to be doing well as it's an american brand, but that wont last forever…

  4. Even if the stores ends up shutting down, I think they'll keep the website to compete on the online space. Idk of it'll be as big as before, but it just seems what the next step would be.

  5. I love going to forever 21 with my mom and even just looking at the clothes is fun and I love their t-shirts and jewelry and skirts and shorts and scrunchies and dresses

  6. I used to work in fashion wholesale. The reason I heard F21 is going out of business, is due to the fact that they’d place HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLAR ORDERS! And cancel sea shipments last minute, once orders were already expected to deliver that very day! So many vendors have put their necks on the line trying to mass produce for F21, which even led dozens of foreign factories to go out of business. It’s so sad at how shady Forever has been operated, allowing items to be copyrighted and even stealing ideas from upcoming fashion designers. Realistically their ways of business have been extremely unethical to say the least. I think it’s time they pay 🤷🏻‍♀️ #BoycottF21

  7. This wonderful video essay could have included 2 additional factors:

    Even cheap clothing isn’t accessible to buy all the time for many people who are underpaid.

    And many younger people are buying less new products due to the ecological crises happening due to rampant industrialization.

  8. Forever 21 used to be my favorite store but because I’m not into the whole crop tops anymore I turned the Walmart stuff because forever 21s stuff is starting to get really expensive I have a sweatshirt that I love but I had to really meant the heck out of it the seams always ripped and every time I fixed a hole there always be a new one the quality has gone down but to be honest I still love that sweatshirt

  9. They should have expanded their plus size section instead of getting rid of it, and moved to a more online presence. All these pretentious stores that care more for pompousness have themselves to blame for this type of stuff

  10. The only reason I shop online is because I can never find my sizes in store. If they had my sizes in the store it would be much better because I could try the clothes on and wear them the next day if I like them. If I buy online I have to pay for shipping and wait however long it takes. And if i don’t like the clothes i have to return them and wait again for a refund.

  11. I remember when Forever 21 still sold things that were classy and adorable enough for me to wear to work in an office. Really adorable blazers, skirts, dresses, you name it. I recently went into the store and had to struggle and dig to find a plain black skater dress to wear to an event. Everything I liked either was cropped, a bodysuit, or had some hideous, childish printed nonsense on it. Hot Cheetos themed. Really?! Once I saw that I knew it was the beginning of the end for F21. Oh well. I'll just buy from thrift stores instead

  12. I like how they brushed over the fact that, yeah, people like shopping online more, but I feel like Forever 21 was the very first store where I increasingly only purchased online from because the stores are ALWAYS a mess. clothes are strewn around all over the store, so if you found something cute and it wasn't your size you were basically out of luck. the store selection was always worse than their online catalog. their sales bin look like dumpsters filled with fabric scraps. I remember when their clothes looked and felt unique. once the graphic era came and EVERYTHING had a dumb phrase on it, I knew my days shopping there were numbered. they stopped being trendy, and instead churned out the same basic silhouettes with the same dumb phrases on them for years. not to mention the last thing I bought from there literally faded and fell apart after just one normal wash.

    it's been years since I last purchased anything from there, and by comparison, I now love coming into the mall to see what Zara and H&M have because it's neat and not overwhelming. I could see their entire selection by casually walking around, and I usually walk out with 1-3 things every time.

  13. I only hate shopping in their public stores because it’s so overwhelming with the amount of clothing there are and how they push all the plus size items to the far back of the store. Even then, things are so chaotic and unkept it’s impossible to find anything. Smalls are always with the plus size, the fitting of the items aren’t accurate. I would love to shop there, but having everything on the floor or having the racks so filled you can’t get a good look at anything, is discouraging.

  14. Forever 21 is an expensive fast fashion company (next on the list is Zara) with very small sizes on their clothes. On H&M and Zara I’m a L-XL max, and on Forever 21 I’m considered plus size (same with Bershka). So I’m glad they are going bankrupt, because they suck.

  15. In 2011-2013 they had a in house design team. That's when the built a reputation as cute cheap cloths. Then they changed the way they designed. They started making clothing with worse material, in terrible cuts and poorly designed. They choose this path.

  16. Forever 21 was amazing in 2010, but ever since 2015 their shit has become more and more tacky eyesore fad rather than ahead of the game.

  17. I bought a zipper skirt from forever 21 I bought it at the store and tried it on bought it the next two days I was getting ready for a concert I was dancing with it on and BAMM the zipper just popped open wtf I had to change my whole outfit! There zippers are so cheap they break easily wasted 20 bucks there more expensive now.

  18. I like forever 21, but all their clothes are mini dresses, would be nice to add midis and other styles. Also the fabrics isn’t so good… they can still survive, just

  19. never liked that place bc of its mass production, but it’s really sad that some of the stores got closed down due to people not going to the stores and actually walking for once.

  20. Reason why I stopped going here is because the quality of clothes they sell here in my country is seriously bad. They export old clothes from other countries (they don't even bother with the price tags) and sell them for $7-$10 when the fabric is old & disheveled.

  21. Forever 21 is literally one of the only places here I can buy “trendy clothes from Asia” (not to be bias) because it was so diverse and in person rather than online on those sketchy websites, or me having to fly all the way across the world just for a cute top with writing on it. Seriously gonna miss it…

  22. The last thing I want to do is buy pants online… ID RATHER SHOVE MY BUTT OVER TO A STORE IRL AND TRY THEM ON TO SEE IF THEY FIT

  23. I used to like some of their stuff and got a few good sweaters and accessories, there but more and more often they've just had weird/hideous/cheap looking stuff

  24. It’s interesting the internet’s taking over shopping- more so with women’s clothing. I never buy clothes online- every company makes their sizes a bit different. I’d be wasting my time if I ordered online just to have it arrive and not fit! Interesting

  25. I still love f21. But the problem is dat their fashion seems 2 b focused on teens. We want classy feminine mature fashion darnet!

  26. Stop stealing company man's title structure I'm not saying he created it cause he obviously didn't but I'd say he did popularize it.

  27. Pretty sure the fact that I use to buy loads of my clothes there, that were classy, seemed unique and have lasted me a long time (I still have and wear those pieces)…and now if I buy one item there (usually cuz it's the only adult nice thing left in there)…it lasts me a couple months…..plus now it's all "trendy preteen" clothes now that get ruined after a few washes. It's the quality and style that has changed the most. Can't find anything worth buying there anymore.

  28. I remember Forever 21 offering good quality items for low prices. Over the years garment quality has gone down while prices have gone up 🙁

  29. I'm from the Philippines and I went to the States a few times and whenever I walk into Forever 21 and H&M the clothes there are boring and basic. The clothes in F21 and H&M in my country are cuter than the ones in the States. And there are people in the States complaining that every shirt in F21 is cropped and has a random saying. In my country while F21 does have crop tops they have longer shirts as well and there are no clothes with random sayings. Whenever I watch haul videos from American fashion and beauty gurus I see them buy cute stuff from F21 and H&M but when I went to those stores I couldn't find anything cute. I'm not sure if it's bad luck or I just went to bad stores. And I've heard that many malls are shutting down in the States but when I went to the States I went to malls. I've seen people younger than me go to malls and shop at stores. They still look at clothes, try them on and buy them. How will this affect the tourism? I know people abroad whenever they go to the States they go to malls and but from stores. Since many malls are shutting down how will this affect the tourism? Where will tourists buy stuff now that many malls are closing down? If someone can fill me in on that I appreciate it.

  30. The forever 21 in my area the main section is the size of a thumbtack and all of the clothing inside is there is so unwearable and tacky and looks cheap and overly priced.

    If they will go towards likes to sustainable, wearable clothing and expander men’s section it would justify the price

  31. I'd be screwed if I couldnt buy clothes in stores. I literally cant just buy my size. Sometimes I am a large, sometimes a small, sometimes a medium. And sometimes I am two sizes bigger or smaller because of how clothes are made

  32. Do Mac Cosmetics next. Lol no one shops there anymore. It’s irrelevant. it sucks and their service is trash, also the people who work there feel so unappreciated and overworked with huge goals that they have to sell in products. It’s as if they are in a cult. You leave that job and they never wanna talk to you again lol like get over yourselves. Tragic 😂😂 lol

  33. The quantity of clothes is large – nice, the quality is shit, for a shit price — perfect mix for a crappy company

  34. Ya know, if they really cared about consumers they would actually listen to what they want to buy. Also, source their products sustainability and ethically. Sweatshops don't make for good clothes

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