Polyester blouses, faux leather jackets and crop tops in a variety of colors line the crowded racks of Forever 21, and for junior psychology major Ashley Bresnahan, it’s a nightmare to look at.
“I prefer shopping online because there’s more selection, better deals and I don’t have to go in store,” Bresnahan said. “I literally get panic attacks when I go into Forever 21 because there’s just so much stuff, and it’s all so disorganized.”
The store which sells the latest styles recently filed for bankruptcy, which to some seems like an announcement of the end of “fast fashion.”
Fast fashion is defined as “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” Forever 21 falls into this category of retail. Forever 21 was founded in 1984 and reported a revenue of $3.4 billion in 2017, according to Forbes. This is a billion dollar drop from it’s peak revenue of $4.4 billion in 2015. Today, the stores have a decrease in foot traffic, leading to the closing of over 350 stores globally.
According to FastCompany.com, Forever 21 declaring bankruptcy does not signal the death of fast fashion. Other companies, such as Old Navy and online retailers like Fashion Nova, are thriving. Old Navy, the most successful of the Gap Inc. brands, plans to open 800 new stores. Other fast fashion retailers like H&M have adopted a new marketing strategy by providing eco-friendly and durable clothing items, but Bresnahan does not see consumers’ desire for sustainability as a cause for Forever 21’s losses.
“I think Forever 21 declared [bankruptcy] because their prices are rising, and you can get similar stuff for cheap at Fashion Nova and Pretty Little Thing,” Bresnahan said. “A lot of stuff from Forever 21 isn’t good quality. I don’t think it’s environmentalism because I feel like fast fashion is becoming more popular.”
Madeline Bane, a senior fashion merchandising and design major, works part time at Forever 21 in Battlefield Mall. While the Forever 21 she works at is not closing, she has experienced the impacts of retailers declaring bankruptcy.
Bane worked at Charlotte Russe for three years before working at Forever 21, which also declared bankruptcy this year.
“My managers from (Charlotte Russe) then moved to Forever 21,” Bane said. “It’s scary and unnerving that they now have to go through this stress again. While their spirits are constantly held high, I would imagine other employees in a situation like this would lose that drive that gets them through the day.
“Knowing all of your hard work is going towards essentially nothing, becomes very discouraging. There are several pros and cons to retail stores versus online shopping, but seeing it affect people first hand is really disheartening.”
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took to Twitter to voice his support of Forever 21 employees who may lose their jobs because of this.
“The billionaire owners of Forever 21 won't suffer as a result of filing for bankruptcy,” Sanders said in a tweet. “The thousands of workers losing their jobs will.
“We must stand [with] workers and against the greed of Wall Street and the billionaire class. All Forever 21 workers must be paid their fair share.”
As an employee, Bane worked both as a visual associate on the sales floor and a stock associate in the back of the store. From her perspective, she never noticed a decrease in foot traffic and lines could get long when the store was busy.
“As a stock associate, all of my time was spent in the back room,” Bane said. “As much as I could tell, there was no decrease in foot traffic. If I was ever on the cash register, sometimes it’d be almost a whole hour before the line would stop piling up.”
Although the store’s busy hours made it seem like business was booming, Bane said even she has stopped shopping at Forever 21 like many others.
“Personally, I’ve gradually stopped shopping there because I’ve become aware of how unappealing fast fashion is,” Bane said. “Items don’t last as long as they should, and I’d rather make my clothes an investment.”