Retail Detail. Is it Really Hip to Be Forever 21? Second City Style Fashion Blog

Fountain of 30

May 10, 2007 • Shopping


When Forever 21 isn’t being sued for stealing designs, they are planning to take over the world. At least the disposable fashion world, according to today’s New York Times.

For shopping addicts and recreational shoppers alike the rapidly expanding Forever 21 chain receives daily deliveries of fresh, trend-driven fashions at prices that undercut even those of competitor H&M.

By relentlessly chasing (and flat out copying designs) trends and catering to an ever-widening market — young women to moms (Grandma Jezebels) — Forever 21 has positioned itself as a retail giant, the American answer to fast fashion contemporaries like European-based Zara, Mexx and H&M.

The privately held company has catapulted to every mall in recent years, doubling its number of stores to 400 since 2005. Retail analysts estimate sales have grown to more than $1 billion last year from about $640 million in 2005.

Don and Jin Chang, the founders and owners of the chain, opened their first store on Figueroa Street in downtown Los Angeles in the mid-1980s. The small shop, aimed primarily at schoolgirls, proved successful enough that the Changs, who immigrated from South Korea, were able to add new stores on an average of every six months. By the early ’90s, Forever 21 was a significant mall presence.

The Changs’ Christian faith is inked on the bottom of the stores’ trademark yellow shopping bags with the stamp, John 3:16, referring to a biblical passage.

Ms. Boisset described the Changs as ever on the prowl for ideas and trends. While it takes a designer like Marc Jacobs or Michael Kors several months to get clothes into stores after their debut on the runways, Forever 21 delivers interpretations of the same looks within six weeks.

They claim their design process is proprietary yet, the chain says it
employs no designers, “just very savvy designer merchants,” Ms. Boisset
said. These merchants’ skills are at the heart of Forever 21’s
success in offering shoppers faithful adaptations of runway hits.

Diane Von Furstenberg filed a lawsuit last month against Forever 21 for
replicating a DVF dress down to its print, fabric and color. Current
law does not protect clothing design from being copied (logos are an
exception), but Ms. Von Furstenberg and other American designers have
been lobbying Congress since last year to expand the copyright statute
that protects music and books. Such a change is considered a long shot.

Anna Corinna, a partner at Foley & Corinna, a boutique on
Manhattan’s Lower East Side, was startled to discover a photograph of a
Forever 21 evening dress on a blog,, alongside one of
her store’s designs. From their fluid cut and noodle straps to the
floral panel running down their fronts, the dresses were almost
identical. The Foley & Corinna dress sells for more than $400, the
copy for about $40.

Ms. Boisset of Forever 21 said that the company works with many suppliers and does not always know where their ideas originate.

Read the full New York Times article here: Faster Fashion, Cheaper Chic

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