On Sunday, millennial fast-fashion giant Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy, causing a stir among shoppers who have long relied on the store for cheap and fashionable clothing. The move comes at a time when brick-and-mortar retail businesses everywhere are struggling and the bankruptcy is just proof of the shifting ways people shop.
Forever 21 was founded in 1984 in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles and quickly became the go-to spot young women went to for trendy items at affordable prices. Forever 21 spearheaded the wave of giant “fast fashion” retailers like Zara and H&M. These retailers revolutionized the fashion industry by making apparel that was previously only available to fashion insiders available to middle-class women. The shop was a staple at virtually every suburban mall.
But with the ubiquity of the internet, young customers no longer went to the mall for a dose of retail therapy–they went online.
According to Forever 21, the chain will likely be closing 178 stores in the near future and will exit completely from Asian and European markets. Countless articles have been written about the rise of fashion-forward online retailers like ASOS and Fashion Nova and the subsequent decline of brick-and-mortar stores like Forever 21. It’s also worth mentioning that e-commerce giant Amazon has now entered the fray as a viable place for young women to buy clothes online. In other words, the competition is fierce. Forever 21 isn’t the only fast-fashion store that has faced problems in recent years: in 2015, popular retailer Deb shut its doors permanently, followed by Wet Seal in 2017.
While the popular retail chain is beloved by many young women on a budget, not everyone is mourning the loss of these locations.
Along with the Forever 21’s immense popularity and success has come waves of criticism–much of which has come to a head in recent years. The rise of social media has given a voice and a platform to previously voiceless critics who viewed Forever 21 as a major problem. In recent years, Forever 21 has fought off scandals involving unethical labor practices, problematic and offensive designs, and recently, an incident involving the company giving diet bar samples to plus-size customers.
Not to mention, Forever 21 part of the major environmental problems that clothing retailers are creating for the planet. Some studies indicate that the apparel industry accounts for over 8% of the “global climate impact” of carbon emissions. That is “greater than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined”. For many people, Forever 21 was emblematic of face-less soul-less corporations that manipulate unknowing customers for cash and wreak havoc on the ecosystem while they’re doing it. For some people, Forever 21’s bankruptcy feels like just desserts.
Along with other early 2000s-era fashion giants (like Victoria’s Secret), it’s been hard for Forever 21 to keep with the times.
Many people believe that Forever 21 will have to completely overhaul their approach to marketing if they want to retain old customers while building a new client base. As the tides change, millennial and Gen-Z consumers are no longer want to give money to ethically dubious and environmentally irresponsible organizations. These days, young people prefer the companies they frequent to promote messages they believe in, like sustainability, body-positivity, and inclusivity. In an era when wokeness is a social currency, companies that promote a social agenda–like Third Love and Madewell–have become popular.
As for consumers’ reactions to Forever 21 filing for bankruptcy, Twitter provides a peek into everyone’s thoughts on the matter.
As is expected, the reactions run the spectrum to sadness at their favorite store being closed, to elation at the shuttering of a controversial retailer. With any polarizing landmark in pop culture comes a lot of people ready to voice their opinions.
This woman was sad that her go-to store for cheap staples is going out of business:
Forever 21 practically invented the term “ballin’ on a budget”. Now, it’s going to be harder for lower-income women to dress themselves fashionably in the same manner as before.
This Twitter user made a decent point about Forever 21’s hit-or-miss clothes:
We’ve all been browsing the racks of Forever 21 and thought to ourselves: who greenlit this design?
This plus-sized Twitter user has mixed feelings about Forever 21’s bankruptcy filing:
It’s true that (for good or bad) Forever 21 has been at the forefront of industry changes–like paying more attention to plus-sized customers, for one. Even if they’ve had some very public missteps.
White supremacists might be getting louder and mobilizing in larger numbers, but they’re not getting any smarter. On August 17, the alt-right group called the Proud Boys organized another rally, misleadingly called “End Domestic Terrorism” in the streets of downtown Portland, Oregon. Before “End Domestic Terrorism,” the last time the Proud Boys organized a “rally,” it turned into an outright brawl with Antifa (a left-wing Anti-Fascist group). So when the Proud Boys announced their follow-up August 17 rally as an attempt to bait and classify Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization, Portland police prepared by spending $2 million on preventative security measures.
Meanwhile, Popular Mobilization (PopMob), a Portland-based coalition of anti-fascist groups, decided they would prepare by soliciting donations to help fight deportation based on the number of white supremacists who show up to the rally.
By showing up to their own rally, white supremacists raised $36,017.69 for undocumented immigrants thanks to the quick thinking of Popular Mobilization.
PopMob said that donations “flooded in from all over the country, and even as far away as the UK, ranging from two cents to five dollars a fascist.” At 300 fascists, that means people donated between $6 to $1,500 each. PopMob said its fundraiser was “in direct opposition to the anti-immigration rhetoric of the far-right and the current administration that emboldens them, showcasing the resilience and strength of a community coming together against hate.”
All the donations went to Causa, a Portland-based Latino Rights organization that helps defend undocumented people in deportation proceedings.
Causa works to improve the lives of Latino immigrants and their families in Oregon through advocacy, coalition building, leadership development, and civic engagement. They call themselves “Oregon’s Latino immigrant rights organization,” and they’ve earned the name for all the work they do to coordinate legal representation for undocumented people. Their mission is “to create a world where all people have the opportunities and resources needed to thrive.”
That means that every fascist who showed up personally raised $120 to help fight the deportation of the very people they protest.
The founder of Proud Boys, Gavin McInnes, was legally advised to step down from his post after his involvement in the Charlottesville, Virginia “Unite the Right” rally that left one counter-protester dead. McInnes spends his podcast air time dehumanizing immigrants.
“It’s such a rape culture with these immigrants, I don’t even think these women see it as rape. They see it as just like having a teeth [sic] pulled. ‘It’s a Monday. I don’t really enjoy it,’ but that’s what you do,” Gavin McInnes said on Get Off My Lawn. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t have the same trauma as it would for a middle-class white girl in the suburbs because it’s so entrenched into their culture.”
Some Latinos were scared to even go to work on the day of the rally.
Thankfully, Portland police tricked the Proud Boys into crossing a bridge and then barricading it to put an entire body of water between the two sides. Officers confiscated several weapons on the day of the event, and wouldn’t allow flag poles in the crowd for fear of it being weaponized.
PopMob’s counter-protest fundraiser was inspired by the residents of Wunsiedel, Germany.
Neo-Nazis had been marching through their town every November for years. Usually, the town ignores the haters. Last November, the town flooded the streets to mockingly cheer the Neo-Nazis on. That’s because the town had pledged to donate ten euros for ever meter the Neo-Nazis marched to EXIT Deutschland, an anti-Nazi organization that helps folks escape white supremacist organizations. By the time the Neo-Nazis crossed the finish line, they were dazed and confused by the cheering, and the cheerful banner that notified them that, by marching, they had donated 10,000 euros to EXIT Deutschland.
You can participate in the cause and make a donation for every white supremacist who attended the alt-right rally.
This is the kind of counter-protest that might actually prevent future white supremacist rallies. If the Proud Boys know that, next time they show up in Portland, their presence might help even one undocumented person stay in the US of A, they might reconsider. Might as well put their presence to some good.
In the words of PopMob’s fundraiser itself, “Let’s take their hate and use it to fundraise for Causa so they can protect more immigrant families. Together we can build an Oregon that welcomes ALL Oregonians!”