|Founder||Do Won Chang|
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
Number of locations
|723 (As of August 2015)|
|Do Won Chang (CEO)|
|Revenue||US$4.4 billion (2015)|
|$124 million (2011)|
|Total assets||$1.40 billion (2011)|
Number of employees
Forever 21 is an American chain of fashion retailers with its headquarters in Los Angeles and sales of $3.7 billion in 2013. Forever 21 began as a 900 square foot store in Los Angeles in 1984, and has grown to sell their clothing lines Forever 21, XXI Forever, Love 21, and Heritage in over 600 stores in the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and the UK. More than 60% of its apparel is manufactured in China and the average store size is 38,000 square feet. According to Adrienne Tennant, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, and Andrea Chang of the Los Angeles Times, Forever 21 is known for its trendy offerings and its economical pricing. The company sells clothing, accessories, and beauty products for women, men, and girls. The company has been involved in various controversies, ranging from labor practice issues and copyright infraction accusations to religion.
Forever 21 founders Do “Don” Won Chang (Hangul: 장도원) and his wife Jin Sook Chang (Hangul: 장진숙) emigrated from South Korea to the United States in 1981. The luxurious cars of those in the retail industry influenced Don to enter the garment industry and so Fashion 21, later renamed Forever 21, was established. Don is the Chief Executive Officer and Jin Sook the Chief Merchandising Officer, with a combined net worth of $5 billion. As of September 2013, the couple ranked 264 in Forbes’ World’s Billionaires list and 90 amongst America’s wealthiest. Their two daughters joined the business in 2009, Linda leading the Marketing department and Esther in charge of visuals.
Originally known as Fashion 21, the first Forever 21 store was founded in Los Angeles, California on April 21, 1984 by Chang and Chang. The store is located at 5637 N. Figueroa Street in the Highland Park district of Los Angeles and is still in operation, bearing the chain's original name. Designs similar to those seen in South Korea were sold and targeted to the Los Angeles Korean American community. In its first year in operation, sales totaled $700,000, and by 2013, there were more than 480 stores that brought in revenue of $3.7 billion. And as of February 2014, Forever 21 generated a revenue of $3.8 billion. Originally, Forever 21 only sold clothes for women, but later expanded to sell menswear. Most Forever 21 stores now sell clothes for both men & women.
Employee relations and safety
- In September 2001, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Garment Worker Center, workers’ advocacy groups, filed a lawsuit against Forever 21, charging them of violating labor practice laws. They claimed that 19 contracted employees received less than the minimum wage, that the hours on time cards were reduced, that workers who complained to the state were fired, and that the employees faced sweatshop like working conditions. Forever 21 denounced the accusations, asserting its commitment to fair labor practices and that "none of the workers named in the suit were directly employed by the company." A three-year boycott of Forever 21 was held throughout the United States by the garment workers and this movement was captured in the Emmy Award-winning documentary, Made in L.A. Although the charge was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Manuel Real, Forever 21 responded with a defamation suit in 2002. Attorney Robin D. Dal Soglio asserted that both Forever 21's reputation and its sales were impacted by the allegations and protests. On the other hand, Kimi Lee, the director of one of the advocacy groups that represented the workers, maintained that the lawsuits were justified due to complaints from 20 workers. Both cases ended in a settlement in December 2004.
- Five Forever 21 employees filed a class action lawsuit in January 2012, declaring they were not compensated for the time they worked during their lunch breaks and the time spent on bag checks.
- After the Labor Department found that some of Forever 21's suppliers had violated various federal laws on wages and record keeping, a subpoena was ordered in August 2012. U.S. District Court Judge Margaret Morrow ordered Forever 21’s compliance after the retailer failed to provide the documents. The retailer claimed that it tried to meet with the Labor Department and that it had provided the requested information.
As of July 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recommended fines in excess of $100,000 for three different retail locations in Northern New Jersey and Manhattan in New York City for "serious safety hazards," for which they have been cited since 2010.
- According to Forbes, 50 copyright violation lawsuits have been placed against Forever 21 by both well known designers and smaller ones. Diane von Fürstenberg was one of the designers that sued the retailer, insisting it copied four of her dresses. Gwen Stefani, Anna Sui, and Trovata are among the numerous designers that have also taken action against the retailer. During the first and only trial of the Trovata case in May 2009, the majority of the jury agreed with Trovata and later on, the two sides reached a settlement.
- Critics such as Susan Scafidi, a professor of copyright law at Fordham University, question Forever 21’s design process and argue that it is replicating the designs of others. Forever 21’s Vice President of Merchandise, Lisa Boisset, was quoted in 2007 as saying that Forever 21 works with merchant designers and not with designers, but would not make those merchants available for comment. CEO Chang expressed that some of their merchants have disappointed him. Forever 21 has never been found guilty and the majority of cases have been resolved through settlements.
- On January 8, 2015, Canadian media reported on a local, family-owned business in Richmond, British Columbia, Granted Clothing, whose designer noticed that their sweater designs had been stolen and mass-produced for sale on Forever 21's website. Forever 21 has so far not responded to the criticism.
- On January 28, 2015, software developers Adobe, Autodesk, and Corel have filed a joint lawsuit against Forever 21 for alleged software piracy of Photoshop, AutoCAD, and PaintShop Pro, respectively.
- Forever 21's clothing has been criticized in the media due to the slogans printed on some of their shirts. The Daily Mail, The Huffington Post, and others insisted that the company was “…pushing a Christian agenda” because it sold tops with phrases such as “Holy,” “Love, peace, faith, hope, Jesus,” and “Thank God.”  Similarly, Forever 21 has received attention in the media for printing the Bible verse "John 3:16" on the bottom of their trademark yellow bags. The corporation maintains that it is not influenced by the religion of its founders, who are born-again Christians. Moreover, ABC News, numerous users on Reddit.com, and others condemned Forever 21 for its “Allergic to Algebra” shirt back in 2011. They declared that the shirt had an anti-education and sexist theme, but Ellie Krupnick, a writer for The Huffington Post, questioned this. Krupnick expressed that the top was making a remark about math, rather than a sexist remark, and announced that she would wear the shirt.
- In April 2010, writer and avid Forever 21 shopper Rachel Kane created a blog with the domain name WTForever21.com. Kane posted pictures of some of Forever 21’s items and voiced her opinions about the clothing. The blog's popularity rose after being featured on the Jezebel blog and in June 2011, the retailer asked the blogger to take the site down or she may face a lawsuit.
- The Center for Environmental Health found that Forever 21 and 25 other retailers and suppliers sold jewelry that included the toxic metal cadmium. A payment of $1.03 million and a 0.03% limit on cadmium in jewelry were part of the settlement that took place in 2011.
- Lawyer Carolyn Kellman filed a class action suit against Forever 21 in September 2012 after she received one penny less when she returned several items. Customers that received a penny less or were charged one more joined the case. According to The Huffington Post, these pennies added up as “The threshold for civil actions in her court district is $15,000 -- meaning, she had to find enough people to join the case so that she could cite 1.5 million pennies in damages (750,000 customers since 2007.)"
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- Adams, Rebecca. "Carolyn Kellman Sues Forever 21 Over Alleged 'Penny-Pinching Scheme'" The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 05 Sept. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/carolyn-kellman-lawsuit-forever-21-penny-pinching_n_1857191.html>
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to FOREVER 21, Inc.|
- Official Forever21 Website
- Official Forever21 Website - Canada
- Official Forever21 Website - Korea
- Official Forever21 Website - Japan
- Official Forever21 Website - China
- Official Forever21 Website - UK
- Official Forever21 Website - EU
- Faster Fashion, Cheaper Chic - New York Times, May 10, 2007
- Fast, Cheap and Under Control: The rise of Forever 21 and Downtown's wholesale economy - New Angeles Monthly, December 2007
- Forever 21 favors 2 Mag Mile stores - Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2008
- Fast-fashion concept fuels Forever 21's expansion - Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2008