Opinion: Fast-fashion giant won’t be missed in Canada

Forever 21 is pulling up stakes and heading back to the U.S.

Illustration by Christina Dommer
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Written by Christina Dommer

Fast-fashion pioneer Forever 21 is closing its doors in Canada, and I say good riddance.

The Los Angeles-based retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late September, closing many of its stores across Europe and Asia. Forever 21 issued a statement that it would be retreating back into the U.S. to reconsider and refocus its brand image.

Excess attire

If you’ve ever shopped inside a Forever 21 store, you’ll know it’s an overwhelming experience: clothes wall-to-wall, stuffed clearance racks, jackets with tacky slogans on the back. The stores all take up valuable real estate at any shopping mall, with some reaching 20,000 square feet (1860 sq. m)—that’s bigger than a hockey rink.

The sense of bewilderment that the massive selection creates usually diverts me right out the door. It’s like reading a textbook without pictures or diagrams to break it up: sure, there might be some interesting information hidden in there, but it’s not worth rooting through such a large volume of words.

Environmental concerns

The clothes might be inexpensive, but that doesn’t add up to much because the quality of Forever 21’s wearable wares means they won’t stay in your closet for long. As such, Forever 21 also takes up valuable real estate in landfills.

While competitors Abercrombie & Fitch and Zara have upped the quality of their products, Forever 21 has stuck to its dirt-cheap guns and paid sorely for it. On top of this, the increasing popularity of online shopping is slowly rendering brick-and-mortar retail obsolete.

The United Nations reports that 20% of all industrial water pollution is caused by textile processing and dyeing. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 20,000 litres of water goes into producing the equivalent of a single cotton T-shirt and a pair of jeans. When you put that in a landfill, all that water is going down the drain with it.

Shoppers are tired of wearing something that’s cute one week and a dud the next, or breaking a zipper the second time they use it. Let Forever 21’s departure serve as a warning to fashion retailers everywhere: consumers value quality over quantity.

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