Will Forever 21 Forever Keep Knocking Off Indie Designers?

by Rachel Lang

I know the title of this post sounds a bit incriminating, but that is the gist of something we read yesterday in the fashion blog, Jezebel. In her post, author Jenna Sauers writes about the fast fashion chain’s blatant rip-offs, showing photographs of designer clothing next to the knock-offs sold by Forever 21.

Fast fashion conglomerates regularly infringe on the intellectual property of independent designers who cannot afford lawsuits against the corporations that steal their ideas. Unethical practices plague this industry, and the more awareness we can bring to the ways in which independents are marginalized, the faster we can make fast fashion a thing of the past.

Now, I remember being a college student when Forever 21 opened its doors in our local Midwestern mall. My closest friend called me and said, “There’s this new store that sells really cute clothes for cheap.” That was her exact quotation! So, being on a college student budget, I checked it out. She was right- the clothes were cheap. They were cute, but after one wash, they fell apart, losing buttons or fading. I bought probably close to $100 worth of clothing that trip and felt like I had gotten the deal of a lifetime. Cute clothes, yes, they were. I remember seeing “John 3:16” on the bottom of the bag. I thought to myself, a company that puts forth such blatant Christian image must be ethical, right? I mean, what would Jesus do and all of that…

So, I investigated. I found no incriminating evidence, but I had this feeling when I walked into the store that there was something terribly wrong with the whole business model.

That was more than ten years ago. Now, the company has grown exponentially, and other fast fashion venues have popped up in the malls and lifestyle centers. What this means for independent designers is that at any time, anywhere in the world, their ideas and inspiration can be taken and recreated at a factory where workers are paid minimum wage (if they can sew 55 pieces in an hour.) Then, these knock-offs can be sold for a third of the price. Good-bye creativity and craftsmanship, hello cute clothes for cheap.

I’m not a radical. I wrestle with shopping choices. I love a good deal, and I love fashion. We are all faced with philosophical choices- in life and in fashion. How will we present ourselves? The comments posted after this article about Forever 21 show this clearly. I think the bottom line is that we need to keep ourselves informed. If you are reading this blog, you are certainly ahead of the curve in that respect!

So, here’s an idea! Buy one bag- one dress- one piece of jewelry- that you love from a Project Artisan designer. (The fact that the product is on Project Artisan means that it was produced ethically.) Wear it, tell the story, and post a picture of it on your Facebook or Tumblr page. You don’t have to spend a fortune. Our Manimal ribcage earrings are $20 a pair-and made from scrap materials, eliminating waste! We encourage you to help us spread the word- to be the ambassadors

Ribcage Earrings by Manimal Moccasins $20.00

for change and originality. Rather than promoting “cute clothes for cheap,” you can promote luxurious, one-of-a-kind products made with love and care. Become a PA personal shopper and help us change the notion of luxury and the face of fashion.


1 Response to “Will Forever 21 Forever Keep Knocking Off Indie Designers?”

  1. 1 Lilly
    February 28, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I’ve recently started to stop my habit of buying cheap clothes and instead buy quality clothing! Surprisingly I’ve already saved money and I don’t feel guilty anymore! What a difference!

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