Forever 21 Bankruptcy: A Wakeup Call for Fashion Sustainability and Identity

Faculty member Juliana Guglielmi comments on the shift in consumer tastes.
Front of Forever 21 store
For Forever 21 to succeed, it must focus on current trends in fashion, as well as social and political arenas, writes Jefferson's Juliana Guglielmi.

On Sept. 29, Forever 21 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Juliana Guglielmi, professor of fashion merchandising and management, explains what this news means for the industry.

Forever 21 filing for bankruptcy shouldn’t be a surprise among business professionals, but the announcement is still jarring to many of its loyal customers. However, the news here is not that fashion is dying. In reality, fast fashion is falling out of favor. Many consumers now are more conscious of their environmental impact, as well as the ethical and sustainable ways companies give back.

Another important issue that Forever 21 faces is offering a diverse array of products demanded by consumers, especially within its target teen market. The company has struggled to compete with omnichannel retail giants that can provide products for all gender identities, ethnicities and sizes.

Forever 21 has decided to close many of its international locations. This move could potentially help the company refocus on its target market and customer needs while restructuring. But ultimately, for Forever 21 to be successful in our current climate, it must have its pulse on the current trends within fashion—and, especially, social and political arenas. Fashion today is much more than a covering for the body. It’s a visual indicator of identity, an expressive outlet for change and a celebration of diverse beauty.

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Business, Design and Style