Forever 21 Is Foreverywhere
It has taken awhile, but it's finally happening, and it's really not all that surprising: Fast-fashion giant Forever 21 is coming to South Coast Plaza this spring in a big, big way. Sears Holdings Corp. confirmed this past summer that it leased 43,000 square feet of space to Forever 21 . . . inside Sears. That department store, meanwhile, promises it will just be scooting merchandise around to make way, not taking away from its inventory.
Not too far away, at the Shops In Mission Viejo, Forever 21 will be taking over the space Saks Fifth Avenue left behind.
And over in Newport Beach? Remember that two-story building Circuit City (RIP) once occupied? Forever 21 will set up shop there as well.
In 2010, Forever 21 unveiled an 85,000-square-foot monstrosity (with a neato, rainbow-colored, light-up window display very, very visible from the 605) at the Cerritos Mall.
And there was also that 94,000-square-foot space up in Bakersfield.
In 2008, Forever 21 kicked off the semi-blah grouping of stores, restaurants and office space at Huntington Beach's the Strand.
This past summer, Forever 21 said hello to New York's Times Square with a 90,000-square-foot storefront. It has 121 fitting rooms. And it's terrifying to visit.
So how can this company afford to expand so much so quickly?
Founded in 1984 by Korean immigrants Dong-Won Chang and Jin Sook, the original Highland Park store—then known as Fashion 21—was a mere 900 square feet. The idea was to get clothing from ultra-trendy South Korea to America . . . and, yes, for cheap. Before the couple knew it, annual sales rose from $35,000 to $700,000. And a new storefront sprouted every six months. The Los Angeles Times recently profiled the Chang sisters, two 20-somethings (Cornell and Wharton grads) set to inherit the $2 billion brand from their parents; the Times dubbed them Forever 21's potential "secret weapons." At the risk of sounding cliché, it's the ultimate definition of the American dream.
Like any successful business venture, Forever 21 isn't without its controversies, of course. A number of copyright-infringement lawsuits under its belt (challengers include Diane von Furstenberg, Anthropologie, bebe, Gwen Stefani, Express, Trovata, Anna Sui, even Minor Threat), labor disputes and opposition to the proclamations of Christianity on its bright-yellow shopping bags (John 3:16's stamped on the bottom of each one) are plaguing the Changs' legacy and, in the case of the dozens of copyright issues, respectability.
Twenty-seven years and 450 stores later, 10 off-shoots of the Forever 21 brand now exist, from Heritage1981's vintage-inspired digs to Love21's contentious maternity line.
So how much is too much? We'll find out. In the meantime, I'll see you in line at the dressing rooms.
This column appeared in print as "Foreverywhere 21."
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