I'm big on supporting the underdog—especially when that underdog is up against some serious corporate hypocrisy fueled by a couple of billion dollars.
WTForever21.com is a satire site that started a little more than a year ago with one simple aim: to make fun of the ugly, cheap, fast fashion made available by Forever 21. And even fans of Forever 21 can admit the shit in its squillions of shops easily overshadows anything actually worth your $17.80. WTForever21.com just pointed out the worst of the worst: "baby hooker tube tops," polka-dot overalls and something the blog dubbed the "Vatican Assassin Prom Dress." The website quickly gained attention from such popular sites as Jezebel and the Frisky—while still driving plenty of traffic and attention to Forever21.com. So everyone wins, right?
Here comes the kicker: Forever 21, a company sued well more than a hundred times for copyright infringement (Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Diane von Furstenburg, Gwen Stefani, Trovata, Anthropologie . . .) and that has gained unwanted attention for sweatshop-type conditions, is now suing Rachel Kane, the gal behind WTForever21.com.
In April, it issued Kane a cease-and-desist letter, claiming copyright infringement, trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution. And like the smart blogger she is, Kane reached out to the Internet: She wrote to Consumerist.com, explaining her situation, and then responded to Forever 21 with the help of an attorney. The company answered with a "firm threat to sue" if the blog is not taken down. Kane closed her message to the Consumerist with "The only thing I have to console myself with in this defeat is the hope that consumers at large will know just how humorless the people are who make the day glow [sic] pink panties they have buy [sic] in bulk."
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It also seems Forever 21, a known Christian-owned company that prints "John 3:16" on the bottom of every shopping bag and also hawks "Jesus [Hearts] Me" crop tops next to the aforementioned baby-hooker tube tops, has taken offense at the "F" in WTF. The cease-and-desist letter states, "Your website's name refers to an abbreviation for a colloquial expression that the general public may find offensive." The company estimated to be worth $2 billion in 2010 added that WTForever21.com was "unfair competition" that brought about "monetary damages."
Meanwhile, Kane maintains she has made absolutely nothing off her blog and tells our sister paper, The Village Voice, she's hoping to "figure out some way to keep WTForever21.com up without getting sued," but that it just doesn't seem to be possible to face a corporate giant.
This column appeared in print as "Forever Litigious."