Back in 2014, Forever21 introduced a new retail-only brand called F21 Red, which was created to stock exclusively pieces in the "entry-level category price points" of its inventory, according to founder and CEO Don Chang. This offshoot lowered the range of an already notoriously cheap fast-fashion company even more: Prices start at $1.90 for camis, $3.90 for T-shirts, $5.90 for tank tops, and $7.90 for denim. Almost three years into the venture, Forever21 is expanding the concept: Glossy reports that 40 new F21 Red stores are expected to open in the U.S. in 2017 — a big jump from the eight outposts already in operation.
"[This] expansion represents an important and exciting opportunity for our growth plan, and will allow us to bring a wide variety of product at competitive prices to new regional areas for our increasing customer base," Linda Chang, VP of merchandising at Forever 21, said in a statement. The first three new F21 Red stores will open this month in San Antonio, Chicago, and NYC (in the Bronx).
Even at its outset, F21 Red drew concerns about the human cost of its even-cheaper merchandise. "Think about the steps that go into a garment," Allan Ellinger, co-founder and senior managing partner at MMG Advisors, told BuzzFeed News in 2014. There's the sourcing and preparation of the materials, the dyeing and manufacturing of the fabrics, the actual putting-together of the garment, and, finally, the shipment from factory to store floor, he noted. "Think of all the steps that have gone into that garment just to get it to the selling floor...there are people making a profit on every single add-on. Then you bring it to the store and the store's going to make a profit? I'm not quite sure how this works."
Plus, Glossy noted that the news of F21 Red's expansion could have deeper implications for consumers and what they're taught to expect from retailers. "A generation is being sold on the concept that low-quality products are desirable," Maxine Bedat, co-founder of Zady, told the publication. "Being on an endless rat race of ‘fashion’ instead of style isn’t doing anything for [shoppers’] confidence, and it’s having an enormous impact on our planet and the people making those clothes."
Project Just, an independent website which catalogues the ethical practices of fashion brands and retailers in order to inform and empower shoppers, reports that Forever21 doesn't publicly offer any information about its supply chain or environmental programs, nor does it go into the specifics of the Code of Conduct it put in place for its workers. The company has been called out for the poor labor practices at its California factories, as recently as November of last year.