Forever Twenty-One was one of the first stores I ever felt GOT me, in that delicate transition from teenhood to adulthood.
The store was divided into four styles which I would call: boho chic, glamour, punk, and flower-child. FINALLY, a place where I could express all the various parts of Sydney, at a reasonable price, and find matching accessories and shoes in the center of the store. My first pair of Forever 21 boots decomposed after a year, and shortly after, the clothes that I so coveted, shrunk, outgrew me, or overall no longer fit my design aesthetic. Time for another trip.
Except this time, I found that the store I loved was not longer found. While the four sections remained, the quality of the clothes was much cheaper, and the better made clothes were marked up right outside a college student’s budget. Eventually I would find the styles to be an amalgamation of too many things, and move on to other prey. What I did not know is that the rest of this is fast fashion. Being about to expedite completely new designs within 21 days was unheard of in the fashion industry, until fast fashion retailers like Forever 21, revolutionized the business. But is it a good thing?
Where do your clothes go when you’re done with them?
Rob Horning, author of “The Accidental Bricoleurs,” explores how Forever 21 came to power, and how even the name invokes this desire to aspire to a specific aesthetic. Twenty-one, defines maturity and the coming of age through clothes, taking advantage of the exploration of young people to FIND themselves in their clothes. It puts pressure on this idea of permanence, and aging, that anything below 21 is childish, and anything above is outdated. To be forever young, one must aspire to these ideas. Clothes are the after all, how people are most commonly judged.
Counterculture movements like Hipsters try to shop from thrift stores to acquire vintage items that set them apart, but how effective is this? Environmentally it is a blessing.
I’ve always donated my wearable clothing, and I’d like to think that someone would be very happy with my wardrobe. My clothes were trendy, in great shape, and only donated because of growth spurts. (damn you spent youth)
But I learned recently that only 20% of donated clothes are donated, and there are literal PILES of clothes just rotting about. There appears to be no real clear way of recycling or getting rid of clothing. Which is horrifying when compounded with all the other waste we produce as a planet.
And with those same counterculture’s being absorbed by retailers (Emos, Goths, Punks absorbed by Hot Topic, Hipsters by Urban Outfitters, Preps by Abercrombie and Fitch, we have to wonder whether we will actually be able to beat these issues without serious clothing disposal reform.
In the meantime, I’ll be looking at thrift stores with more interest than before. After all, it shouldn’t be that hard to find all black everything in a place like NY.