I’ve never liked the store Forever 21. The cheesy, youth-glorifying name grates on me: OMG, don’t get oooold! Stay 21 and sexxxy forever! Even worse, Forever 21 has an atrocious record of garment worker exploitation and creates cheap, unsustainably manufactured clothing that is distinctly unfriendly to the environment.
But if that’s not enough reason for you to avoid Forever 21 during your next mall crawl, well, check out this e-mail I received from reader Pam C.:
In case anyone needed any more reason to NOT stop at Forever 21, I found this waiting for me on the mirror of the dressing room. And there were other slogans just like this one in the rest of the fitting rooms. I wanted to cry. (Photo after the jump)
I can’t rotate the picture in WordPress, but if you look, you’ll see the words MAJOR SURGERY printed on the dressing room mirror right below Pam’s lovely legs.
I immediately wrote back: WTF??
I know, right? I pretty much lost my shit in the middle of the dressing room. The location was the Pentagon City Mall, right outside DC. Another mirror I saw said DEFINITELY A NO. This mall is HUGE, it has four floors of shops and high schools are known to bus in tons of students for field trips. Completely unacceptable. Their website is Forever21.com and they had some chatter on the feminist blogs not too long ago over launching their Plus Size line (aside from the religious verses printed on the bottom of their shopping bags). The clothes are really cheap and they jump on every trend as they come, so it is the perfect lure to young girls with limited funds that want to dress the way they are being told to look. It just kills me.
It kills me too. This store is in my hometown–in fact, I bought my prom dress at Pentagon City–and the mall is a big shopping destination for people from all over DC and Northern Virginia. I haven’t been to a Forever 21 in New York to see if they have the same negative, underminer-y slogans printed on their mirrors yet. If any of y’all have seen this at a Forever 21 where you live, let me know.
The thing I find most striking about this story, though, isn’t that Forever 21 is pushing a snarky, body-negative message onto young women; that is, after all, a top priority of Big Fashion, and Forever 21 has always been totally on board with it. What shocks me is that telling women outright that they look like crap is a massive marketing FAIL. Negging may (allegedly) work for douchebags in bars, but when it comes to shopping, woman are not likely to buy a dress if you’re subliminally–or in this case, forthrightly–sending the message that they look bad wearing it. I know that Forever 21 moves a lot of clothes because they sell them cheap, but even so, I don’t think women–particularly young women of limited income–are going to spend money on clothes they think look bad on them. So why would you tell them that in the dressing room?
If any of you out there are marketing gurus and can explain why undermining your customers like this is good for sales, I’d love to hear it. In the meantime, if you’re inclined to shop at Forever 21, I think you should reconsider.