The Reality of Working Fast Fashion: Forever 21
$1 shirts, constant damaged products, copied designs, fast turnover rate… What retailer comes to mind? You guessed it: Forever 21. This retail chain is known for many things, but they are certainly not known for great customer service. I talked to three sales associates from different Forever 21 stores to get the inside scoop on why they’ve gotten this reputation and what it is really like to be a part of this notorious fast fashion chain.
In regards to the influx of new merchandise, it is clear that the notion of the product coming in quickly is definitely true. The associates reported getting new merchandise anywhere from three times a week to everyday, and it causes stress on the workers. “Everyone thinks Forever 21 sales associates are the worst because we can hardly find anything and it's kind of true because they bring in new stuff every day and it’s hard to keep track of where they move the old stuff.” Another associate said, “We just have so much inventory. They keep giving us stuff that they think people will buy. If you go into our stock room, there are just boxes on boxes on boxes of stuff.” “There was just so much product that we couldn’t always get rid of. Some of the fitting rooms are just stuffed with unsellable clothing until it goes on clearance,” admitted another.
Not to mention, the quality of these mass produced garments oftentimes cannot keep up with the speed of production. “We do get damages constantly. Just boxes and boxes. A lot of the jewelry especially. There were these chokers two years ago that would completely unravel whenever you took the sensor off. Just at the end of the time walking around the store, you would find so many damages.” The others agreed, “Very often you would see new clothes with damages. It’s just so cheap and they make so much of it.”
What I found particularly interesting was that the associates were aware of the copied designs that Forever 21 is known for. “There were a lot of Gucci knockoffs. I noticed a lot of copied designs from designers. Even the visual merchandising designs were copied from other stores. Our managers would admit to us that that designs were totally copied.” While the managers knew the designs were copied, they didn’t seem to have a clue about where the garments were made. “We never talked about where the clothes were made or the supply chain. I don’t think our managers really knew what was going on.” Similarly, another associate said “We never talked about where the clothes were made but the quality was not the best and it was obvious in the way employees and customers treat our clothes.”
In addition, the employees struggled personally with the working environment. “It’s so overwhelming. The company itself isn’t very good to work for. They are not very concerned with their employees.” Another complained, “The employee discount is only 10%, and we can’t use it on sale stuff.” However, it seems as though the management has it worse. “I feel bad for a lot of managers. Many of them don’t get breaks,” said one former sales associate.
All in all, the following story says everything about the Forever 21 sales experience: “Customers really don’t think quality when they think Forever 21, which is why they throw clothes around and leave the store messy. One time, some lady literally pooped in the fitting room and left a bunch of clothes on it.”
Written by Rachel Brosman