Since starting the Compact Challenge, I’ve tried to avoid purchasing new clothing. I was doing pretty well until I found myself browsing through the Forever 21 website about a week and a half ago. I ended up buying a sweater and a wallet. Granted this was less than what I usually buy, I still felt really guilty. I felt even worse because I know that I should not shop at stores like Forever 21 because of their history of unfair business practices. Byun’s article, “Forever in Trouble”, sheds light on the poor working conditions that these predominantly undocumented immigrants work under. Despite all the complaints and protests, Forever 21’s owners (Chang family) claimed that they are not responsible for these injustices because they are strictly a retailer (Byun 5). The workers reported being greatly underpaid, not having clean water, and working in dirty factories. PBS showed a documentary on the lives of some of these workers.
According to an article from CorpWatch, a settlement has been reached between Forever 21 and the garment workers. However, I still wonder how Forever 21 is able to keep their clothing at low prices while giving the garment workers better wages and working conditions.
Even though consumers are well aware of Forever 21’s history, why do we continue shopping there? It’s hard to keep up with what’s new in the fashion industry, but Forever 21 makes these trends accessible to broke college students like me. But we have to keep in mind that these trends come as quickly as they go. Before you know it, you’ll have to change your wardrobe again.
I’m definitely going to try to avoid shopping at Forever 21. Instead I will opt to buy used clothing from stores such as Buffalo Exchange. I will also try to buy clothing from stores such as American Apparel, which treats its workers fairly and provides benefits for them and their families. Also, American Apparel sells basics such as hoodies, t-shirts, sweaters, and other sustainable pieces, which means less shopping.
Byun, Chuck Q.. "Forever in Trouble?." KoreAm Journal
By: Melaniy Santa Ana