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[00:00:00]

Like so many new Americans day, Jakim came to this country on a quest. I have a dream. To realize the full American dream after settling in Los Angeles, the Korean born cammed, the Immigrant Hustle, working all kinds of jobs, he delivered laundry, sold cars. Finally, he landed a gig working in the city's South Korean American apparel industry, which locals call the job market.

[00:00:25]

I have an uncle who has one parent company in Korea. He always export fabric to United States. Then he recommended to go to the job, buy it here and get the job in phablet excessive force. So I followed his advice. His uncle's advice paid off.

[00:00:48]

Kim worked for a decade selling fabric. Then in 2000, he and his wife started a garment business of their own. They called it Travian and they sold fashion piece fashion basic can go any time and anywhere.

[00:01:03]

Kim's company sold a bunch of wholesale separates t shirts, sweaters, little skirts and such to clothing boutiques. And all of it was made right there in L.A.. S Garment District where we visited Mr. Kim in Travian showroom.

[00:01:17]

I always said to my customer, I have a USC background made in USA East that is a friend in the early days of Tribune, when Kim and his wife were still chasing their American dream, they got an order from a small clothing boutique run by another Korean couple.

[00:01:35]

It was called Forever 21. Kim happily supplied them with clothes until one day they called me out.

[00:01:44]

And about eight years ago they cut you out. Yeah. Why? Because they are PDA system. It's not them to be the mind, basically.

[00:01:55]

Here's what went down. Kim got a complaint from the warehouse. The sleeves on one of the three quarter tops he sold them were a quarter inch too long. Kim was not down with a critique.

[00:02:07]

I'm not till I said I told him I'm not here. And you can guess how that went over. He told me that he cannot do business if I said like that.

[00:02:18]

So I said, OK, this is stop the business that had Kim known that the company he was mouthing off to would grow to become one of the largest fast fashion clothing brands in the world, perhaps he would have fixed that quarter inch whoopsies, that little extra bit of sleeve cost him a slice of his American dream.

[00:02:38]

Well, 18 years, I could not get any all the time. Did you say you regret?

[00:02:47]

Yeah, I regret.

[00:02:48]

Until last year, because the order was accused, a lot of folks from the Korean labor market made a lot of money off of Forever 21, the teen brand synonymous with three dollar camisoles, nonsensical graphic tees and festival where for people who will never make it to Coachella. But in the end, maybe it's OK that Kim didn't Hitch's wagon to the clothing giant forever. Twenty ones rise to fast fashion dominance was dizzying, but the brand's unbridled expansion mom and pop management approach and weak e-commerce game set it up to fall hard despite those 499 leggings.

[00:03:27]

I'm Lauren Ober and from American Public Media. This is a spectacular failures. The show that looks cute, even though failures always trying to jack our style.

[00:03:43]

There's a neighborhood in Los Angeles about three miles west of downtown, that is the beating heart of the city's Korean community.

[00:03:50]

It's got everything Korean karaoke bars and Korean barbecue joints, beauty shops and banks.

[00:03:56]

There's also like beauty treatment, beauty makeup, the spalls. I mean, you do have amazing skin. So I accept that I came to get a tour of the neighborhood from happen.

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Erm, she's a leader in the Korean community here. She runs Faith and Community Empowerment, which is a local non-profit.

[00:04:15]

Come this way. This neighborhood is by Koreans. For Koreans, though, a hefty number of North Koreans come for the aforementioned sponsors and the K pop shops and the mouth numbing kimchi.

[00:04:27]

So it's really for us is kind of like the political social headquarter center for our community and also create town. L.A., in essence, is the headquarter for Korean America USA.

[00:04:43]

Los Angeles has the largest Korean community of any city in the U.S. but because of language and cultural barriers in says her community has often felt isolated. This neighborhood, though, is a home base.

[00:04:55]

But in essence, like as a Korean American, knowing there's Koreatown and all the people that I've been able to meet because this space allows our communities to come together and to be visible, I don't feel alone.

[00:05:11]

I wanted to better understand how this place, with its tight-Knit Korean churches and its ever youthful beauty boutiques, birthed one of the largest fast fashion brands in the world.

[00:05:27]

After the U.S. and Korea established official diplomatic ties in 1882, the first wave of Korean immigration began to roll in, first to Hawaii, then to Los Angeles. It was followed by a second surge after the Korean War. The Watts riots of 1965 push a lot of Koreans to the L.A. suburbs, but the number of new arrivals to the city from South Korea continued to grow thanks to a loosening of immigration laws.

[00:05:54]

By the time M arrived in the US in 1974, the community was already on the way up. Thanks to some hustling by a few local Korean businessmen, Koreatown got its own official blue neighborhood signs in 1980.

[00:06:08]

So there was kind of that signage, although already there was the church and the grocery stores started to anchor the rest of the community right at the restaurant.

[00:06:17]

So just after Koreatown became legit, a couple named DOEN and Jin Sook Chang emigrated from Seoul. They came in search of the same thing. Our pal Deejay Kim was after the American dream in South Korea. Mr. Chang ran a coffee and juice delivery business. Mrs. Chang was a hairdresser when they moved to L.A. They took a series of menial jobs to make ends meet.

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Mr. Chang has talked about how he worked as a gas station attendant. He did janitorial work that Suparna Maheshwari.

[00:06:50]

She's a business reporter at The New York Times.

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The legend has it that he was working at a gas station. And as he saw people with these really nice cars, he would always ask them what they did. And he noticed the people with the nicest cars worked in the garment industry.

[00:07:05]

OK, now, I would think that the people with the nicest cars in L.A. were like Jack Nicholson and Mel Gibson. But what do I know? For some reason, the garment trade just became fixed in Mr. Chang's mind. So he and his wife went for it.

[00:07:19]

The two of them put together their savings and they decided to open a store that was first called Fashion Twenty One. And they figured out with the garment manufacturing in Los Angeles how to deliver fashions that people wanted and to come up with a way of selling clothes that churned through styles, made an exciting environment, and really created the type of place where you had to come in to see what was new.

[00:07:48]

Now, this may not seem very revolutionary, especially today, when consumers can get knockoffs of the latest luxury fashions, seemingly before the models have strutted off the catwalk.

[00:07:58]

But in the 80s, that wasn't really how fashion was done. They hit on something as happens in retail. They hit upon a formula that resonated with shoppers and they quickly became a success. In 1984, the Changs opened Fashion 21, a 900 square foot boutique in the heart of the Highland Park neighborhood. They packed it with cheap, skimpy teen clothes that they bought from a South Korean American garment manufacturers like the kind Mr. Kim sold.

[00:08:25]

I think one of the things that definitely helped them was the fact that they were in Los Angeles and took advantage of the other Korean American garment manufacturers in that city specifically. So I think that very much was a propeller of their success.

[00:08:44]

Remember the job market job on GOP establishment?

[00:08:49]

Kim explains that the job market came about around 35 years ago with the arrival of Korean immigrants from South America. He came from Bolivia. Many of the other folks had worked in Brazil in that country's massive garment industry, and they all brought that experience with them to L.A. They bought wholesale clothes, out garments and went to work opening their own stores.

[00:09:10]

People started to sell that merchandise, but the people come from the Brazil. They starting started making manufacturing their own brand up here.

[00:09:23]

By the time the Changs got to L.A., the Korean American apparel industry was already in full swing. The couple worked with manufacturers in the job market to fill up Fashion 21 with inexpensive styles that could be turned over quickly.

[00:09:38]

My producer Whitney and I decided to see where it all began.

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So we took a trip to fifty six thirty seven North Figueroa Street and cruised around the shop for a bit. All right.

[00:09:49]

The sign on the front of the building still reads Fashion 21, an homage to its humble roots.

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But it's a Forever 21 store through and through see styles from one dollar bodysuits, a sitting there for eight bucks if you want. I've got all the bodysuits I need right now.

[00:10:06]

Well, that's debatable. We pop inside and it looks pretty classy, like maybe it's more for adults than teens. We had to a rack of graphic tees and I'm kind of into him.

[00:10:18]

I mean, I would 100 percent wear that actually that year. If they have a like a large, I would totally wear that stuff.

[00:10:25]

Stuff. Well, that's right. You can't stop one stop.

[00:10:29]

Alas, we left empty handed No. Eight dollar bodysuits for Whitney. If the fashion twenty one store on Figueroa was representative of what the Chiang's business was in the early days, it seems like it would have been a nice little life for them. In its first year, the store pulled in 700000 dollars and that was largely thanks to other Korean immigrants.

[00:10:50]

But then they realized how successful this business model was and they started opening new stores.

[00:10:56]

That's Ludovico DeSario. She's a marketing professor at Lehigh University.

[00:11:00]

They then changed the name to Forever 21 with the idea that they're selling clothes for anyone who wants to be trendy or fresh or just young.

[00:11:09]

More generally, this business model selling cheap, trendy clothes that could be manufactured quickly and turned over frequently. So the stores always felt new and fresh. That was the Chiang's secret weapon. Today, we call this approach fast fashion and lots of global brands do it. HSM, Zara and Assoc., to name a few, but Forever 21 perfected it for a definition of fast fashion. Here's The Washington Post fashion critic I'm sorry, the Pulitzer Prize-Winning fashion critic, Robin Givhan.

[00:11:42]

I mean, it's generally clothing that is produced very quickly, very much leaping onto a trend of the moment and not meant to last, meaning the design is not meant to last or the clothing is not meant to last both.

[00:12:04]

The idea is that if you want to participate in a trend and a fad and one that. Is most likely a fleeting fad, fast fashion allows you to glom on to that as soon as possible. It allows you to grasp it for minimal cost, where it a few times savor the moment, literally the moment, and then move on and fast fashion trends.

[00:12:36]

And famo says Caesarea, there's this almost fear of missing out that if you don't go to the store as soon as the shipment arrives, you might not be able to find that product in your size.

[00:12:47]

And so it creates the sense of urgency basically in consumers to want to make them keep coming back to the store.

[00:12:54]

That and insanely cheap prices like clothes for under ten dollars apiece. This business model, plus a manageable number of stores, meant that the Changs operation was profitable and everything was pretty decent. But the Changs weren't interested in pretty decent. They were chasing their big, bold American dream.

[00:13:14]

I think that Mr. Chang, at least in this period where he started expanding into department stores, also thought that Forever 21 could be more than where college girls got a new outfit for Saturday night. He thought that maybe they could be a place where the whole family could be outfitted, where you would really trust this store to provide you with a lot of the clothing for your everyday life.

[00:13:42]

12 miles from the first Forever 21 property is the Beverly Center, a sprawling shopping mall that one Angelino told me is, quote, one of the most hated malls in L.A. It's more than 800000 square feet of Prada, Fendi and Balenciaga tucked into a corner on level eight is x x forever, which I guess is forever 21, but make it luxury. The store occupies more than an acre of real estate and is not meant for people over a certain age.

[00:14:12]

It's bright and loud, and the seemingly never ending selection of clothes is disorienting. Honestly, I felt like I needed a Xanax and a nap after we visited, but this was what the Changs were after they were planting their flag with huge stores in fancy malls. This was their American dream realized, and they built it largely on top of the ashes of fallen retailers.

[00:14:35]

It was really in the early 2000s that you saw them sort of burst onto the national scene. And that really emerged with the acquisition of stores owned by gadzooks.

[00:14:50]

Do you remember that retailer Gadzooks was a teen clothing company with hundreds of stores and malls across the U.S. in 2004, it filed for bankruptcy.

[00:14:59]

And so there's all these stores and other assets that were up for purchase and for over twenty one bid on those successfully.

[00:15:08]

And with that, they really expanded their store base and also became a national player in a whole new way.

[00:15:15]

In 2005, Forever 21 began a period of mindblowing expansion when mall chains like Mervyn's and Sears and others were toppling under their own weight, Forever 21 was snatching up their scraps when the global recession hit in 2008, Chiang's looked at it as an opportunity to push even harder. Nothing like hitting the gas when your competitors are slamming into the guardrails. By 2011, Forever 21 had almost 500 stores around the country and employed thirty five thousand people within just a few years after that, the company had expanded to forty seven countries.

[00:15:50]

So that meant that tweens in the Philippines or Romania or Macao could all roquet boxes sherd, flounce, cuff, top or lepre drawstring lounge shorts for less than the price of a movie ticket. 2015 was Forever 21 speak.

[00:16:08]

It did four point four dollars billion in sales that year, which means that they sold a hell of a lot of Tendler, many dresses and bracelets and whatever dolphin shorts are. But even though Forever 21 had grown into a multi-billion dollar business, the Changs ran it like a mom and pop operation. They owned 99 percent of the company and had never taken on investors, which meant that there was and I can't stress this enough, no real board of directors, they had to run decisions by or at least not in the traditional sense.

[00:16:42]

The board consisted of Mr. Chang'e, one of his daughters, and another Forever 21 executive.

[00:16:49]

They felt that they were building something of an empire. They were in charge. Mr. and Mrs. Chang were in charge and they were going to pass this business on to their daughters and it was only going to grow and become bigger.

[00:17:03]

The fact that they owned everything also meant that there's not much publicly available information about the company. And the family is not real into talking to the press. They 100 percent when. Talk to us for the story, though, we did reach out. What we do know is that Mr. Chang oversaw business operations and strategy while Mrs. Chang ran the merchandising side of things. One floor below their adult daughters, Linda and Esther, served as their deputies.

[00:17:30]

They kind of oversaw their own fiefdoms within the Forever 21 business. Mr. Chang had to review every single real estate contract and was involved with the opening of every new store, which, at the pace that they are expanding, is is a huge responsibility.

[00:17:53]

Mrs. Chang had her own hands full, overseeing thousands and thousands of styles and garments and approving each of those individually before they appeared in stores. I mean, in many ways, it's flabbergasting that these two people could have taken on this amount of responsibility, especially at a company of this size.

[00:18:15]

One minute they'd be overseeing new real estate purchases or clothing designs, and the next minute they'd be approving expenses for business lunches or Hubers, which seems like the very definition of micromanaging. No billionaire CEOs are approving timesheets or even what buttons or zippers should be used on new designs. Given Fagin's was Forever 21 global communications director during the time of the brand's rapid international expansion, he says, while having your hand in every pot might not be the most efficient way to run a business, it did mean that the Changs knew what their brand was all about.

[00:18:49]

Well, I think the one thing they understood was, you know, brand personality. So they knew their customer incredibly well. So, you know, knowing and at least they say that domestically.

[00:18:58]

I mean, in the U.S., they knew who she was. They knew what she liked. They knew, you know, when she wanted things. It's like back to school. It's Christmas. It's it's, you know, our holiday. It's, you know, festival season, which is huge.

[00:19:12]

Obviously, while it's important to understand product and who's buying it, it's equally important to understand the market you're operating in.

[00:19:19]

I think the challenge with running and operating a global business is that, you know, seasonalities change, the cultural mindsets change. So you know what the French customer wants, the German customer doesn't. You know what someone in Australia is saying? Well, first of all, they're counter seasonal.

[00:19:34]

So, you know, it's when you're shipping that product, you can't ship them coats in January, right.

[00:19:40]

In forever to anyone's race to global domination, they spread themselves too thin with nearly 800 stores worldwide. They couldn't really manage all those physical spaces.

[00:19:51]

Now, if you know anything about retail trends, you'll know this. Managing millions of square feet of retail space is a mega challenge.

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In the age of the Internet, shoppers are increasingly buying online and having stuff delivered, or they're using your store simply as a pick up location.

[00:20:08]

The days of teens shopping around a mall for the afternoon in search of the hottest new looks are over.

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We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, how a billion dollar business goes bankrupt overnight. Plus, I bop around a real life mall for the afternoon with a real life teen on.

[00:20:35]

In order to better understand how one of the world's biggest fast fashion brands fell apart, I decided to go to the source. A teen girl, Ian Goldbloom is a 16 year old high school junior who lives just outside of Washington, D.C. She used to shop at Forever 21 a lot, she said, until they, quote, stopped being cute.

[00:20:54]

They're cheap. They're not in good shape. They break the ice and some of them are really tacky. We're on our way to Montgomery Mall right outside of D.C.. Explain explain what that means. Explain. You'll see like a normal shirt and then you'll turn around and it says something like weird on it.

[00:21:15]

Before I go into the third forever 21 of this story, I issued a challenge. Each of us had to find one cute thing to buy. But after many minutes of browsing the enormous store, I don't think I can do the challenge.

[00:21:29]

I don't think I can do the challenge either. Because because it's overwhelming.

[00:21:33]

I actually you hear OK, now it makes sense that I couldn't find anything cute for me. I mean, the store isn't called Forever 41, but it should trouble the company that a member of its target demographic can't find anything she likes in this store the size of a McMansion. OK, so basically what is her. Yeah, and it's like a it's like a normal material. Yeah.

[00:21:54]

Finally, after some serious hunting even landed on the one thing in the entire store she would wear.

[00:22:00]

All right. You can hold up. All right then. It was up to me to find something I liked. I tried on a crop windbreaker and that went about as well as could be expected.

[00:22:10]

It's a very snug around here. Like, is it supposed to fit like this?

[00:22:16]

Because I'm just gonna go for a jog and I'm going to go to the club after finally I landed on my item, a plain black baseball cap with the words dangerous but fun written on the crowd. Dangerous and dangerous, but fun.

[00:22:33]

I think you should get that. Do you think I should? I think you should.

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Do you think now I can tell you that I looked neither dangerous nor fun, but I bought the hat and even bought the little skirt and we both fulfilled our Forever 21 challenge. Great job. US.

[00:22:46]

Are we done? So are we done? So we're done. So I feel like we're done.

[00:22:50]

So we were done. So I left for over twenty one fifteen dollars and fifty cents lighter and perhaps more confused than I had been before about how the brands business model could possibly make sense. There were hardly any shoppers in any of the stores I went to and those who were there seemed more like old millennials then Gen Z tastemakers.

[00:23:12]

I couldn't figure out what this giant store was all about or how fast fashion is even supposed to work. I figured Robin Givhan could help.

[00:23:21]

In addition to reporting on the runways of Paris and New York, Given often writes about what fashion says about how we live now.

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And she thinks a lot about fast fashion and its impact on our culture aesthetically, socially and environmentally. Surprisingly, she isn't totally down on fast fashion.

[00:23:39]

I do think that fast fashion has kind of allowed everyone to have access to aesthetically thoughtful clothing.

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Doesn't mean we're all dressing better, though. I notice I said to have access to it.

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In a way, Govan says fast fashion is kind of brilliant when it's done right for the vast majority of people.

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They're not going into the designer boutique. They're going into a department store or a mass merchant. And, you know, those stores look at trend reports and they look at what's on the runway. And part of their great skill in both marketing and manufacturing is being able to take those ideas and turn them around at just a rapid fire pace and get them into stores.

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And there isn't just one delivery that happens at the beginning of a season. No, no.

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It's a constant stream of newness. And when I say constant, I mean like every two weeks for some of these places.

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So Given says that at its best, fast fashion means that new stylish clothes aren't just for Fancy's with a cash to shop couture. But I'm going to let you in on a little secret. It is impossible for clothing designers to go from original idea to brand spanking new product on the rack in two weeks, especially not at the volume that Forever 21 needed to fill all of their bazillion stores. So the company had to find some shortcuts. Copying other designers ideas was part of Forever 21 s business model from the beginning.

[00:25:16]

Susan Scafidi is the founder of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University, and she basically invented the field of fashion law. And she'll be the first one to tell you that while Forever 21 practice of copying other designers ideas isn't a cute look, it's generally totally legal.

[00:25:33]

Fashion is not recognized as an art form in the United States. So it doesn't get copyright protection in large part because 100 years ago, the Copyright Office decided that fashion, no matter how fanciful, was utilitarian.

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Only a couple areas of fashion are protected from copying.

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We have a tiny bit of copyright protection, at least since the 1960s. For two dimensional elements of fashion, things like fabric prints or lace designs over on the patent side, we've had historically a little bit of protection for some functional elements of fashion, things like zippers and Velcro and Kevlar and space suits or hazmat suits. And then at the end of the day, what fashion really has to rely on is trademark protection. That is protection for the logo or label.

[00:26:25]

So basically, the polo pony on your chest or the giant WG on your belt buckle, those are protected. The design of the shirt and belt themselves are not original. Prints are generally also protected. While there aren't a ton of copyright and trademark protections for fashion in the U.S., Forever 21 has still found itself involved in many, many, many intellectual property lawsuits. Scafidi says they're one of the most egregious offenders in the game. Gucci, Puma, Adidas and a Swede.

[00:26:57]

Diane von Furstenberg and Gwen Stefani have all pursued legal action against Forever 21, alleging various forms of copyright infringement. Many smaller brands have also claimed their prints or designs were ripped off by the mega retailer. But most didn't have the resources to go against a multi-billion dollar mammoth. And Scafidi says fast fashion brands like Forever 21 bank on that.

[00:27:20]

A certain amount of copying is is baked into the business model of every fash fashion company.

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The only question is how literally they're copying and how much they're changing it out in Forever 21, a case they'd often barely bother to change anything about the original design they were ripping off in some of their fabric.

[00:27:36]

Prints were just a straight cut and copy job and maybe on the back end you get caught and have to pay out the occasional settlement or pay some legal fees. But usually that's cheaper than actually hiring designers and engaging in innovative product research.

[00:27:54]

Copying clothing designs hasn't been forever. 21 is only questionable move. In 2001, a workers advocacy center filed a lawsuit on behalf of employees who said they were made to work insane hours for way less than minimum wage. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor sued the retailer for failing to pay federal minimum wage to its manufacturers and contractors. And in 2019, pop star Ariana Grande slapped Forever 21 with a 10 million dollar lawsuit.

[00:28:23]

The company used a model in this ad campaign that looked an awful lot like Ariana Grande. She claims they did this to confuse consumers, that she had endorsed them and that Ariana Grande look was me.

[00:28:37]

Just getting a behemoth like Forever 21 rarely fails because of one misstep. How did it falter? Let us count the ways. How about routine legal troubles, leasing too much expensive retail space, screwy merchandising that gummed up their supply chain, and no traditional board of directors to pump the brakes? And with retail moving more and more online forever 21 week e-commerce game didn't help matters. In recent years, there's been one other major issue tugging at forever 21 flouncy ham sustainability because sustainable it ain't.

[00:29:13]

I wonder, is fast fashion if we're talking about sustainability like, is that just as bad as it can get? Well, I'm I'm hesitant to say the worst, but I would be hard pressed to think of another realm of the fashion industry that is as bad because fast fashion has as its fundamental purpose, quick disposability. You know, that 25 dollar handbag that is a knockoff of some, you know, item that came down the runway that is really meant to be used for a few months and then, you know, chucked into the trash?

[00:30:01]

Well, that's going to end up in a landfill as opposed to, say, an airman's handbag.

[00:30:06]

That is the price of a small car that's not getting tossed out. That's going in the safe deposit box as insurance for the apocalypse. Sustainability in fashion isn't just about buying more durable classic handbags. The rise of online consignment shopping as well as clothing rentals startups like Rent the Runway means consumers are increasingly trying to buy, used and own less stuff. A clothing brand that banks on disposability is not long for this new world. By September twenty nineteen, it had all become just too much for Forever 21, the company built by immigrants from a single storefront in L.A. into a four billion dollar colossus, filed for bankruptcy.

[00:30:47]

It's the end of an era. If you're a fan of Forever 21, you may have to say goodbye to a store near you.

[00:30:53]

Over the weekend, the retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. All this in hopes of salvaging the company's brand.

[00:30:58]

Naturally, the Internet was abuzz at the news. Tons of YouTube ers raced out to Forever 21 shops to get some deals, deals, deals. And naturally, they made videos like this one from beauty blogger Lauren Giraldo.

[00:31:11]

OK, honestly, not going to lie. I was expecting things to look different in the first one. I thought it was going to be like everything. Let's go signs and stuff, you know? I mean, I feel like you can tell what I was expecting, but a little bit of it seems like business as usual. So I'm like, hello, I have the headlines like, do they mean I don't know. Let's go in and see if we can get some bankrupt deals or not.

[00:31:32]

Let's just go see what the deal is and why I shouldn't actually buy anything at Forever 21. But she did put together some looks and filmed herself wearing them. The dressing room so close enough. Deals are great and all but Forever 21 former global communications director Kevin Fagin's said the bankruptcy news felt like a surprise gut punch, even though he had already left the company.

[00:31:53]

I really wasn't aware of the challenges. I mean, I would hear, obviously, and you'd kind of think that certain markets weren't doing well and maybe we needed to kind of push or help promote and those markets, i.e., kind of drive more PR, see how we can kind of, you know, increase foot traffic.

[00:32:10]

But never was I aware that things were really kind of starting to come to a halt or at least, you know, where bankruptcy was going to be in the foreseeable future.

[00:32:20]

It's Chapter 11 filing really leaned into the Chiang's immigrant story under the subheading Forever Dreaming a road map to the American Dream. It Red Forever 21 is a story about family and the American dream. In an age when retail, as most Americans know it, is under assault Forever 21 intends to use these proceedings to remain viable and write a different ending from so many retail companies before it. The goal of these Chapter 11 cases is clear emerge with a viable and feasible standalone business and keep the dream alive.

[00:32:55]

As a part of its restructuring plan, the company announced it intended to streamline its retail operation, pump up its e-commerce game and shut down a whole lot of stores. Nearly all of its international locations and more than 100 underperforming U.S. stores were on the chopping block. That's more than 40 percent of their physical retail locations. But those plans were all for naught.

[00:33:17]

In February, a group of buyers, including some of Forever 21 biggest landlords, put in an offer to buy the brand for the bargain basement price of eighty one million dollars. A judge approved the deal.

[00:33:28]

And boom clothing retailer Forever 21 has been sold after declaring bankruptcy late last year. Sale includes all forever twenty one's assets, including its remaining stores.

[00:33:39]

Just like that. The dream died after 35 years. Control of Forever 21 slipped through the Chang family's hands. While the Changs are no longer billionaires, it's impossible to say they didn't reach some type of American dream. Their aspirations of upward mobility, clout and prestige were realized a thousand times over. Their children, achieved Ivy League educations and never wanted for anything. Their distinctive yellow shopping bags were ubiquitous in malls around the world. They truly made it. Perhaps we can even say that bankruptcy is part of that American dream, the part that lets people pull themselves up off the ground, dust off their sleeveless wide leg jumpsuits and try again.

[00:34:29]

Spectacular failures as a production of American Public Media. It's written and hosted by me, Corruptor top afficionado Lauren Ober. Runway model Whitney Jones is the show's producer. Our editor is bargain hunter Phyllis Fletcher Clothing, where David Jazzar, assistant producer, our theme music is by the delightful David Schulman. Other music this season comes from Jen Champion and Michael Cormier. Christina Lopez is our audience engagement editor and Lauren Dezi is our executive producer concept developed by Tracy Mumford. The general manager of ABC Studios is Lily Kim.

[00:35:02]

Super special thanks to just Lazaar for letting us shop around the mall with her daughter Eden. If you want to read, Forever 21 is very enlightening bankruptcy filing. And why wouldn't you go to our website? Spectacular Failures Dog. We've got a super fun list of source material. And finally, thanks to the ultra chic Robin Givhan for letting slobs like us in her office, what do you think of a witness who looks better today?

[00:35:26]

Mr. Whitney Samey?

[00:35:28]

I have not come to judge. Well, you're a critic. That's your job. So you're saying I look better. Thank you. I don't judge me.