The factory is hot. You’re covered in sweat. You are on overtime for a ten-hour shift, but not getting any extra compensation. The most you’ve had to eat has been a measly half of a day-old sandwich and you haven’t had a bathroom break in the past seven hours. Your back hurts from being hunched over a worktable, your hands are cramping but you must continue the stitching. You steal a glance around, decide to take a one-minute break to stretch. Your supervisor happens to sees you, screams for you to continue working, threatening to physically abuse you if you do not.
The scenario above describes the work conditions in which Forever 21 clothing is manufactured.
The purpose of this blog is to persuade Don Wong Chang, the founder and C.E.O. of Forever 21, to run Forever 21 under more ethical policies and procedures.
These are the only two photos I could find of Don Wong Chang in the media (he and his wife and co-founder of Forever 21, Jin Sook Chang, are very elusive and private):
In this blog, I will analyze the many lawsuits that have been filed against Forever 21. I will include the most high-profile cases from various categories, all of which deal with unethical conduct in one or more ways. The first case I will highlight is a sweatshop case, the second is a case regarding the controversial construction of a warehouse, the last are about copyright infringement violations (which can lead to sweatshop use, as I will explain later). Although these issues may seem unrelated, each concern unethical business practices and affect all levels of the fashion industry, from the garment workers to top designers.
As someone who has been in the fashion industry for the past six years, I know the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve seen it all: I’ve been a model, I’ve been a stylist, I’ve planned fashion shows, I’ve been a photographer assistant and have worked at an agency. I’ve worked at St. John Knits in their high fashion showroom on 5th avenue, I’ve worked with international and domestic textile mills and print studios and have done PR for Tatyana Peter, a couture designer. From all of my experience in the field, and from designing/making my own clothes, I know firsthand all the hard work that goes into manufacturing a piece of clothing and understand the repercussions that copyright infringement has on the garment workers and the industry as a whole.
I will apply all my fashion knowledge and skills to making a change in Forever 21’s business practices. Although outlining the cases and providing information is a great starting point, I plan to take this a step further and hold an interview with a Forever 21 store manager who was working at the time of the protests. I will also highlight groups and companies that are fighting for ethical practices within the fashion industry.