In the past five years, Forever 21 faced over 150 lawsuits dealing with copyright or trademark infringement issues. Diane Von Furstenburg, Bebe, Marc Jacobs, Anthropoligie and Gwen Stefani are among the many clothing lines that have filed copyright or trademark infringement lawsuits against Forever 21. For more information about each of the cases, please follow the links.
Copyright/trademark infringement violations and the fast-chain production model of stores like Forever 21 are causing a decrease in creativity and quality, are causing renowned designer labels to declare bankruptcy and due to the high production and turnover rate, the fast-chain model is causing a rise in sweatshops.
Basically, what Forever 21 does is spot emerging trends on the major runways and manufacture their own versions of the trends. Sometimes, Forever 21’s designs are too spot-on for comfort and could be called copies. When this occurs, it is considered copyright or trademark infringement.
Copyright infringement has many negative repercussions, the most obvious and immediate of which being that designer lines suffer. More and more of the renowned lines are declaring bankruptcy. Those that are still in business are no longer creating amazing, creative pieces, but have reverted to showcasing and producing ready-to-wear garments that are more street-style than fashion-forward (something I witnessed firsthand when working as a fashion writer in New York Spring 2009 fashion week). Cheap reproductions found in the fast-production chain stores such as Forever 21 are causing a decline in the creativity of the industry.
This is bad, however, on top of that, the high demand and fast turnover rate places increased pressure on the factories that actually manufacture the clothes to meet higher-than-normal demands at a faster-than-normal rate. To meet these demands and deadlines, factories often pay their workers by “piece rate,” force them to work unpaid overtime, or force them to take unfinished work home with them, all of which are sweatshop conditions.
Forever 21 has the highest turnover rate in the industry. Most stores receive new shipments of fresh designs about once every month. Forever 21 re-stocks its shelves and clothes racks with new designs every two weeks. This is one of Forever 21’s main selling points: they stay on the curve of the changing Fashion trends.
Imagine: two weeks to design, manufacture and ship a full line of new designs to hundreds of stores nationwide. What kind of working conditions do you think this creates?
In Forever 21’s sweatshop case, this created mandatory unpaid overtime and also forced workers to take work home with them.
So you see, everything is related. Forever 21’s business model is based on “re-making” the designer trends, often with Forever 21’s knockoff versions hitting stores before the originals. This high turnover rate increases the pressure on the factories, which in turn increase the pressure on the garment workers and often impose sweatshop conditions to fulfill demand.
That cheap price tag really has more to it. Forever 21 is able to do this at the expense of the designers it copies and the garment workers who are forced to work unpaid overtime to meet the demands.