Copyright Infringement leads to Sweatshop Conditions

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.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Copyright Infringement leads to Sweatshop Conditions

  1. Nicole

    Just happened to come across your blog when I was Googling “Forever 21 factory conditions.” So glad there’s information out there. I am embarrassed to say that I have been an active consumer there for a few years– the “style for low cost” is extremely appealing. However, lately I’ve been thinking about what it must be like to MAKE the clothes. I am so sad to hear about the conditions of the factory.

    My question is– where do you get your information from? I’d like the actual resource so that I can continue to spread the word.

    Thank you! Best wishes to you in this fight.

    • Hi Nicole,

      Glad my blog could be of help. Check out the links that I’ve imbedded within the posts, most of them have good sources imbedded within the copy of the text or a form of works cited along the bottom. I would recommend reading about all the various litigation Forever 21 has been involved with.

      As I mentioned in my blog, its hard to find conclusive data on sweatshop conditions/sweatshop labor because the companies try really hard to “smooth over” the guidelines/inspections.

      Best of luck with everything!

  2. Rafael

    This is so great, I was wondering if I can base my editorial that I am writing for school off of your website. You’re website has the most information I have seen so far. I promise to put you as part of my bibliography

    I was just wondering if you have any primary sources from workers?

    It was so crazy when I read my topic to my class. They had no idea and I’m pretty sure each of my classmates had something from Forever 21 on their backs at the time. They were literally shocked. I’m just hoping I can deliver the information well.

    • Thanks! Glad you found my blog helpful. Please feel free to use the info on my blog.

      I don’t have any primary sources from workers, large companies are hard to get specific info from.

      I would suggest watching the documentary I mentioned; there is tons of info in the documentary.

      Good luck!

  3. Karina

    Your blog is really awesome and informative. I am really glad that I came across it, the only reason why I even searched it was because I had to watch the movie Made in LA for class and wanted to know more details ont he actual law suit. Thank you so much for providing your knowledge to the public.

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