Turns out Forever 21 is pretty collaborative.
The fast-fashion brand has launched 17 partnerships in total since the start of 2016 and says it plans to average 10 a year. Its target partners are wide-ranging, spanning the worlds of music, fashion, sports, film, art and philanthropy, and have included the NBA, Disney, Vision Street Wear, Rory Beca, Future and Justin Bieber. Just last week, it announced a 26-piece capsule with the popular streetwear brand PONY.
The selection is a bit all-over-the-place, but so is the brand’s consumer: Linda Chang, the company’s vice president of merchandising, told Racked last year that Forever 21 caters to “all ages, genders and sizes.”
A look from Justin Bieber’s collection with Forever 21
Even so, the goal with these collaborations is to reach a wider consumer base and ensure that Forever 21 remains relevant within popular culture, Chang said. Tapping into already passionate fan bases is key, hence the brand’s partnerships with sports organizations like the NBA and NFL, and with the beloved “Star Wars” empire. The limited-edition products it creates enables consumers to show their allegiances, said Chang — presumably while developing a new one with the fast fashion brand.
The good press that some of these partnerships bring — in place of the more common hand-wringing the brand receives — can’t hurt, either.
“A number of our partnerships aim to bring attention to real issues and donate proceeds to charitable causes,” explained Chang, citing the brand’s recent work on a T-shirt with the model Geron McKinley. The proceeds support his charity, Concreet, an L.A.-based organization that creates micro-scholarships for inner-city youth across the country. Their next collaboration is a Breast Cancer Awareness capsule collection, marking Forever 21’s fourth partnership with the Keep A Breast Foundation, which will receive one dollar for every item purchased.
The company expects to do $8 billion in sales this year up from a self-reported $4.7 billion in 2015. Chang would not comment on how much its overall sales are driven by these collaborations.
Those that have been most successful have been rooted in music, said Chang. Standouts have included a collaboration with Justin Bieber on a merchandise capsule for his Purpose Tour and a partnership with singer Justine Skye on a festival-themed collection. Although the brand is known for its speedy production of trend-driven pieces, Chang said taking these collections from concept to market can take up to a year, likely due to more parties being involved.
A look from Forever 21’s collaboration with the NBA
As for how Forever 21 hones in on the best brand partners for its consumer, Chang would not reveal if any internal data is involved. However, along with “listening to their consumers,” Chang said the brand emphasizes what (and who) is trending on social media. “We select partners that we feel will resonate, and seek to bring something new and exciting to a mass audience at a value-driven price point,” she added.
The brand, which was first founded in 1984 by the Korean-born businessman Do Won Chang, has 30,000 employees and over 500 stores. The company has made headlines in recent months for opening more stores while others in the retail space look to downsize. This is especially noteworthy given all the talk about the fast-fashion market seemingly losing steam: Both Inditex, which owns Zara, and Hennes & Mauritz AB, the parent company to H&M, have witnessed sales declines in the last year. Last year, the shipping firm EZ Worldwide Express, ended its contract with Forever 21 for that exact reason, citing a lack of profitability due to Forever 21’s sales declines.
If the company is losing money, however, it’s working hard not to show it.