Relating back to our previous post regarding other aspects of Korean culture that could be promoted more, fashion was one of the concepts that we feel could appeal to the British public. This is because in the last few years, we have seen the UK become a lot more fashionable due to fashion TV shows becoming popular such as What Not to Wear and of course who can’t ignore the legend that is Gok Wan. It got British woman loving and embracing their bodies as they learnt how to dress for their body shape and feel more fabulous. With the help of Primark, fashion also became more affordable and accessible to the masses, giving people of all different budgets a chance to be a fashionista!
Another high street fashion store that’s recently been popping up in the UK is Forever 21. Fun Fact: Did you know that Forever 21 was started by Korean Businessman Do Won Chang and his wife Jin Sook Chang. Mr Chang emigrated to LA in 1981 when he was just 18 years old and was apparently inspired to enter the fashion industry when he was “working at a gas station and noticed the best cars were driven by clothing merchants“~ LA Times. The first store had the name of Fashion 21 and Chang’s aim was to sell fashion inspired by the trendy designs of South Korea and targeted the Korean American community. It soon became popular with everyone for its trend setting styles at affordable prices and that was the beginning of how this fashion brand came to be the international corporation that it is today. Forever 21 has remained a family business and Mr Chang’s two daughters Linda and Esther have both joined the company with Linda (28) in marketing and Esther (23) heading up the visual sides of things. You would think that your father owning a fashion store means you have an endless wardrobe, but these girls are not spoiled! LA Times quotes: “I never felt like it was a candy store,” Linda said. “I was always concerned about how we could make it better”.
The first UK branch of Forever 21 opened up in Birmingham in one of UK’s largest shopping centers, the Bull Ring, at the end of 2010. The reason for the first store being in Birmingham rather then London was simply because they felt they wanted to “wait for the right location”. And indeed it is this attention to detail that makes Forever 21 different from other current UK high street stores. They did not want to just open up a Forever 21 for the sake of profit; it needed to be a perfect shopping experience. The store in Birmingham was renovated from an old Borders (the book store) and they also expanded upwards to accommodate a Dixons/Currys. This made the store a whooping 3 stories high!
The size of Forever 21’s first UK store rivals that of Topshop’s flagship store at London Oxford Circus. But this store was different, it had high ceilings, it was brightly lit, it was spacious, clothes rails were spaced out and not rammed full of clothes (yes I’m thinking of you H&M!). You did not feel you were shopping in a club, down in the basement, suffocated by the amount of clothes everywhere; you could easily walk around and browse, like a boutique with NATURAL SUNLIGHT. It was a whole new shopping experience. As you can tell, I was rather excited about my first visit. This Forever 21 bought back a shopping experience I had missed. As much as I love bargainous Primark, it seemed to have started a rather frustrating shopping culture in the UK that was quickly spreading to other stores. In order to compete with Primark, other stores were lowering the prices which compromised quality, and the shoppers were getting crazy. Pushing and shoving just to grab a bargain, be first in the queue, throwing clothes about; shopping was not the pleasant experience it used to be, it was more a mission now. Come on shoppers! No one needs a pair of £4 leggings that badly!!! Fun Fact: The first Forever 21 store in South Korea only opened up in the latter half of 2008!
Forever 21 put a stop to the madness that shopping has become and brought back the importance of a relaxing shopping experience. (Oh and the changing rooms! The beautiful changing rooms and the amount of them!). But all this comes at a price, being a overseas company means that everything has to be imported and all this extra air travel is reflected in the price. For us UK folks, Forever 21 is not the bargain fashion store it is for our American cousins, and like Kpop albums sold in the UK, we are billed with high import prices. However, if you want to check out the latest Korean trends and fashions, this is a must see shop. So next time you’re in Birmingham, London Bond st, Stratford or even Dublin, don’t forget to check it out!
So are there any Forever 21 fans here and did you know of its Korean American heritage? Do you feel that Forever 21 does reflect Korean trends? Check out it’s latest collections and visit the Forever 21 website:
From colour funky styles often seen in Kpop……
……….To classic effortless chic style